What are the Different Types of Hiking Boots?

Deborah Ng

Hiking boots are a mountaineer's most important piece of equipment. A hiker's feet must be well protected and kept comfortable and dry. Since the terrain can range from flat and dry to rough and wet, it's important to choose hiking boots wisely. The last thing any backpacker wants is foot problems.

Climbers need specialized boots for summiting tall mountains like Mount Everest.
Climbers need specialized boots for summiting tall mountains like Mount Everest.

There are many styles of hiking boots to choose from. The best type and style for you depends on the type of hiking you enjoy. For instance, the occasional day hiker might not purchase the same boots as the cross-country backpacker. It's important to research the type of gear that best works for your needs.

Hiking boots.
Hiking boots.

Light boots are best for flat, easy terrain. They're recommended for the occasional hiker who prefers often-walked trails over rugged paths. These boots aren't meant for climbing mountains; they're for those who want to go for a walk in the woods. They're comfortable and flexible but don't offer ankle support. Light boots are generally comprised of nylon or light leather, making them softer than other types of hiking boots. In fact, they more resemble sneakers than the shoes that generally come to mind when one thinks of hiking boots.

It's important to wear any type of new hiking boots on short, trial hikes to break them in gently.
It's important to wear any type of new hiking boots on short, trial hikes to break them in gently.

Mid-weight boots are closer to the common idea of classic hiking boots. They're made for somewhat rougher terrain, including rocky hills. They're not meant for the roughest hiking but will support your feet comfortably on a day hike or weekend back-packing trip. Mid-weight boots are made of hard leather and other sturdy materials. While the soles are less flexible than those of light boots, mid-weight boots offer more ankle support.

Heavy boots are for cross-country backpackers and hikers of rough terrain. If you're planning on being away from home for a while, these boots are for you. They're sturdy and made of rugged materials. They provide plenty of good ankle support, too. Most heavy hiking boots have a reinforced toe plate for added protection.

If you're planning on summiting Everest, you'll want to invest in a pair of mountaineering boots. Not only are these hiking boots designed to withstand tremendous abuse, but they'll keep your feet warm, dry and protected. Mountaineering boots are especially designed for climbing on ice and allow for easy crampon attachment.

Crampons help mountaineers climb slippery vertical surfaces.
Crampons help mountaineers climb slippery vertical surfaces.

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Discussion Comments


If you are looking for something to do in the summer most cities have nice hiking trails for beginners in larger parks and on the outskirts of the city proper. It can be fun for you a couple of friends to make hiking a regular excursion.

I have found that going and buying our supplies together, like hiking boots and backpacks, can be quite enjoyable. Plus some stores will give you discounts if you are buying several pairs of hiking boots at once.

It is a good idea to try the hiking boots on in store and really walk around in them for a few minutes. If they poke you at all don't get them as this usually just gets worse.


Hiking is a great way to build up your stamina and improve your overall health. I think that even if you are starting out you should invest in a good pair of lightweight hiking boots. Often you can find these on sale at big box stores, and while they aren't professional grade they do protect your feet enough for you to enjoy a nice hike of a few hours.

Also, if you are starting to hike for the first time with new hiking boots make sure you break them in first. I usually walk around my neighborhood a few times before heading into the wilderness because new shoes always give me blisters. It is much better to suffer from these on a short trip than be miserable for a long hike.

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