So you’ve decided it’s time to get yourself some good quality walking footwear - perhaps you’re replacing an old pair, or maybe you’re new to the whole rambling game and are taking the plunge for the first time.
You head to your favourite outdoor retailer (Winfields, obviously) to find the pair you want, and then you’re met with something you hadn’t accounted for - the choice between walking boots and walking shoes.
For seasoned walkers, there’s a good chance you’ll know the difference between walking boots and walking shoes, but for some, it might cause some confusion. Choosing the right walking footwear is incredibly important, so it’s essential you know which type you need.
Read on to find out everything you need to know when choosing between walking boots and walking shoes...
As you might expect just by looking at them, walking shoes are lighter than walking boots. In fact, walking shoes can be about half the weight of a pair of leather boots.
Lighter walking shoes also give you a little extra manoeuvrability, so if you like to be a little more fleet of foot and don’t like the feeling of heavier boots, then a lighter option might be preferable.
This can be an important factor when the seasons change. Lightweight footwear is better in warm temperatures, while heavier, more insulated walking boots will be a preferable option in the cold of winter.
A lightweight walking shoe, though it has a thinner sole, can be the preferred footwear when hiking or climbing a steep slope or mountain. This is due to there being less weight on your feet, making a hike or climb less tiring.
Support & protection
Having adequate support is incredibly important when it comes to choosing the right walking footwear. Walking boots have much higher ankle support, often over-the-ankle, and are usually thicker, which can help guard against ankle twists and sprains, as well as cuts, scrapes and bangs.
Boots also generally have stiffer soles that offer a bit more protection and support for the soles of your feet, which is particularly useful when the going gets rough and rocky. This will prevent bruising and strain to your feet, especially once your footwear starts to wear with time.
While walking shoes may have a thinner sole, offering less protection, if you choose wisely, you can have a shoe that is an excellent all-rounder that provides protection and support. When your trail gets tough, slowing down and taking greater care with foot placement is a small trade-off if walking, rather than rough-and-ready hiking, is your pursuit.
With the UK having the delight of such varied weather conditions, it’s vital that your footwear can stand up to whatever’s thrown at it. Most walking boots will have a waterproof, breathable liner that will keep your feet dry when it’s raining and even when crossing streams - as long as the water doesn’t go over the top of the boot, obviously, in which case you’d need to use gaiters.
Walking shoes won’t always have a waterproof lining, and are therefore best suited to drier weather. This also makes them more breathable, which is useful during the summer months. Shoes that do have a waterproof lining will consequently be less breathable unless they feature a breathable membrane, such as GORE-TEX.
Related: When To Replace Your Walking Boots
It’s always worth adding some water repellant to your boots or shoes to help improve their level of waterproofing.
Remember, however, that because walking shoes are thinner, which may make them less protective against wet weather, they will dry much quicker than walking boots - particularly as they are made of synthetic materials.
Complete Wet Weather Protection
For complete protection from the elements, waterproof accessories are a hugely popular option for every lover of the great outdoors.
SealSkinz is renowned for its ground-breaking development of waterproof and windproof technology while maintaining high levels of breathability when you get more active. Their outdoor socks ensure that even if your shoes get wet, your feet will stay dry this Autumn.
The iconic brand's range is perfect for every outdoor need, whether it's hiking, climbing, or a weekend stroll - SealSkinz is the must-have accessory for British weather!
What type of walking are you doing?
The type of walking you do is one of the key factors that will determine whether you choose walking boots or shoes.
The extra support offered by walking boots makes them more suited to rockier, uneven terrain, while the deeper tread on the sole also makes them a good choice for muddier conditions. Conversely, for flatter terrain that’s easier to walk on, walking shoes should be more than adequate.
For longer walks, you have to weigh up whether you want the extra support of walking boots or the lighter weight of shoes - as well as taking into account waterproofing and other factors.
Should you buy walking shoes or walking boots?
As a general rule, if you’re doing more casual, lightweight walking, then a pair of walking shoes should do the trick. However, if you’re doing more intensive, longer distance walking over challenging terrain, then walking boots are certainly the choice we would recommend - especially for the colder months.
But if you can, then our ultimate advice would be to buy both! That way, you can wear the appropriate footwear for whatever type of walking you’re doing. Being able to alternate between pairs will also make them last longer - plus, walking shoes look better with shorts!
Buying and Owning Tips
- Get used to your footwear over time: For walking shoes, in particular, wear them in gradually and allow your ankles to become stronger before setting-off. Boots require more time to be broken in.
- Consider your joints: If you have knee issues, walking shoes may be best with their greater comfort. Any ankle issues, try walking boots for their enhanced support.
- Remember your socks: When buying walking footwear, remember to try them on with socks you would wear with them on a hike. This will help with sizing and avoid future blisters.
- Fitted and ready: Poorly fitted and laced walking footwear are the main reasons for blisters. Your feet should be snug and not shift around as you walk. Choose footwear that works with your feet.
Shop walking boots
Shop walking shoes
Take a look at our full range of footwear and our walking & hiking equipment collection including:
Men's Hiking Boots | Men's Walking Shoes | Women's Hiking Boots | Women's Walking Shoes
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