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How to Choose Light Hiking Boots

light hikers

Unlike traditional hiking boots, lightweight hiking boots are built to keep hikers comfortable on short trips. In this article, we'll talk about how to choose light hiking boots. After all, most casual hikers don't need beefy backpacker boots - they need lightweight boots that won't hold them back!

There are a few things that differentiate light hiking boots from backpacking boots. Weight is the most obvious difference. Beyond that, there's materials used to create the boots, and then the actual design of the boots. Traditional boots were created with rigid, heavy-duty leather to protect hikers from jagged rocks and sharp thorns. A light hiking boot is typically made with breathable mesh, and they're designed to be flexible to make walking as comfortable as can be.

What are Light Hiking Boot?

Light Hiking Boot: A lightweight boot intended for short to medium hikes on trails.

If you're like most of the world, you work! That's why short, 1-2 day weekend hikes are so appealing. It satisfies our craving to walk in the great outdoors, yet you can be back at work Monday morning. And lightweight hiking boots are idea for these quick trips - there's usually no need for big and bulky boots on such short trips. Learn more about how to choose hiking boots below:

The exact length of a “short” or “medium” hike varies from person to person. At Hi-Tec, we believe a short hike is about 1-5 miles, whereas a medium hike is about 5-15 miles. A light hiker is meant for walking on trails. If you’re looking to wander through the backcountry and carve your own path in the woods, you’re probably better off sporting a pair of traditional, bulkier hiking boots.

Think of lightweight hiking boots as a cross between sneakers and hiking boots. They look like an athletic shoe with a high ankle. They're lightweight, flexible, and perfect boot for short, spontaneous hikes.

Lightweight Hiking Boot Construction

hiking in the desert

How Much Do Lightweight Hiking Boots Actually Weigh?

As you can probably guess, light hiking boots are designed to be lightweight. Typically, a light hiking boot weighs anywhere from 15-20 ounces. They’re designed to provide stability when carrying light packs for a short weekend trip or day hike.

The lighter the boot, the more flexibility. Even a boot that weighs 5 oz. less than a traditional hiking boot is going to make a big difference. Every step becomes noticeably easier once you make the transition from a beefy traditional hiking boot to light hiking bot.

Traditional hiking boots are intended for walking miles and miles on a trail. The extra weight contributes towards durability when tackling rough terrain, but that added weight is unnecessary for a short hike. Light hikers are made for gliding down the trail in comfort.

Light Hikers and Support

There are three main areas that contribute to a light hiker’s support: the shank, midsole, and ankle.

The shank is a sturdy piece – usually made of plastic in light hikers – that lies between the insole and outsole. For a light hiker, you want a flexible shank for swift movement. Heavier outdoor footwear like mountaineering boots are often equipped with rigid, metal shanks to offer enough support for the earth’s toughest terrains.

Midsoles are the cushioning of a light hiking boot. Light hikers like the Altitude Lite use a molded EVA midsole. The midsole absorbs the impact of each step, reducing strain on the body.

Light hiking boots provide ankle support whereas hiking shoes do not. Typically, the ankle comes up around 6 in. from the base of the boot. Hiking shoes are great alternatives to light hikers and tend to weigh even less. However, hiking shoes lack the same ankle protection as light hiking boots.

Fit For the Trail

walking on the trail

Light hikers are supposed to fit like any other boot: snug, not cramped. Here are a couple of things to look for when trying on light hiking boots:

  • Toes. The difference between snug and cramped is having just a little bit of wiggle room. Lace your boots up, walk around, and wiggle your toes. If you can’t, you might want to move up a ½ size or so.
  • Heels. Make sure you heels are secured in those boots! Kick your boots from side to side, stand on your toes, and do whatever else to test if your heel moves in the boot. Your heels should stay glued to the soles without any lift.
  • Ankles. Pretend like you’re doing a slalom on the slopes! Lean from one side to the other and notice how your boots feel. Your boots should feel flexible without feeling uncomfortable. If this exercise hurts your ankles, you’re not getting enough support.

A good fit is one way to prevent blisters while hiking. Keep your feet in action longer with boots that fit properly.

Light Hiker Materials

Traditional hiking boots are crafted with thick, full-grain leather uppers for maximum protection against the elements. Where a traditional hiker is crafted to be extraordinarily rugged and sturdy, a light hiker is coveted for its lightness and breathability.

Most light hikers are made of a combination of suede and mesh. Suede is a flexible, soft leather that’s perfect for a light boot. The mesh uppers on a boot like the Skamania ensure breathability. In modern hiking boots, the mesh is constructed so it both provides ventilation and prevents liquids from permeating the surface.

Insoles & Outsoles

The insoles and outsoles of light hikers are like any other boot. Insoles – like the OrthoLites found in many Hi-Tec boots – offer stability and comfort. Deep lugs in the outsole provide traction in natural terrains. These lugs help your feet grip natural terrain, rain or shine.

Waterproofing Light Hiking Boots

Unless you only plan to take your light hikers to the most arid deserts in the States, odds are you will encounter rain at some point in time. Most modern hikers come pre-waterproofed, but waterproofing sprays and waxes do a great job keeping your feet dry once the original waterproofing wears out.

Other components to look for are a moisture-wicking lining and gusseted tongue. The Sierra Lite Original is a throwback to the original light hiker created in 1978, and features a moisture-wicking lining. The lining draws moisture out of the boot should any liquid enter the boot’s interior. A gusseted tongue means the tongue is sewn behind the laces, preventing rubble and water from entering the boot at the heel.

The Takeaway:

Light Hikers Are...

  • Lightweight. Lighter weight on each foot makes walking less strenuous. It's easier to walk in light hikers than beefy mountaineering boots.
  • Intended for Short Hikes. Grab light hikers on the fly for those spontaneous hikes in the woods. They're built for short to medium hikes – about 5-15 miles with light packs.
  • Flexibility. Unlike rigid, traditional hiking boots, light hikers are very flexible and responsive on maintained trails.
  • Excellent breathability. Light hikers usually feature mesh material that offers extra breathability and reduces foot odor.

Hi-Tec USA