Why are trekking boots heavy?

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Written By Dominic Howard

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When shopping for footwear to hit the trails, you may notice that trekking boots tend to be much heavier than regular tennis shoes or even trail running shoes.

Trekking Boots Heavy

Trekking boots are an essential piece of gear for hiking and backpacking. They provide stability, traction, and protection for your feet over rugged terrain. However, one thing many notice about trekking boots is that they are quite heavy compared to regular shoes or even trail running shoes. There are several design factors that contribute to the heavy weight of trekking boots. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why trekking boots are made to be sturdy and heavy-duty rather than lightweight.

Durability and Support

The primary reason trekking boots have hefty construction is to provide durability and support. Trekking boots are built to withstand hundreds of miles of travel over rough surfaces. The uppers are made from thick, abrasion-resistant materials like full-grain leather or nubuck. These materials hold up well against scrapes and scuffs from rocks and branches.

The soles are made from very sturdy rubber compounds designed to grip rocky and uneven terrain. They have deep, widely-spaced lugs that provide traction and prevent wear. All these sturdy materials add weight but allow the boots to sustain heavy use without breaking down.

In addition to rugged materials, trekking boots have shanks integrated into the soles. These rigid shanks, usually made of nylon or metal, provide torsional stability and arch support. They make the boots more rigid to better protect your feet from impact on hard surfaces. The tradeoff is that shanks add stiffness and weight.

Waterproofing Contributes Weight

To keep your feet dry, quality trekking boots have waterproof construction. The leather or nubuck uppers are treated with waterproofing chemicals. Additionally, waterproof yet breathable liners, like GoreTex, are added. These liners have microporous membranes that block liquid water molecules from passing through but allow water vapor (sweat) to escape.

The waterproofing layers inevitably add some weight. However, they are necessary to prevent your feet from getting soaked in creeks, rain, or heavy dew. Wet feet lead to hot spots, and blisters, and increase the chance of cold injuries. A few extra ounces of water protection is well worth it for foot comfort and safety.

Insulation for Warmth

Many trekking boots designed for colder weather have insulation built into the liners and cuffs. This insulation adds warmth for hiking and camping in alpine environments or cold seasons. Popular insulated boots may have 200-400 grams of synthetic insulation like Primaloft or Thinsulate in key areas.

Some heavily insulated winter trekking boots have removable liner boots that can be worn independently. While insulation protects your feet from the cold, it also makes the boots heavier. Just another example of added weight being a tradeoff for comfort and performance.

Mid-Cuts Provide Ankle Support

Unlike low-cut hiking shoes, most full-featured trekking boots extend up the ankle. They have mid-cut (4-6 inch) uppers that provide stability and support. The tall uppers protect against ankle rolling/spraining on uneven ground or when carrying heavy packs. They also seal out debris and some moisture.

However, the mid-cut design requires more leather, hardware, padding, and lining. This adds weight to a low-cut shoe. Again, the weight is justified by the performance advantage – ankle protection and stability.

Tough Hardware Adds Up

Trekking boots contain more rugged hardware than typical footwear. Durable metal eyelets reinforce the lacing holes. Internal grommets reduce friction inside the boot. Sturdy hooks, lace loops, and cinch hardware facilitate secure lacing.

Some trekking boots have small metal D-rings at the top eyelets to accept boot gaiters. Additionally, many trekking boots have speed lacing hooks and durable laces with Minimal Stretch Construction (MSC). All these small bits of metal and reinforced materials add up in weight. But they also allow you to properly tighten and secure your boots over challenging terrain.

Lugged Traction Outsoles

As mentioned earlier, trekking boots have deep heavy-duty rubber outsoles to grip uneven ground. These rugged outsoles have multi-directional lugs that provide traction but also weigh more than a typical running shoe sole. Lugged soles are necessary for maintaining stability on loose dirt, steep slopes, and rocky trails. The pronounced lugs extend the life of the sole by spreading wear over a thicker layer of rubber.

Frequently Asked Question

1. Why are trekking boots heavier than regular shoes?

Trekking boots are heavier than regular shoes because they are designed to provide extra support, durability, and protection for your feet and ankles when hiking on uneven and rugged terrain. The added weight comes from the materials used in their construction.

2. What materials make trekking boots heavy?

Trekking boots are often made with sturdy materials such as leather, Gore-Tex, rubber, and other high-quality fabrics. These materials add weight to the boots but are essential for durability and weather resistance.

3. Do lighter trekking boots exist?

Yes, there are lighter trekking boot options available, typically made with lighter materials like synthetic fabrics and lightweight foams. However, these may sacrifice some of the ruggedness and support that heavier boots offer.

4. Are heavy trekking boots necessary for all types of hikes?

Heavy trekking boots are not always necessary for all types of hikes. For shorter and less challenging hikes on well-maintained trails, lighter hiking shoes or trail runners may be sufficient. Heavy boots are more suitable for longer, more strenuous hikes in rough terrain.

5. Do heavy trekking boots provide better ankle support?

Yes, heavy trekking boots are designed to provide better ankle support compared to lighter footwear. The added weight and structure help stabilize your ankles, reducing the risk of twisting or spraining them on uneven terrain.

6. Can I reduce the weight of my trekking boots?

You can reduce the perceived weight of your trekking boots by selecting lighter models or using custom insoles that provide cushioning and support without adding much weight. However, it’s important to strike a balance between weight and the level of support required for your specific hike.

7. Are heavy trekking boots more durable?

Generally, heavy trekking boots are more durable than lighter hiking shoes. The robust materials and construction are designed to withstand rough conditions and prolonged use, making them a better choice for demanding hikes.

8. Can I use trekking boots for everyday wear?

While you can wear trekking boots for everyday activities, they are typically heavier and less comfortable for casual use compared to regular shoes. It’s best to reserve them for outdoor adventures where their specific features are needed.

9. How do I choose the right weight of trekking boots for my needs?

The choice of trekking boot weight depends on your hiking preferences and the type of terrain you plan to tackle. Consult with a knowledgeable outdoor retailer or footwear specialist to determine the right weight and style of boots for your specific adventure.

10. Are there lightweight alternatives to heavy trekking boots?

Yes, there are lightweight alternatives such as hiking shoes, trail runners, and approach shoes that provide comfort and agility on less demanding trails. These options are suitable for hikers who prioritize weight savings over heavy-duty features.


When you look at all the factors that go into a sturdy trekking boot, it makes sense why they tip the scales more than a typical shoe. The heavy-duty leather and rubber, waterproof liners, insulation, ankle support, and rugged hardware add up in weight. But these features are essential to protect your feet and provide stability over rough terrain with a heavy pack. A few extra pounds on your feet are worth it to prevent injury and discomfort over long distances.

While trekking boots will always be heavier than regular footwear, manufacturers try to balance durability and performance with weight savings. Advances in materials science have helped slightly reduce weights over the decades. But the basics of physics mean you need thick, tough materials to support and protect your feet in the backcountry. Going too light and minimal sacrifices stability, weather protection, and ultimately comfort. As the saying goes: “Ounces make pounds, and pounds make pain.” This is especially true for footwear.

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