Walking Footwear – Shoes, Mids and Boots

mid walking boots
Advice on choosing the best type of walking footwear. Source: Flickr by Janet Ramsden

Would the Proclaimers be willing to walk 500 miles, if after half an hour their boots were rubbing and their soles had just come off right in the middle of a cold wet puddle? I doubt it! Especially as they knew they had to do 500 more!

Joking aside, and it may seem the obvious thing to say, but when buying walking footwear it is vital to get the correct fit and the right shoe or boot for the types of walk that you will be going on.

Broadly speaking outdoor walking footwear falls into three categories: shoes, mids and boots. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Which type is best depends upon the terrain and activities they are being used for.

In our video advice guide below, Martyn, one of our gear gurus, explains the difference between walking shoes, mids and boots.


Men’s and women’s walking shoes are perfect for travel over paths and level ground or when you want to move quickly. They are much lighter than walking boots so it takes less effort to lift your legs. They are also thinner which helps keep your feet cooler. Walking shoes are highly suitable for canal towpaths or trails such as those which were formerly railway lines.

However, walking shoes have no support at the ankle. This means that they are not ideal over rough terrain nor when you are carrying a heavy pack. They will also provide limited protection in colder, wetter weather.


Mid boots have a higher ankle support, generally just finishing on or underneath the ankle bone. Unsurprisingly they have some of the qualities of both shoes and boots. Mids are ideal for light hiking over uneven ground, such as country walking on footpaths through undulating hills and moorland. They are also suitable for mountain biking where they provide some support and protection from low level foliage that grows across the trail.

Walking Boots

Men’s and women’s walking boots finish above the ankle and offer support to reduce the risk of your foot twisting, as the ankle is held and is unable to flex too far. Walking or hiking boots are ideally suited to rougher terrain such the Lake District, Snowdonia or the Scottish Highlands.

Hiking boots are are made from thicker material with a waterproof, breathable liner. This boot construction helps to keep your feet warm and dry even during the inclement weather of the winter months.

It is also advisable to wear hiking boots when you are carrying a heavy rucksack, e.g. if you are backpacking. Rucksacks alter a walker’s centre of gravity making it is easy to trip and stumble, especially when you are tired. Walking boots are designed to be more supportive and they will help to stop foot injuries. Walking boots often have built up heel and sole units which help keep you feet comfortable as carrying weight in a pack adds to the pressure you place on your feet.

Showing the difference between a shoe, mid and boot
These picture clearly shows the difference in height, between a shoe, a mid and a boot. The higher the shoe, the the more ankle support

Footwear for Trail Running

The activity you take part in can also dictate the footwear you need to look at. this post has concentrated on walking. A fell runner, for example, would not wear walking boots. Fell runners wear trail running shoes. The fact that there is no ankle support allows the runner to get maximum movement from the foot. This enables them to alter their stride pattern, foot placement and body position to quickly cover the ground.

Walking Shoes, Mids and Boots

Choosing the best walking footwear depends upon how much ankle support is required for the terrain that you will be walking over.

Walking shoes keep your feet comfortable when walking on level ground. Since they have no ankle support they are unsuitable for uneven paths.

Mid boots have enough ankle support for light hiking on uneven ground.

Hiking boots have a tough construction with plenty of ankle support, which is required for walking on rough terrain and for backpacking.


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