Not Every Hiking Shoe Is a Hiking Boot. Here’s the Difference.

In the early days, I thought shoes and boots were the same. Not a big mistake, though.

But the subtle difference could make a lot of difference in your hiking experience. I can say the differences are significant when you are planning an extended hike.

Hiking boot includes hiking shoes and many other types of footwear. Hiking shoes are designed for short hikes with lightweight load. The low-cut design is not well suited for heavy backpacks.

Choosing the right boot for day hikes with familiar terrain doesn’t make a huge difference. This is why most day hikers wear their trail runners. And not surprisingly, many people also wear their hiking shoes for general use.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission for qualified purchases from these links. But it never affects your price or what we pick.

What are the other types of hiking boots that are not hiking shoes?

Hiking shoes are designed with two parameters in mind—the duration of a hike and the size of your backpack. Since most extended trips also require heavy loads, we have three combinations.

  • Day-hikes with lightweight backpacks,
  • day-hikes with heavy backpacks,
  • extended trips (almost always heavy packs)

And these are also the three kinds of hiking boots you can find in the market.

Hiking shoes are built to carry lightweight backpacks for day hikes. You can wear them for casual use. They usually have a low cut and a flexible midsole. These shoes are also ultra lightweight. You wouldn’t feel much different from your everyday shoes.

Check out Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe and Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe on Amazon. They are the most popular hiking shoes for pretty good reasons.

Then we have day-hike boots (aka mid-height boots). These boots are designed with a mid-cut. Mid cuts give you some extra support to carry the heavyweight. But they aren’t too high to cause ankle pain. Their midsole is usually flexible.

Check out the best day-hiking boots, KEEN’s Targhee 2 for Men and Targhee 3 for women in Amazon.

Finally, we have backpacking boots—the real heavyweight.

They have a high cut. Usually, the upper of the boots are made with full-grain leather. Some prefer split leather to accommodate some breathability and reduce weight.

On a multi-day trip, you may not have quick medical assistance. So it’s necessary to prevent any injuries. This is why backpacking boots are stiffer than any other boots.

They have a mid or high cut. Thus, when you put more weight on your backpack, the stiffer outer of the shoe will bend down to give you extra support.

The Zamberlan Vioz GTX for Men and La Sportiva Women’s Ultra Raptor II on Amazon are fantastic backpacking boots to pick.

You’ll find more room for your toes to wiggle in hiking boots. It’s essential to protect your toes from bruises. You should buy a size bigger or a wide-toe shoe in hiking shoes.

Lastly, backpacking boots are expensive compared to hiking shoes. But the extra cost covers the features that protect your feet from unknown dangers.

Please don’t buy a backpacking boot and use it everywhere.

It may be tempting to buy and use a backpacking boot for all your hikes. If it gives you extra support, why not?

You would be making a huge mistake if you did so.

The high-cut models are not very comfortable footwear for regular use. They are good only when you carry some serious weight and travel long distances. Please don’t use them without both these conditions met.

But if you’re a regular hiker, I’d recommend owning one.

What’s the best hiking boot to buy?

I’d go for a day-hiking boot.

I assume you’d be carrying some weight with you when you’re going on a hike. So it makes sense to invest in a day-hiking boot instead of a hiking shoe.

Your trail runners are mostly enough if you don’t have a heavy backpack. But an exception to this could be the terrain you’re traveling. I can still wear the running shoe if it’s not slippery, and I don’t expect many hazards.

Look for the word mid-height non-leather boots if you can’t find it with the name day-hiking boots.


Hiking boots are not the same as hiking shoes.

Choosing the right type of boot depends on the hike you’re taking, and the weight you’re holding in your pack is essential. Hiking shoes are designed for short walks and lightweight packs, while other boots are designed for extended trips with heavier loads.

Day-hike boots are designed for hikers who carry a medium load on day hikes, while backpacking boots offer extra support and stiffness for those carrying heavy loads on multi-day trips.

Thanks for reading, friend. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. If you like this post, please share it within your network.

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