Are hiking boots or hiking sandals best? 

There’s nothing worse than setting out on a hike only to find halfway that you’ve selected the wrong footwear. And if you’ve ever looked at a wall full of hiking boots or sandals, you’ve probably asked yourself which is best. The truth is, both have their merits, and there are some situations where you’d want one over the other.

Hiking boots

Hiking boots are a sturdy style of boot that protects the ankle and sole by having a raised ankle sleeve and a rugged sole. This structure means that they can be worn when carrying weight or hiking over rough terrain.

Hiking boots are typically waterproof or breathable, and which you choose depends on when and where you aim to use them. 

  • Waterproof boots, normally made of Gore-Tex, are great for wet, wild, cold or muddy terrain. This style of boot is almost always designed for durability and toughness. They keep your feet warm and dry, no matter what’s going on outside.  
  • Breathable boots are best for warmer trails that still require ankle protection or foot support.

Hiking boot pros

Hiking boots keep your feet warm and dry while protecting your ankles from uneven ground. What’s more, they are extremely durable and can withstand all the wear and tear hiking trails can throw at you. And they’re designed so you can easily remove mud that builds up on the boot and even snow and ice on colder trails. 

Hiking boot cons

Hiking boots by nature aren’t that breathable, so they can cause blisters in warmer temperatures. They’re heavy, too, so they can be counterproductive for hikers traveling over shorter distances on even terrain. And there’s a lengthy break-in period for almost every pair of hiking boots, so they’re typically not a great option for your first hike.

Hiking boots are also more expensive than hiking sandals or hiking shoes. So if you’re planning casual and infrequent hill walks, you might want to consider other options. 

Best hiking boots

Keen Men's Targhee II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot

Keen Men’s Targhee II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot

These durable men’s hiking boots are perfect for experienced hikers who head out into rough terrain frequently and want something that will last. Sold by Amazon, Backcountry and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Merrell Women's Moab 2 Vent Mid Hiking Boot

Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Vent Mid Hiking Boot

These lightweight women’s hiking boots combine comfort and toughness without an extensive breaking-in period. Sold by Amazon, Backcountry and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Columbia Men's Redmond V2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Shoe

Columbia Men’s Redmond V2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Shoe

If you’re just getting into hiking and want a solid pair of beginner’s footwear, these men’s hiking boots from popular brand Columbia are affordable and suitable for all terrains. Sold by Amazon, Backcountry and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Hiking sandals

Hiking sandals are extremely comfortable, and great for more gentle terrain or warmer temperatures.  However, some people are still skeptical about these innovative shoes. And of course, with all the risks that can come with hiking, it’s important that you don’t buy an unsafe shoe.

Hiking sandal pros

Hiking sandals are far lighter than hiking boots, and are often even lighter than trail runners, which are designed to be lightweight. Covering less of your foot than boots, hiking sandals are perfect for warm climates or less hilly trails and terrain.

Hiking sandals also hold far less water than boots, sneakers and other styles of shoe. So, not only are they popular with those who hike infrequently, they’re ideal for people who partake in water sports and want to avoid damp feet and blisters. If you enjoy river hiking, sandals are a great option.

Hiking sandal cons

Your toes and parts of your feet are typically exposed when wearing hiking sandals. This design makes them ideal for desert hikes and dry climates, but it can make you prone to sunburn or injury due to rough terrain or loose debris on the ground. Hiking sandals can also blister the feet on longer hikes due to their constant pressure on fixed parts of the foot. 

Best hiking sandals

Keen Men's Newport H2 Closed Toe Water Sandal

Keen Men’s Newport H2 Closed Toe Water Sandal

The rubber sole on these closed-toe men’s hiking sandals provide the grip you need for steep terrain while the contoured arch keeps you supported and comfortable. Sold by Amazon, Backcountry and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Teva Women's Voya Casual Sport Sandal

Teva Women’s Voya Casual Sport Sandal

These women’s sports sandals are quick-drying and machine-washable, which is ideal if your hikes include wet terrain or you want supportive shoes for water sports. Sold by Amazon

Merrell Women's Sandspur Rose Leather Sandal

Merrell Women’s Sandspur Rose Leather Sandal

For hiking sandals that will last, the leather straps and microfiber lining are a comfortable and stylish fit while the midsole cushioning, made of ethylene-vinyl acetate, provides shock absorption. Sold by Amazon

Should you get hiking boots or hiking sandals?

The answer boils down to your outdoor environment and typical activity levels. More casual hikers, or those in warmer climates or around water, will appreciate the quick-drying benefits and versatility of a hiking sandal. Serious hikers, or those who often hike in colder climates and want added foot protection, should choose hiking boots. 

 

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Lauren Farrell writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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