Should I get low-cut or mid-cut hiking boots?

Oboz’ “Sawtooth II” model in the low and mid option on top of Horsetooth Rock in Fort Collins, Colorado.

When it comes having a great adventure, it often starts with picking the right gear. One of the most essential pieces of gear you can invest in when it comes to exploring outside are your boots. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of both low-cut and mid-cut hiking boots – two of the most popular styles you’ll see on the trail.

Low-Cut Boots


Typically cooler – Less material often means less trapped heat. If you’re always hiking in hot destinations or have feet that get particularly warm, a lower cut might be the right choice. Opting out of waterproofing can also help your feet keep their cool.

Typically lighter – Less material also means less weight. If you’re on a long trail, this can make a big difference. For example, the lower cut of the Oboz Sawtooth II weigh 15.8 ounces each, while the mid-cut option is 17.6 ounces (pictured above for comparison). Bump that up to 19.5 ounces if they’re the waterproof variety.

Less space to pack – Smaller things fit in smaller places. Plain and simple.

Less clunkiness – One thing I really like about the smaller boot comparatively is that it feels more like wearing a tennis shoe than typical hiking footwear. I feel like this allows me to be more accurate with my step placement (though a step with a mid-cut boot can sometimes feel more sturdy).


The biggest downside when it comes to low-cut boots is the lack of protection for your ankles. You’ve got less ankle support and your ankles are exposed to low-lying brush and rocks you might be passing through.

When to wear:

Wear your low-cut hiking boots on well-established trails where ankle support won’t be as big of a need compared to a more rugged hike.

Mid-Cut Boots


Additional ankle support – Mid-cut boots typically have a lacing system that includes the ankle, giving the ankle essential support needed for protection on rocky terrain. If you want to make sure your ankles are protected, the mid-cut boot is the way to go.

Keeps more dirt out – A higher cut will help to keep dirt and small rocks out of your shoe. It can be extremely frustrating when you have to constantly keep taking off your boots to shake them out while trying to hike and this can help eliminate some of that frustration.

Protects your ankles –In addition to simply providing extra ankle support, a higher-cut boot will also give your ankle additional protection from brush and rocks you might be passing through.

Better foot support for heavy loads – If you’re carrying a big backpack, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the foot support needed for safely traveling with the added weight. A bigger boot will likely give you this.


In my opinion, the biggest con to mid-cut boots is their clunkiness when compared to low-cut boots. If you’re like me and have sweaty feet, you’ll also probably notice mid-cut boots being quite a bit warmer – especially when waterproofed.

When to wear:

Wear your mid-cut boots on rugged or rocky terrain where you might need additional protection. It’s also a good idea to wear them when you’ll be traveling long distances with a heavy pack.

In Closing

When it comes to choosing boots, it’s very important that you choose the right boot for the experience. My recommendation is that you invest in a good pair of both the low-cut and mid-cut styles. This can sometimes be made easy by finding a model of boots you like that’s available in both the low-cut and mid-cut variety, like the Oboz Sawtooth IIs. In these cases, the mid-cut and low-cut will typically have a similar foot-feel, while the varied cuts make each version great for specific trails.



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