Choosing high or low shoes
Learn about choosing high or low shoes for your next adventure with these tips.
More and more people are using trail runners on their hikes. They overtake you at high speed and when they do, you start to wonder if you need to change your heavy high shoes for these light alternatives. At least, that’s what I thought two years ago. But low shoes are less safe and provide less ankle support, right? Maybe you’ve already switched to these low shoes and are in love with them or maybe you’ve decided to stay with your high shoes after careful consideration. Either way, choosing high or low shoes can be a tricky decision.
It is essential to decide on the right type of shoe for you, and it is a choice you have to make yourself. Personal preference, type of trail, weather conditions, and physical fitness determine if you will choose a high or low shoe, it all depends on your needs.
In this blog, I am going to share my personal experiences and hope to provide you with some insights into the pros and cons of high and low shoes. For the longest time, I had always hiked in high shoes, but a couple of years ago, I switched to low trail runners. I only switch back to my old high mountain shoes when I hike in alpine terrain or when there is snow.
Consider when choosing high or low shoes
There are six shoe types from which you can choose. These are the ABCD category shoes, trail runners, and approach shoes. Here is a short explanation of the different types:
- Type A: The light and low hiking shoe. This shoe is suitable for easy and long hikes. It is a comfortable shoe for walks in your own area.
- Type B: The light and high hiking shoe. This shoe provides more ankle support and has a thicker sole for more protection. It is suitable for most mountain hut trails.
- Type C: The heavy-high hiking shoe. This shoe is for challenging hikes where you must carry heavy gear. It also has a thick sole making it suitable for crampons.
- Type D: The alpine shoe. Utilize this shoe when climbing in higher mountains. It is perfect for crampons due to its solid sole and robust materials. In most cases, you will not use this type of shoes on a thru-hike.
- Trail runners: These shoes are for hiking or running on unpaved paths. They provide good cushioning but they are prone to wear and tear.
- Approach: These are low to mid-height robust shoes. There are suitable for via ferratas.
The shoe decision is always dependent on the terrain and expected weather conditions. If you expect to encounter snow high in the mountains, it is advisable to go for robust and high type B shoes. But if you are walking on a relatively flat trail, low shoes are a good option. If you aren’t sure which shoe type you need, make a list of the pros and cons and use this to help you choose high or low shoes. I always try to use my new footwear on the expected trail terrain before my hike.
Advantages of low shoes
- It is a light shoe, allowing you to move through the terrain using less energy.
- The flexible sole provides more feeling to the ground, so you have better grip and footing.
- Comfortable due to the more natural shape.
Disadvantages of low shoes
- Less support due to the flexible sole. This could lead to more tired feet if you are not used to this.
- Risk of water entering your shoes when stepping into a river.
- No ankle protection against rocks and other sharp things.
Advantages of high shoes
- Protection of your ankles and lower risk of water running into your shoes.
- Support from the more rigid sole on rough terrain, which helps with tired feet.
- Higher shoes provide more warmth.
Disadvantages of high shoes
- Heavier, so they require more energy to lift your feet.
- Thicker soles provide less feeling to the ground, which makes it easier to misstep.
- Less comfortable because they have a less natural feel and shape.
Once you have decided which type of shoe you want, you will need to determine if you want your shoes to be waterproof. Both high and low shoes are available in waterproof versions. To decide, consider the terrain and weather you will encounter on your hike. Personally, I don’t mind hiking in wet shoes because they will dry fast when walking and with a little help from the sun. Therefore, I hike in shoes that are not waterproof.
After years of hiking in high shoes, it took some time to get used to the low shoes. Your ankles need to correct more, especially in the beginning, and this increases any chances of injuries. I hiked and trained in the low shoes, which helped my ankles to get used to the new strains. Now I hike more efficiently due to the lighter low shoes. And when the trail allows it, I will even hike in trail runners. Another advantage of these shoes is that they give your sweaty feet a chance to breathe!