In this question with good answers, we can read that while being significantly effective for some cases, ankle support from boots/higher shoes does not have an important effect when hiking.

I was thinking of changing hiking shoes and I wanted to know if there is another difference than ankle support between higher or lower shoes.

  • 1
    Higher shoes will collect less stuff in them than lower shoes but I don't think that is a big deal most of the time.
    – Erik
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 1:38
  • 1
    Related: outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/4944/… Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 11:19
  • @Erik I used to do a lot of Dartmoor letterboxing (by definition you're off the path quite a bit). Keeping plants/surprise water out of your shoes is surprisingly important there.
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 12:26
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    @ChrisH I agree that the conditions/terrain/vegetation will make a difference. Hiking sand dunes is different than scree fields which are different than wandering among tide pools. I also suspect that the way you walk/place your foot makes a big difference. I virtually always wear low tops and practically never get stuff in my shoes. I am sure part of that is where I hike but I believe how I hike helps too, although perhaps I'm just lucky or hiking in different conditions.
    – Erik
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 17:27

3 Answers 3


Depending on the climate there are some significant differences.

  • Boots are noticeably warmer than shoes. This is beneficial in the cold, though socks etc. provide warmth as well. In hot conditions the extra warmth isn't always welcome.
  • Boots keep vegetation off your ankles, which is good if you're off the beaten path, especially with sharp plants.
  • In dusty or gritty conditions boots reduce the amount that gets in to your footwear, but what does get in hangs around your ankles which isn't pleasant.
  • Boots are also better at keeping your feet dry if it's wet/muddy underfoot; I've also found them better with gaiters and/or waterproof trousers against rain.

Whether you regard the decreased range of movement as a good thing or a bad thing depends on what you're doing and how confident you are in your footing. For example if you can't see the ground clearly (dark, undergrowth) but need a decent pace rather than placing every step gently, you may choose boots; if you're trying to be silent you may well want shoes, even with fairly thin soles.

  • and while boots keep my feet drier, they also take longer to dry if any water or now gets in.
    – Vince
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 1:14
  • @Vince that may well be true, although I'm not convinced it's as significant as differences in materials.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 8:19
  • @Vince But less waters does get in. The top always dries first.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 21:11

There are going to be two main differences that I can think of. The first is that higher shoes are going to weigh more, simply because there is more shoe.

The second is that that you are going to be much clunkier/less graceful in higher shoes/boots than in lower. Partly because of the weight and partly because your ankles will have less movement. I almost always wear lower shoes when hunting, because it helps me be quieter.


Taller shoes or boots are somewhat heavier, but this is generally not a big deal as most of the weight is associated with the soul of a boot.

If you are hiking in areas where venomous snakes, such as rattlesnakes abound, then higher shoes will add a little more protection against snake bites.

When in snake country:

Dress appropriately. When in rattlesnake country, do not be blasé about clothing — the majority of bites occur on the hands, feet and ankles. So, apart from not sticking your hands where they shouldn't be, clothing becomes an important protection ally:

•Toss the sandals — this is time for good quality, thick hiking boots, and decent socks. Over the ankle boots are best, as ankle bites are common. Do not wear sandals, open-toed shoes or bare feet when walking in the desert. There are more things than rattlesnakes awaiting your foolhardiness if you do.

•Wear long, loose-fitting pants.

•Use gaiters if possible, especially if you choose not to wear long pants.

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