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Differences Between Walking Shoes And Walking Boots

2024-04-11

Differences Between Walking Shoes And Walking Boots

Timberland Chocorua Hiking Boot in Brown

Put simply, walking boots are more rugged footwear designed for rough terrain and long distances, while walking shoes tend to be better for lighter walking on established routes in kinder conditions. However, there is some crossover, and personal preference plays a part too.

From clambering up scree slopes to fording shallow waters, there are plenty of challenges underfoot when you’re hiking, and anything you can do to enhance comfort and minimise the risk of injury has to be worth your consideration. So when it comes to footwear, you should probably choose specialist walking boots or shoes designed to make your outdoor experience the best it can possibly be. If you’re concentrating on your sore feet and ankles, you won’t be taking in the beauty and splendour nature has to offer, and that alone is reason enough to choose wisely.

Walking boots vs walking shoes

Before we look at the differences, let’s take a look at what walking boots and walking shoes have in common. Both are designed to be rugged and capable against a range of ground surfaces. They’re also designed to keep your feet dry and protected against conditions you’re likely to encounter.

The most important thing they have in common is a sturdy sole with plenty of grip. Just like tyres, the grip is designed to make sure you get a firm footing on all sorts of surfaces, from snow and wet grass to sand, soil and stone. You will also be climbing and dropping relatively steep inclines, and the grip keeps your feet where you intend them to be.

Second, they will have superior insulation and cushioning on the inside. You’ll be taking millions of steps in them, and it’s vital that you have a good degree of damping to protect your joints. You don’t, however, want them to be so soft as to make you lose the feel of the ground beneath you, which is vital for a firm footing and safe walking. The insulating layer is an added measure to stop freezing or wet ground from affecting your toes and feet.

Both will also be sturdy and tough, as you could well be putting them through a punishing time as you trek around your chosen terrains. Your feet must remain supported from twisting and excessive stretching while maintaining sufficient flexibility.

Finally, a degree of waterproofing is vital. Ideally, some sort of wicking or semi-porous material like Gore-Tex should help to drive away sweat while keeping you dry from puddles, mud, wet vegetation and snow.

Now, let’s look at how they differ.

Walking boots

The first thing you’ll notice when you see a pair of walking boots and shoes side by side is that the boots have higher sides (uppers) that extend beyond the ankle. Essentially, this is the thing that marks them out against shoes, but it’s an important distinction because it brings several key benefits over shoes:

  • They offer superior support to the ankles and reduce strain on this vital joint over long distances.

  • They allow around seven or more lace eyelets, so you can lace the boot in various ways to stiffen and loosen the pressure on certain parts of the foot.

  • The high sides mean you can walk in deeper water and snow without getting your feet wet.

  • Your ankles are better protected against knocks and scrapes that are part of walking in rocky or woody environments.

Walking shoes

Shoes, on the other hand, are leaner and lighter and have lower uppers (but they are generally nowhere near as low as trainers or everyday fashion shoes). Walking shoes come with a different range of benefits:

  • They are lighter, so ideal for short walks or walks along established paths where there’s little chance of a twist or slip.

  • You have a little more flexibility in your foot and ankle joints, which some walkers prefer.

  • Walking shoes are easier to pack and carry if you are backpacking or travelling to your walking destinations.

  • They are better if you sometimes like to break into a jog or run – it’s very hard to run in boots for sustained periods.

  • Less fabric means there’s more airflow, which might make them preferable in hot climates.

When does a boot become a shoe?

We talk about how high the upper goes to differentiate between shoes and boots, but where is the border? In truth, there’s no real definition. Some shoes have higher uppers than others, and some boots are lower than average. It’s all about finding the pair that’s right for you.

If you look at our walking shoes and walking boots for men and women, you’ll notice a bit of a range when it comes to the sole thickness, the height of the upper and the materials used. If you like the styling of boots but prefer a lighter shoe, perhaps something like the Sprint Trekker would be right up your mountain path. Or if you like a shoe that’s packed with tread and comfort for epic trail walks, the Euro Swift could be for you. Just bear in mind the pros of each style listed above, and you can eliminate the ones with features that don’t match your needs.

Are walking shoes or boots better?

It’s impossible to say one is better than the other because it’s entirely down to the type of walking you do and the conditions you expect to encounter. As a rule of thumb, the tougher the terrain and conditions, the more you should lean towards boots over shoes.

The most fanatical walkers have several pairs of shoes and boots, from which they choose based on the day’s adventure. If pressed, we would probably say the boot is more versatile and better able to cope with unexpected conditions, and the extra ankle protection and support is crucial over long distances away from civilization. But if you’re used to walking trainers and just want a little extra grip and weatherproofing, a pair of walking shoes could be the next logical step.