A few decades ago, it you wanted to go hiking, you would buy a pair of hiking boots with no questions asked. Today, however, not all hikers are wearing boots. Some are opting for hiking shoes, which are more like a cross between sneakers (or running shoes) and boots. How do you know if you should choose hiking shoes or boots? Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to help make the decision.
1. Will you be walking flat or rocky trails?
Consider the trails where you will be hiking. If you are walking mostly on flat surfaces without a lot of rocks, you should have no trouble with trail shoes, such as women's hiking shoes. On the other hand, if you are bounding over some rocks and hiking on really uneven terrain, you might want to steer towards boots. The boots will offer more ankle support so you don't twist your joints when you step on or around the rocks.
2. Do you have ankle problems?
If you are really fit and have healthy joints, you shouldn't have major problems with rolling your ankles in trail shoes. On the other hand, if you have a history of spraining your ankles, have had broken ankles in the past, or have weak muscles that make it hard for you to keep yourself upright, you might want the ankle support offered by boots.
3. Are you carrying a pack?
Lightweight hiking shoes can reduce the strain on your legs on longer hikes. Clearly, it is easier for your legs to lift a 4-ounce shoe than a 1-pound boot! However, if you are carrying a heavy pack when you are hiking, you might want to wear boots rather than shoes. While they add a little more weight, they also put more cushioning between you and the ground, which you need when you have the additional weight of a pack bearing down on you.
4. Will you be running on the trails?
If you plan on working a little running into your hikes, you will definitely want to opt for trail shoes rather than hiking boots. Boots are too heavy for you to run with proper form, so if you do run in them, you will tire quickly and you may sustain muscular injuries.
Before you decide between hiking shoes and boots, make sure you try on a few pairs. You'll then know what feels better on your feet.