Are you thinking about hiking the Camino in Spain or even hitting your local, regional trail? You're probably asking, "Do I need hiking boots?" After all, they can be expensive and bulky. Is it worth it to roll the dice and wear your old running shoes?
Do I Need Hiking Boots?
It's a question that amateur hikers and even some brazen experienced hikers ask. "Do I need hiking boots?" The answer is doubtless, yes, indeed, you do! You need a boot that provides ankle support, is waterproof, and protects against rough terrain.
There are always those who will suggest that running shoes are suitable for hiking and costly boots are not entirely necessary. Perhaps this is valid. However, there's an expression that it is better to be safe than sorry for a reason.
Hiking boots can indeed be cumbersome. Despite this, whether you are traversing smooth routes or tough and unfamiliar terrain, they provide quality support for your ankles, warmth, and water resistance.
There's no question that any type of boot is expensive. However, a cost-benefit analysis shows that over time, investing in the durability of a hiking boot is a wise choice.
Plus, you won't endure the same soreness that is common to that of running shoes.
Regular running shoes do not have any support for your ankles, and their lightweight design means that they're easily punctured and wear out quickly. Hiking boots are superior to running shoes because of their lasting material, which is intended to withstand the ruggedness of trail hiking.
The naysayers argue that your feet will sweat excessively in hiking boots, given their weight. But, your feet will sweat in running shoes over a long hike. Furthermore, boots are more likely to prevent a total flood of water from a rainstorm than running shoes might.
Another perk of hiking boots is the warmth that they provide. If you're hiking in a cold climate, the water protection and the insulation that specific hiking boots afford is necessary for both a comfortable and safe trip.
The traction afforded by hiking boots makes them great for hilly and mountainous environments. It's essential to be able to plant your feet and push off with a strong foothold while climbing.
What about blisters? Ouch!
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When you ask the question, "Do I need hiking boots?" the answer always involves blisters.
Blisters are a legitimate concern.
Running shoes don't have the same rigidity as hiking boots. Therefore, the former is much less likely to cause blisters than the latter.
Keep the fit in mind as well. You need to know how should hiking boots fit to prevent blisters and discomfort.
The counter-argument is that specific measures can be taken to prevent painful blisters. For example, taking the time to shop around and find boots that fit properly, and is waterproof can make a huge impact.
You experience painful blisters on your feet when your boots slip, and your feet get damp and wet.
You can also take the additional step of wearing the proper type of socks in the right conditions. Wool socks and socks made from synthetic material such as spandex and polyester work well because they tend not to absorb moisture as much and dry faster than regular cotton socks.
What Are the Different Types of Hiking Boots?
The two main types of hiking boots are day hiking boots and backpacking boots. What you choose to wear should be dependant on the conditions that you are planning to brave.
The main visible difference is the height of the cut. Day hiking boots are still supportive of the ankle while not quite as high as backpacking boots.
Day hiking boots
These types of boots have a mid-size cut and are more suited to longer hikes with backpacking gear. This footwear will keep your feet dry through their waterproof materials. The mid-range cut will provide ankle support and be resistant to the rough and tumble environment of challenging hiking routes.
You'll have to break-in day hiking boots and wear the right type of socks. You must remember that these boots are heavier than ordinary sneakers.
However, day hiking boots are supportive and rugged, meaning that twisting your ankle or hurting your feet is less of an issue.
These types of boots are high cut and offer great support for your ankles. Backpacking boots weigh more and are more appropriate for steeper and longer trails than a day hiker because of their durability. If you're carrying heavy bags on a tough journey, go for this option.
Also, less experienced hikers might indeed want to start with this type on steep trails for extra security.
There are hiking shoes that are more appropriate for spontaneous walks through nature, but backpacking boots are waterproof and will withstand difficult and strenuous conditions.
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Do Hiking Shoes Qualify?
We've discussed the two primary types of hiking boots. However, you could consider another class of footwear should you be thinking about going for a trail walk. These are hiking shoes.
They aren't running shoes but rather a more substantial, durable version of regular sneakers. If you're looking to hike shorter, softer trails, then these shoes would qualify.
These hiking shoes are constructed with materials that will prevent any punctures and are able to handle some rough climbing. The design of the thick soles, with waterproof material, is similar to the other boot types.
Check out hiking shoes when you want something less bulky and light. Given these attributes, they do qualify as suitable shoes for hiking. However, there's a significant caveat to this point, and that is ankle support.
The major difference between hiking shoes and a day hiking or backpacking boots is that they don't provide any ankle support. The lack of support is troublesome, considering hiking can be extremely conducive to rolling an ankle.
If you're willing to risk the possibility of hurting your ankles, then hiking shoes qualify as a potential option. Technically, they aren't a boot. Therefore, when asking "Do I need hiking boots?" at the very least you need hiking shoes.
The more lightweight footwear could be just the thing for you.
Does Price Matter?
So, do I need hiking boots? Or at the very least hiking shoes?
We have answered that question!
Now, perhaps a more difficult proposition is: Do you need the most expensive hiking boots?
Each type of boots that we've discussed are expensive, but does price equal quality? It's hard to know given all the fancy terminology used to market boots these days.
It's true that an expensive product may not always be any better than a more moderately priced item. The same is true with hiking boots.
It's a good idea to invest in your footwear but take into consideration the amount of hiking that you are planning to do and the difficulty level of your hikes and shop accordingly.
If you're planning on going out on a hike and wondering, "Do I need hiking boots?" you need to understand that you don't have to purchase fancy boots. After all, they are more expensive and heavier than running shoes. They are vulnerable to the elements, just like any outerwear.
However, if you want to enjoy your hiking experience rather than enduring it, consider boots.
Hiking boots are going to be more protective of your feet from the uncertain elements. It will give your ankles more support and warmth.
There are many ways in which you can cut costs when going out on the trails. It's a good idea to go all-in on footwear. Hiking shoes are an option, but please don't wear running shoes!
So, whether you're a novice hiker or an avid climber, find boots that fit well, suitable socks, and go out and enjoy all that nature has to offer!
Please feel welcome to comment in the comment section. We would love to hear your thoughts!