Hiking Boots Vs. Trail Runners: Two Loyalists Compare and Contrast

Hiking boots or trail runners?

Years ago there wasn’t a choice. Leather hiking boots ruled the trail. But trail runners are now king of the mountains, and they far outnumber boots in outfitters’ displays. Still, footwear is a highly personal choice, and what works for one hiker may not work for another.

The outsoles of boots give the bottoms of your feet a solid layer of protection from the pounding you’ll get from rocky trails. Boots give you stability on trail, and the more stable your foot the smaller chance of rolling an ankle. Boots alone will not help hikers with weak ankles. But the boot uppers will protect your ankles if your foot accidentally slides into a narrow gap between rocks or bangs against a protruding stick. Boots might be the better choice for hikers carrying heavy loads of 30 pounds or more because of the outsoles’ thicker protection.

For shorter hikes where there is no soggy ground or forecasted precipitation, dry time may not be an important consideration. For longer backpacking trips, where you’re likely to encounter river fords, hiking on snowfields, or through torrential rain, dry time is an important consideration. Hiking for prolonged periods in wet shoes or boots can be very uncomfortable and result in blisters, trench foot, or a host of other foot issues. Trail runners dry a lot faster.

Who wins? You be the judge. The Trek asked two longtime hikers to weigh in on their choice of footwear…


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