Embarking on outdoor adventures, whether it’s hiking or rock climbing, is an exhilarating experience. As a novice outdoor enthusiast or a beginner rock climber, understanding the nuances of the right footwear can enhance your adventure. Don’t be overwhelmed; it’s a journey of discovery. Let’s delve into the differences between rock climbing shoes and hiking boots, so you’re fully prepared for your next thrilling escapade!

Rock Climbing Shoes

Rock climbing shoes, as the name suggests, come in various shapes and sizes. They are specifically designed for climbing rocks and are not meant for general use. While some climbing shoes can be worn for extended periods, such as when scaling a massive wall, they are typically removed after each climb. This is a distinct feature that sets them apart from hiking boots.

Rock climbing involves using your hands and feet to ascend a rock face or large boulder. They are intricately designed to generate your foot’s force into the big toe to help you stand on the small edges of a rock. Many rock climbing shoes look tinier than a pair of hiking boots because they are constructed not to waste any excess material other than what is necessary for climbing rocks.

Hiking Boots

Hiking boots, on the other hand, are used for hiking! Many hiking trails will require you to walk on boulders or rocks and possibly even scramble over some more enormous boulders. However, the main application of hiking boots is walking.

Hiking boots are your trusted companions on the trails, designed to provide comfort and durability. They shield your feet and ankles from the rugged terrain, ensuring you can hike for miles without worry. Given the potential hazards on hiking trails, such as scrambling large boulders or traversing talus fields, it’s wise to opt for a lightweight and durable pair. A comfortable pair of hiking boots will empower you to explore further with confidence!

climbing shoes

Break in Your Shoes

Whether choosing rock climbing shoes or hiking boots, you’ll want to break them in before taking them out for a big adventure. Failure to break in your shoes can result in blisters and discomfort when hiking or climbing. The last thing you want to worry about is how your feet feel outside enjoying nature!

Whether you choose rock climbing shoes or hiking boots, it’s essential to break them in before embarking on a significant adventure. Failing to do so can lead to blisters and discomfort. To avoid this, consider wearing your new footwear around your home for a while before your trip. This will help them mold to your feet or loosen up a bit. For hiking boots, try taking them out for short hikes to get used to them. As for rock climbing shoes, wear them for a route and remove them afterward to let your feet rest. This trial-by-fire period will help you break into your shoes quicker.

Sub Types of Hiking Boots

As you become a more experienced climber or hiker, you may want a more specific pair of shoes to tackle your adventures. Below are some hiking boots and shoes to help you crush those miles or enjoy a pleasant walk.

Trail Runners: Trail runners are running shoes designed for hiking trails.


  • Lightweight, which helps you walk further, and are typically more comfortable.
  • They also dry out quicker than hiking boots, so crossing water will not require you to remove your shoes.


  • It’s not as durable. Because of its lightweight design, trail runners will not last as many miles as hiking boots.
  • They are less protective. Because they’re like running shoes, they don’t have the same stiff design as hiking boots, making walking on uneven terrain trickier.

Approach Shoes: Somewhere between climbing shoes and hiking boots are approach shoes. Approach shoes are designed for hiking and rock climbing.


  • Typically, it is more lightweight than robust hiking boots.
  • They include climbing rubber on the soles to help walk across rocks and boulders.


  • They are not always designed for intense hiking, resulting in sore feet.
  • They are not as protective as hiking boots.

Use this guide as a starting point to help you decide what type of outdoor shoe you’re looking for. Whether you’re looking for something to take strolls on a dirt path or to crush some miles to get into the backcountry, there are plenty of options to get you walking!