Boots vs Trainers

I have been aware for some time (years) of the ongoing views of Boot vs Trail Shoes vs Trainers in the hills. A post on the Facebook DofE Assessors page has prompted me to write this which contains a mixture of my opinions/experience and some facts.

This is based on summer walking in hill or mountain terrain.

So here we go

I have use a well known high end brand to show some differences in weight and price. This is probably the regular recreational user end of the market

Boots - £130 - A pair Scarpa Cyclone Boot at 1100g size 42
Approach Shoe - £135 - A pair Scarpa Vortex Shoe at 920g size 42
Trail/Run - £100 - A pair of Scarpa Spark at 538g size 42

I have use a well known low end brand to show some differences in price. This is probably the DofE end of the market

PRICE (and as often at the lower end, no weights listed)
Boots - £65 - A pair HiTec Alltitude
Approach Shoe -£50 - A pair HiTec Alto 
Trail/Run - £30 - A pair of HiTec Phantom

I have looked at a number of other makes and have come to the following conclusions

At both ends of the market the boot seems to be the more expensive option and the boots are heavier

The trainer style is definitely lighter and normally much cheaper.

The approach shoe is often similarly priced to a boot and is lighter but not as light as a running shoe/trainer.

1)Boots support my ankle/I will twist my ankle in trainers
There is no evidence to suggest this is true. In fact, most evidence suggest that in order to prevent ankle injuries you need to strengthen you ankles and you do this by wearing footwear that allows your ankles to move.

2)My boots keep me dry
Well they might if you step in a puddle that is lower than the boot. However, wet grass and deeper puddles will allow water in and boots take longer to dry out than trainers

3)Boots give me better grip
Not true, the sole gives the grip, the boot has little to do with is (we are not talking about hard snow)

Often people are not used to wearing boots so to insist they wear boots to walk on terrain they are unfamiliar with is not a great idea. Shoes or Trainers that they own already, are comfortable and don't give blisters are a much better option.

Skiers break their legs/damage their knees because the leg is clamped in a boot from the shin down and the ankle can't flex or roll.
Personally I view the ankle as a sacrificial joint and I would rather sprain or strain it than break my leg/damage knee by weaning boots unnecessarily

Boots are heavier than trainers. If (using examples above) we compare them, I would be lifting around 600 grams every pace. For me this is 37kg per 100m so in my 10 km day 3700kg of unnecessary weight.

Heavier boots = heavier impact = more erosion
Lighter shoes = light impact = less erosion

So my choice is
Running Trainers for 90% of my summer work on the moors and in the mountains
Occasional Boot use for wet rock scrambling

Please lets stop forcing the MUST WEAR BOOTS myth in our work with DofE and novice groups etc and educate them to make their own decision based on personal and environmental considerations.

Some other blogs with views

The Ramblers Association offers the following advice on the best footwear for walking and hiking:
  • For short walks in urban areas or easy countryside, all you need is a good, comfortable pair of shoes that won’t cause blisters. Use tough shoes that are a good fit, with an arch support, a slightly elevated heel and "breathable" uppers such as leather. Casual shoes or quality trainers with heavy soles will do.
  • If you go walking regularly, you could invest in a pair of proper walking shoes or some lightweight walking boots. These will give your feet and ankles support and may be waterproof. For highland walks over difficult terrain, good walking boots are essential.

will add more as I find them

Clinical studies

The factor in footwear design that has most frequently investigated is the possible role of high-top shoes in reducing the risk of ankle sprains (Petrov 1988). The results from three studies indicate that, in the absence of additional taping or external support, wearing high-top shoes does not reduce the risk of ankle sprains. Indeed, in one study, the wearing of low-top shoes resulted in a lower incidence of ankle sprains compared to high-top shoes (Rovere et al. 1988). In two recently published meta-analysises, it was also concluded that the role of footwear in the prevention of ankle sprains was not clear (Quinn et al. 2000).

In summery, although a protective influence of footwear is suggested from the results of biomechanical studies, footwear without additional support from taping and bracing does not appear to have a strong influence on the risk of ankle sprain. The potential negative effect that footwear may have on the proprioceptive function of the foot requires further investigation.

Risk factors for lateral ankle sprain: a prospective study among military recruits.

Milgrom C, Shlamkovitch N, Finestone A, Eldad A, Laor A, Danon YL, Lavie O, Wosk J, Simkin A.
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Hadassah Hospital, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, Israel.

In a prospective study of risk factors for lateral ankle sprain among 390 male Israeli infantry recruits, a 18% incidence of lateral ankle sprains was found in basic training. There was no statistically significant difference in the incidence of lateral ankle sprains between recruits who trained in modified basketball shoes or standard lightweight infantry boots. By multivariate stepwise logistic regression a statistically significant relationship was found between body weight x height (a magnitude which is proportional to the mass moment of inertia of the body around a horizontal axis through the ankle), a previous history of ankle sprain, and the incidence of lateral ankle sprains. Recruits who were taller and heavier and thus had larger mass moments of inertia (P = 0.004), and those with a prior history of ankle sprain (P = 0.01) had higher lateral ankle sprain morbidity in basic training.

1: Sports Med. 1995 Oct;20(4):277-80.Links

The role of shoes in the prevention of ankle sprains.

Barrett J, Bilisko T.

University of Oklahoma, Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, USA.

Ankle sprains are a common sports injury that can cause significant, chronic disability. Studies aimed at prevention through the use of footwear have focused on the biomechanical aspects of foot and ankle anatomy, proprioceptive input of the foot/ankle complex, external stresses applied to the joint, and shoe traction. These studies support the use of high top shoes for ankle sprain prevention because of their ability to limit extreme ranges of motion, provide additional proprioceptive input and decrease external joint stress. Despite this biomechanical evidence, clinical trials are inconclusive as to the clinical benefit of high top shoes in the prevention of ankle sprains. Further study is necessary to delineate the benefits of shoe designs for ankle sprain prevention