The weight of equipment has always been a critical consideration for me and the most important item in a hiker’s gear is their boots. Not only do they provide support and protection to the feet, but they can also impact the overall weight of a hiker’s load.
After years of exploring various terrains and climates, I’ve become acutely aware of just how much a pair of hiking boots can weigh.
I’ve tried many different pairs throughout the years, and I can attest to the fact that your boot’s weight will affect performance and comfort.
In this article, I’ll delve into the various factors that contribute to the weight of hiking boots, provide insights into why some boots may be heavier than others, and offer tips for selecting the best pair of boots for your needs.
How Much Does a Pair of Hiking Boots Weigh?
Average hiking boots weigh around 2 pounds or 907 grams. Factors like the sole, the inner padding, and the outer material contribute to this.
I will pretty much always opt for lightweight boots, purely because they reduce the effort expended by the muscles to help you go further faster.
Other elements common to heavy boots can also make them feel bulkier, if not adding to the weight, including full shanks and a high-rising shaft, which limit flexibility.
What Features Affect the Weight of Hiking Boots?
In this section, I’ll walk you through the different design elements that have most affected our ultimate answer.
The rigidity of the soles can give the impression of extra weight, but it’s the particular material employed in their manufacture that is the key factor in this.
Because hikers expect a better grip than conventional shoes, bulky, hard rubber compounds are often used for the outsole. These can deliver a sturdy grip while being lighter and cheaper than leather, the traditional material from which hiking boots were once exclusively made.
2. Outside Material
The shaft refers to the part of the hiking boot which rides up the calf. On a traditional pair of boots, these run relatively high, helping shelter your feet from the elements and creating a more supportive whole.
For comparison, trail shoes have a very low shaft.
A high shaft makes the design stiffer, giving the impression of bulk, but it will also ultimately make the total weight a bit heavier.
A high shaft offers several advantages, such as providing a more stable grip due to its increased stiffness, making it easier to stop but harder to turn.
Additionally, it offers enhanced ankle support, which is essential during strenuous activities such as hiking.
However, it’s important to note that even with these benefits, a high shaft cannot guarantee complete protection against twisting your ankle in the event of a fall or trip.
The ‘uppers’ refers to the stretch of material that comes down from the shaft to the area around the sole, or the ‘lowers’. The material used is, again, traditionally leather, but nylon, fabric, and polyester are also used and also bring less weight to the overall design.
Padding or lining is the internal area that cushions your feet. It’ll add extra weight to any shoe, but it’s absolutely vital, providing warmth, comfort, and a good degree of protection.
Traditionally, boots were padded with cotton, but this has since been switched out for more breathable, and waterproof, synthetic options.
They also weigh less as well, making them a win on three counts.
Most modern leather boots will still opt for a synthetic lining. After all, the type of material used for the inside of the shoes makes little aesthetic difference to the outside, if that’s a concern.
The section around the bottom of your shoes – the lowers – is often made from stiff, hard hides or polyester sheets (compared to the porous, breathable material of most synthetic uppers). The purpose of these areas is to better fortify the heel and protect the toes.
Both are supposed to be solid, helping to steady your feet and protect them from rocks and debris on the trail. They’re therefore heavy, but that probably won’t be a concern once they save you from stubbing your toes on an outcrop.
Related Article: Why Do Hiking Boots Have Heels
Are Hiking Boots Supposed to Be Heavy?
No, and ideally, they wouldn’t be. Heavier boots put more of a strain on our muscles, undermining performance. Manufacturers of hiking footwear aren’t packing on the pounds for any deliberate, functional purpose.
You can look to the fact that each new generation weighs less than the last as evidence of this.
In reality, the reason that hiking boots are heavy is because they’re made of more substantial stuff than conventional shoes: they pack more padding and have harder soles. All of these elements contribute to a naturally heavier design.
The upside, of course, is boots that have a fantastic grip, live longer, and will protect you more than when wearing a set of trail shoes.
Does One Pound off Your Feet Really Equal Five Pounds off Your Back?
The ratio might not be entirely correct, but yes, having extra weight on your feet is more exhausting than extra weight on your back.
In fact, researchers in the US Army have tested this common hiking wisdom to see if it holds water. The conclusion of the 1984 study by the U.S. Army Research Institute, was that you feel the weight on your feet more than you do on your torso .
As such, lightweight footwear can help you go further at a faster pace, allowing you to save energy, and taking off some of the strain that comes from wearing a heavy backpack.
Is There a Difference Between Weight in Men’s & Women’s?
Yes, women’s hiking boots are proportionally of a lower weight than men’s as they are designed to carry less weight than men’s shoes. This is down to the simple fact that men weigh more on average than women, even if we are the same height and have the same shoe size.
Forgetting the pounds, however, they should perform the same and last just as long. There are also a few slight differences in terms of fit, women’s shoes typically have a larger toe box, for instance.
Which Are Better, Heavy or Lightweight Boots?
I always prefer lightweight boots, so long as they ensure a good grip and plenty of support. A lightweight pair is undoubtedly better at taking the strain off of your back and your leg muscles.
A heavy set will exhaust you far faster. An experienced hiker would never deliberately choose the heavier option, unless they needed the maximum amount of traction on mountains or other challenging, mostly downhill terrain.
Do Modern Hiking Boots Weigh Less Than Old Ones?
Yes, modern hiking boots are lighter than old ones because brands have moved away from heavy materials like leather and towards more lightweight synthetic options. This is in response to hikers’ demands for footwear that puts less of a strain on our muscles as we walk.
Even boots with a classic leather exterior will do what they can with rubber and plastics, they’re light, more breathable, and generally cheaper to produce. A win for the customer, the company, and the cow.
Can Weight Be Related to Toes or Ankle Pains?
Yes, the weight of your boots will absolutely contribute to pain in the toes and ankles. Wearing heavier sets will put a greater strain on the muscles in your feet, which in their own way contribute towards locomotion.
Another problem is that the rigidity of heavy-duty footwear is restrictive to the natural movement of your joints, resulting in ankle pain and other injuries .
On the other hand, quality hiking boots pack more substantial padding when compared to conventional footwear, and better protect your feet from the tough ground of the trail overall.
Does The Weight of Hiking Boots Matter?
Yes, and speaking from experience that weight will feel heavier and heavier the more you hike. Your new pair should compliment, not hamper, your natural movement.
They should protect you from rocks and other debris that clusters on the trail, and soften the impact between your soles and the ground.
The heavier your set is, the harder your muscles have to work with each step. And because we use so many different areas of the body for movement, this small change can have an impact everywhere.
In our minds, the ideal new pair of boots will be lightweight but also have a tough, durable outsole, with a good degree of support and protection provided by the external material.
For this reason, we encourage you to read our articles on the best barefoot hiking shoes or the best lightweight hiking boots for 2023, where we test, review, and compare footwear that doesn’t weigh too much and strain your ankle and back.
For general use, heavier hiking boots are not better. The benefits of heavy boots often have little to do with their weight, rather that they better protect the ankles and have a sturdy outsole that aids in stability, two design features that naturally contribute to bulk.
In most practical terms, yes. And for long-distance hikes, certainly, simply because the less weight you’re carrying on your shoes, the less energy is required by your muscles to move in them.
Anything under 1lb is considered light. Today, hiking boots have an average weight of 2 pounds per pair. It’s worth looking at a range of brands to see what they consider as ‘heavy’ before buying from them.
The answer depends on the particular Salomon model. The brand’s flagship model, the Salomon X Ultra, has a weight of around 0.7 pounds or 315 grams for a women’s pair. A standard men’s comes in at a weight of 0.8 pounds or 360 grams.