Hiking boots vs trail runners: how to choose the right footwear your next hike

Hiking boots vs trail runners? Which type of shoe should you choose for your next hike?

The answer is…it depends. It depends on your personal preference and on a number of other factors like pack weight, terrain and weather conditions.

My personal preference is to hike with trail running shoes (especially the Salomon S-lab model) but I still occasionally use hiking boots (like for example on the West Highland Way).

In this article I want to give you all the info you need to decide what the best option for you is.

Hiking boots vs trail runners: pros and cons

Hiking boots vs trail runners

Hiking boots vs trail runners: how to decide?

There are a few factors to take into account when deciding whether to go for hiking boots or trail runners. These questions will help you decide what’s best for you.

On which type of terrain will you be hiking?

Hiking boots will provide better traction, support and ankle stability on rough, uneven, rocky trails. They will also offer better protection if you are planning to hike through dense bush, on muddy trails or on trails with sharp rocks.

Trail runners will be a better choice if you are planning to stick to easy to moderate terrain like for example forest trails or paved trails. 

What will the temperatures and weather conditions be like?

In hotter conditions, trail runners will keep your feet cooler and less moist. In cold and wet conditions hiking boots will keep your feet dry and warm for longer. However, once they are wet hiking boots tend to take longer than trail runners to dry out. 

Do you have a history of ankle twists and sprains?

If you have had issues with ankle stability in the past, hiking boots will give you more support and will reduce the risk of another ankle twist. 

Will you be carrying a heavy pack?

A heavy load on your back will create additional pressure on your ankles which means that you may require more ankle support. So if you are planning on carrying a lot of gear with you, trail runners may not give you enough support.

How fast do you want to be moving?

Trail runners are much lighter than boots. So if you want to hike fast and cover long distances trail runners will be more suited than hiking boots. Hiking boots are better for hiking at a slow and steady pace. But you probably won’t be breaking speed records in them.

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