If you have ever gone shopping for hiking boots, you will have noticed that there are men’s boots and women’s boots. But when you look at the features, a lot of them appear to be the same; so is there a difference between the two, or could you quite easily wear either?
In truth, there are a few differences between men’s and women’s hiking boots but you could be forgiven for not noticing these as they are relatively subtle. The main difference is the last, which is something that shoemakers use to create the fit of the boot.
With that in mind, it is interesting to look at how the boots differ depending on which gender they are aimed at. In this article, we are going to be doing exactly that.
When a shoemaker creates their shoes or boots, they use a form which is known as a last, this is what they use to create the style and fit of the footwear. The last is one of the main differences between men’s and women’s hiking boots but unless you are a shoemaker, it is unlikely you would ever know this. Nor would probably need to know this, unless you are planning on making your own pair of hiking boots.
Although, it does pay to keep this in the back of your mind when shopping since the last used in men’s shoes tends to be slightly wider than that which is used when making women’s boots.
However, it has not always been this way. In days gone by, pretty much every hiking boot was made equal. Regardless of whether it was being made for men or women, the same last would be used. In modern shoemaking, it has come to the attention of manufacturers that women do indeed have different-shaped and sized feet to men, and using a female-specific last has become commonplace.
A last that is used for women’s shoes may also feature a slimmer heel and what might really surprise you is that the sizing may differ, even if the shoes are the same size. For example, if you were to purchase a man’s shoe in a size 7 and a woman’s shoe in a size 7, they might not both fit you.
You might think that this is as far as it goes, after all, you only need to look at the male and female versions of the same shoe to believe that they are no different from one another; aside from maybe the color.
Take the MOAB 2, for example. These boots come in both women’s (affiliate link) and men’s (affiliate link) varieties but on the face of it, they look the same. Both boots are made from the same materials, they both have the same waterproof lining and they both come in a choice of designs; the same shoe, right?
Men’s hiking boots always tend to be a little heavier than women’s and this isn’t by chance. Women are naturally less physically strong than men and therefore, a hefty walking boot would not be suitable. The slender frame of a woman requires a lighter boot in the same way that the last needs to be smaller on a female boot.
That being said, there are women out there who prefer the heavier weight of a man’s boot and there is nothing wrong with this. If you feel comfortable in any particular type of shoe, you should wear it.
On men’s hiking boots, you will notice that the ankle support typically comes a little higher up than a woman’s.
If you look on Amazon at hiking boots, even if they are the same brand and same style of boot, you will notice that in most cases, the women’s versions are always a little cheaper.
The most likely reason for this is that less material has been used and the price difference isn’t always significant.
For the most part, the men’s shoes will be around $10-$20 more, so it’s not going to break the bank.
However, a lot of thrifty hikers might like to save the extra money and get a good deal on a pair of women’s boots; but only do this if you can be sure they will fit correctly as your comfort is the most important thing and certainly is more valuable than a few dollars.
In the main, men’s hiking boots generally come in more neutral tones. There are a lot of earthy colors and shades of black and grey. Conversely, the women’s versions of the same shoes might come in a range of bright colors and attractive designs.
There is an age-old idea that women are fussier about how their apparel looks but in modern times, men’s fashion is just as prominent so we are now seeing more and more exciting designs where men’s hiking boots are concerned. Just look at the Scarpa Zodiac (affiliate link) boots that look more like something that has just fallen off the catwalk than a conventional hiking boot.
There is no hard and fast rule as to the type of footwear that you should use for hiking. In short, your personal preference will be the most important deciding factor.
There are many stories of female hikers favoring men’s boots and wearing them comfortably every time they hit the trails. Conversely, men with narrower feet may find that a woman’s shoe fits their shape better.
The best way to determine whether a shoe will fit you correctly is to try it on. For this reason, it is vital to purchase your shoes from an online retailer that gives reasonable return time so that if the shoes do not work for you, you can send them back easily. However, we would always suggest having your hiking boots fitted in-store so that you can be sure they will be spot on.
If you intend on doing what millions of other people around the world are doing and will buy your hiking boots online, you will need to make sure that you know how to fit them correctly. Badly fitting shoes can cause a wealth of foot problems from blisters to bunions and plantar fasciitis which can be incredibly painful.
There are several ways that you can test whether a hiking boot fits properly and if you have chosen a shoe that was designed for the opposite gender, these steps are even more important.
The boots should not be too tight, you want them to support the feet but at the same time, they shouldn’t be so constricting that they are painful. In order to test this, you should try to insert your index finger into the back of the shoe. It should fit effortlessly between the boot and your heel. If it is too tight, it could cause your toes to become bruised or sore, particularly when descending steep inclines.
The boots should also fit snugly around the ankles. If you notice any undue pressure or pinching in this area or around the heel, it is likely that the boots are too tight and you might need to try a larger size. For women, this could mean trying a man’s hiking shoe which may be wider. Women with wide feet might benefit from trying men’s boots to begin with as the width is typically more generous.
How the boots fit should be your main concern because when you are out on a long hike, the last thing you want is for your footwear to become unbearable to wear. This could be a way to put you off hiking forever.
Years ago, men’s and women’s hiking shoes were always created equally; the same process and the same form, or last, were used in crafting the shoes. However, over time, manufacturers have learned that women’s feet are normally smaller, narrower, and slightly different shapes to men’s. Although that isn’t always the case.
For this reason, most shoemakers now use a women’s last which makes women’s hiking shoes a little smaller than the men’s alternative.
However, there are some other subtle differences but really, as long as your feet are comfortable and the shoes fit well, it doesn’t matter which gender you go for.