Hiking Boots vs. Shoes vs. Trail Runners

a person wearing hiking boots when out on the trail

From the great plains of North Dakota to the mountainous terrain of Montana, you can find national and state parks that are great for hiking. To enjoy your trail adventures even more, it's important to wear the right type of hiking footwear that matches the terrain and climate you're in. There are three main types of hiking footwear: hiking boots, hiking shoes, and trail runners. Our Hiking Experts highlight the benefits each offers and what it's best suited for so you're able to find the right one for your next adventure!

About Hiking Boots

a person wearing hiking boots

From a stability standpoint, hiking boots are going to be your gold standard. The over-the-ankle build, high-lacing, and rugged outsoles give support to your feet and ankles when you are hiking on uneven, rocky terrain. Also, many hiking boots are waterproof to keep your feet dry, however, less breathable when you are in warmer weather.

Highlights of Hiking Boots:

  • Waterproof membrane
  • Over-the ankle support
  • Premium stability and traction

Top Hiking Boots

  • About Hiking Shoes

    a person wearing hiking shoes

    Taking on the trails with a little more mobility is enticing to a lot of people, which is why people turn to hiking shoes. Hiking shoes are great for walking trails but also for maneuvering uneven terrains like rocks or slopes. Unlike hiking boots, hiking shoes feature a variety of different types of outsoles to provide the underfoot support that you're looking for. If you prefer a more soft bottom, then find a compression-molded EVA midsole like HOKA. On the other hand, if you want more structure to make sure you can go on a variety of different trails, then take a look at KEEN

    Highlights of Hiking Shoes:

    • Rugged traction
    • Increased mobility 
    • Waterproof membrane

    Top Hiking Shoes

  • About Trail Runners

    a person wearing trail running shoes

    Trail runners are a hybrid between a running shoe and a hiking shoelightweight and comfortable with a rugged outsole. Many runners who enjoy running on uneven trail terrain prefer to wear trail runners because they feature a high traction outsole yet maintain breathability. The lugs on trail running shoes are built to grip a variety of terrains. It is important to note that trail runners are not ideal for extended hikes on technical terrain because of their low ankle support. 

    Highlights of Trail Runners:

    • Increased traction
    • Lightweight, breathable upper
    • Soft, comfortable cushioning

    Top Trail Runners

  • Which Is Best for You?

    To help you decide which type of hiking footwear you should invest in for your next hike, our Experts compare hiking boots vs. hiking shoes vs. trail runners.

    Hiking BootsHiking ShoesTrail Runners
    Good For: Tactical HikingGood For:  Moderate HikingGood For: Dirt Trails
    Ankle support & coverageIncreased range of motionFree range of motion
    StabilityTractionSoft, foam cushioning
    Colder temperatureMild temperatureWarmer temperature
    Secure build & constructionBreathable

    Deciding what type of hiking footwear is best for you can seem like a daunting task, however now that you know the differences between hiking boots, hiking shoes, and trail runners, you can make an informed decision! When the time comes to make a decision on what type of hiking shoe is best for you, make sure you note where you will be hiking and what the weather is like. If you have additional questions about the differences between hiking footwear, call or stop by your nearest SCHEELS to speak with an Expert today!