Hiking Boots VS Combat Boots: Pros & Cons

A hiker’s feet are probably one of their most important body parts. Trust me, I know. Try hiking 5 miles or more over rough terrain with blisters and ill-fitting or incorrect boots. 

It’s essential to really consider what’s the best kind of boots for hiking, backpacking, or trekking. It requires more than just a glance at what’s “pretty,” a quick try-on, and a swipe of your card at the outdoor shop.

There are different kinds of shoes you can go hiking with, and you may wonder about hiking boots vs combat boots. Which boot you choose ultimately depends on where you go hiking, the flexibility you need, how long you hike for, the durability of the boots, and what kind of foot support and protection you need. 

Learn how to choose between hiking boots or combat boots so you can hike comfortably and not worry about foot protection on the trails.

A Definition of Hiking Boots and Combat Boots

When I think of going hiking and what “shoes” to wear, my mind automatically thinks of hiking boots. The name kind of says it all, right? Hiking boots: boots that are made for hiking

Hiking boots look rugged, which is ideal for the outdoors where you reap tons of mental and health benefits. These boots are made to provide balance, stability, and grip, whether you are walking on a footpath or an uneven trail. 

Traditional hiking boots are sturdy because of their thick soles. This sturdiness helps prevent ankle injuries like twisting or spraining your ankle (and if you’re like me, you need all the support here you can get), especially when the terrain is quite rough. 

You also need traction on uneven surfaces so you don’t slip and fall. Not all hiking boots provide the same amount of traction, so this is something you need to check when you try out the boots. 

Since these split-grain leather, suede, or nylon boots are made to protect your feet, the soles and boot material is usually weather-resistant. If you know you’re going hiking in areas where it rains a lot, where it snows, or where there’s mud, ensure the hiking boots offer adequate protection. 

On the other hand, combat boots, also called tactical boots, military boots, army boots, or military combat boots are traditionally worn by military personnel, especially during combat, training, patrol, and other related duties. 

These days, civilians wear combat boots for technical hiking, hiking over rugged terrains, or when more foot protection is needed than what hiking boots offer. Combat boots come in various designs depending on where you are traveling: desert boots, cold weather boots, jungle boots, and so on. 

Combat boots are generally made from polyurethane or ethylene-vinyl acetate. Both of these materials are durable, waterproof, and shock-absorbent

The rubber or Vibram soles are durable, lightweight, and provide excellent grip. The heel zone improves traction, which helps you slow down on a too-fast descent, thus making it much safer.      

Hiking Boots Pros and Cons

Pros of Hiking Boots

  • Wear hiking boots when you go for a walk around your neighborhood, go camping, trekking, or hiking on marked trails or uneven, rough terrain. 
  • Hiking boots don’t require a long time to break in because they flex relatively easily. 
  • Hiking boots offer enough foot protection for hiking: non-slip outsoles, ankle support, grip, traction, balance, and stability. Some hiking boots are waterproof, snowproof, or have steel toe protection.  
  • The purpose of hiking boots is so you can walk long distances. As such, hiking boots are versatile and lightweight.  
  • Hiking boots provide a lot of comfort to hikers with these features: breathability with mesh panels, a gusseted tongue, moisture-wicking ability, cushioned insoles, arch support, water-repellent exterior, and special lining and padding. 

Cons of Hiking Boots 

  • No zipper on the side to quickly put hiking boots on and take them off.   
  • Not all hiking boots are snow- or waterproof, or have added steel toe protection.
  • Hiking boots are heavier than other types of hiking shoes, like trail runners or hiking sandals. This is especially important if a lighter-weight hiking shoe is more comfortable and works with the hiking terrain.    

Combat Boots Pros and Cons

Pros of Combat Boots 

  • Combat boots provide the ultimate protection for your feet. Some of the safety features combat boots offer is ankle support, balance, excellent grip, stability, heel break, toe protection, anti-slip outsole, shock-absorption, and protection from oil, water, etc.   
  • Combat boots need to be supportive so you’ll walk comfortably in these boots while carrying a heavy-loaded backpack or camping equipment.  
  • It’s easy and quick to put on and take off combat boots with the speed-lacing system and the side zippers.  
  • Combat boots are made to withstand extreme weather conditions, rigorous activities, and the toughest of terrains.  

Cons of Combat Boots 

  • Because combat boots are stiff to be so durable, it takes a long time to break them in. I recommend taking your time breaking in your combat boots before you go hiking or on any strenuous other outdoor activity with them.   
  • Combat boots are not very comfortable because their soles are quite inflexible.  
  • Compared to hiking boots, combat boots are quite heavy. The more weight you carry, in terms of boots or other gear, the quicker you get fatigued. If you are tired, chances are you won’t enjoy the hike so much.  

To Sum Up the Pros and Cons…

Still not sure if hiking boots vs combat boots are right for you? Check out the infographic below where we’ve summarized the hiking boots pros and cons and the combat boots pros and cons to make things easy for you. 

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How to Decide Between Hiking Boots and Combat Boots

Since we’ve gone over the basics between hiking boots vs combat boots, you are better able to decide which type of boots are best for what kind of situation. 

The type of boots you choose for your outdoor activity, because it isn’t restricted to hiking only, depends on various factors like how flexible the boots should be, the kind of grip and traction you need, comfort, balance, and stability

All of these factors relate to the terrain: the rougher the terrain, the better traction, grip, support, stability, and durability you need

Also consider the weather. Hiking boots or combat boots are not easy to dry if they get wet, whether from melted snow, rain, or because you slipped and fell into a river or stream. Plus, wet boots equal wet socks, which means your feet will be cold and uncomfortable, and you’ll get blisters that much faster because of the friction of wet socks rubbing on your wet and cold skin. 

How long you go hiking or on your activity is another consideration. Hikers that do a multi-month hike through the Appalachian Trail, for example, care a lot about how much weight they carry, so their gear needs to be as lightweight as possible. However, if you go hiking for a half day or a few days (or even longer), and the terrain is very challenging, then combat boots will serve you better.     

Wear hiking boots if: 

  • You go hiking, backpacking, camping, beginner canyoning (canyoneering or kloofing), for casual walks, and light mountain climbing.      
  • Weight is a concern, and your gear needs to be as light as possible.  
  • You want a more traditional and stylish option when going hiking. 

Wear combat boots for hiking if: 

  • You go mountaineering, technical hiking, backpacking, and trekking into never-before-traveled or not-often-traveled areas.  
  • You have a heavy load to carry.  
  • You need ultimate protection for your feet from the elements, from extreme weather to rocks and other rough terrain elements. 

Final Thoughts on Hiking Boots vs Combat Boots 

Combat boots aren’t just for those with buzz cuts, big builds, and tough personalities. You can use combat boots for recreational activities, but it’s essential to choose the right kind of gear for the kind of outdoor activity you are participating in. 

Choosing between hiking boots vs combat boots is pretty easy if you know where you are going, what the terrain is like, for how long you’ll be away, and what kind of grip, traction, stability, support, and protection you need for your feet.   

Hiking boots are ideal if your main considerations are comfort, your budget, time to break boots in, and style

In contrast, combat boots are your go-to if you need to take extreme weather, really challenging terrain for superior foot protection, and a heavy-carry load into account

If you know hiking boots are right for you, why not check out these popular hiking boot options that are under $50?

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