What Is the Difference Between Hiking Boots and Backpacking Boots?

By Michael Ferguson

Hiking and backpacking are both popular outdoor activities, but it’s important to understand the differences between hiking boots and backpacking boots before choosing the right footwear for your activity.

Hiking boots are designed for day hikes on well-established trails. They are typically lightweight and flexible, allowing you to move quickly and comfortably over various terrain. The soles of hiking boots provide good traction on dry surfaces, but they may not offer enough grip on wet surfaces or loose terrain.

Backpacking boots are designed for multi-day trips that involve carrying a heavier load over more challenging terrain. They are heavier and sturdier than hiking boots, providing more protection from the elements and better stability when carrying a heavy pack.

The soles of backpacking boots offer excellent grip on wet surfaces as well as loose terrain such as mud, rocks, or sand.


Hiking boots are generally less durable than backpacking boots due to their lightweight construction and flexible materials. Backpacking boots use heavier materials that can withstand more wear and tear over long-distance trips.


Hiking shoes typically provide basic ankle support but may not be suitable if you plan to carry a heavy load over uneven terrain or rocky trails. Backpacking shoes offer more ankle support with stiffer midsoles for additional stability when carrying a heavy pack. The higher cut also helps protect your ankles from potential injury caused by roots or rocks along the trail.


Hiking shoes tend to be less expensive than backpacking shoes because they are made with lighter materials that don’t require as much craftsmanship during production. Backpacking shoes can be costly due to the high-quality materials used in their construction.


Hiking Boots are best suited for day hikes on established trails while Backpacking Boots offer better protection and stability when carrying a heavier load over challenging terrain across multiple days of hiking. Hiking Boots tend to be lighter in weight and less expensive while Backpacking Boots are more durable, supportive of the ankles, and costlier due to their higher quality material construction which allows them to withstand tougher conditions encountered during multi-day hikes.