Hiking boots have always been the traditional footwear for backpackers. Now that backpacking technology has evolved and gear is more lightweight, hiking shoes have become more lightweight as well. I used hiking boots for the majority of the trail but made the switch to trail runners for the last 300 miles. I’m a big fan of both styles, and I’m not really sure which I would choose if I were to do another thru-hike.
Here’s my handy list of the good and bad of hiking boots and trail runners.
- Hiking boots are very sturdy.
- If you get the high-cut style, they offer ankle support. This will reduce your chances of a sprain.
- They last a long time. My first pair of boots made it all the way to Harpers Ferry. That’s 1000 miles!
- It takes a while to break them in, so you could get blisters during the first week.
- If they get wet, they don’t dry very fast.
- It takes hardly any time to break them in.
- They dry quickly when they get wet.
- They come is really cool colors.
- They’re lightweight.
- They normally don’t last for more than 500 miles.
- Lack of ankle support, means that you can get a sprain more easily.
That’s not a very long list, I realize. What this will come down to for most people is price. Trail runners might be flashier, more light-weight, and cooler; but you will probably go through 4 or 5 pairs. You can get by on only 2 or 3 pairs of boots. Boots and runners are similar prices as well: you’ll spend between $100 to $200 on a good pair.
Another thing to consider is your pack weight. If your pack feels heavy to you, you might want the extra support of the boots. If you bought only ultra-light gear and you feel like you could run while wearing your pack, trail runners will probably be for you.
Side Note: No matter what type of footwear you choose, it’s important to get good inserts. Super Feet are a very popular brand of inserts, but I don’t like them. Lots of people do, but I don’t and I’ll tell you why. They’re very flimsy, first of all. I don’t want to spend $40 on inserts that are as sturdy as any old drugstore brand. They have good heel support, but no arch support. If you have trouble with your heels, then go for the Super Feet. They won’t solve your arch problems though.
What is a good insert, you ask? I’ll tell you about my favorite brand. I might never buy another. SOLE is where it’s at. They’re very sturdy, not flimsy. You can pop them in the oven at home, then slide them into you shoes, and they’ll form to you feet. The arch support is amazing.