Hiking Boots or Trail Shoes?

Mountain hiking in boots and trail shoesHiking and Backpacking in trail shoes

My old leather boots on the right in these pictures are more than twice as heavy as my trail shoes on the left. I had read somewhere that if your backpack weighs over forty pounds, you are better off with boots for ankle support.

I also remember reading (and know from banged up knees) that extra weight on your feet tires you out and makes you vulnerable to trips and falls.

Here’s the thing: Pack light and you can wear trail shoes, otherwise known as hiking shoes, instead of heavier boots. For me, wearing trail shoes rather than boots has made a big difference in how I feel at the end of the day. I haven’t hiked in boots for almost seven years and have much more energy on the trail. If I keep my pack weight ( includes food, but not water) at not over thirty pounds, I’m fine in a well-built trail shoe.

Remember, we are not talking “sneakers.” We’re talking supportive trail shoes, which are sold at the major hiking and outdoor stores. Although boots keep getting lighter as Gore-Tex replaces leather, trail shoes  have become more versatile and are built to last. And they are quick and convenient.

For a comprehensive summary of trail shoes, see this article on low-cut hiking boots in Backpacker magazine.

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