Are Men’s Hiking Boots Different from Women’s Hiking Boots?

QUESTION: I’m trying to decide between the men’s size 8 or the women’s size 9 of the Salomon Quest 4D hiking boot, and am having a hard time seeing what the difference is between them. Do you know if there is any kind of difference, other than the men’s boot weighs a few more ounces?

-Carolyn

ANSWER:

Salomon Quest 4D Women's hiking boots
Salomon Quest 4D Women's hiking boots

Excellent question, Carolyn!

Generally there are more noticeable differences between the men’s and women’s version of a hiking boot, but in this case they are very similar.

The most important difference between men’s and women’s boots are the “last”, the form that shoemakers use to create the fit and style of the shoe or boot.

Historically, almost all hiking boots, and mountaineering boots in particular, were made on men’s lasts. Now companies have realized that women’s feet are different from men’s, and many are using women specific lasts!

For the Salomon Quest 4Ds, I don’t know if they are using a women’s specific last on their boot. Comparing the length and width of the soles is a good start, but also be sure to take out the insoles and compare them.

Salomon Quest 4D Men's hiking boots
Salomon Quest 4D Men's hiking boots

The general differences between Men’s and Women’s hiking boots:

  • Last size. Men’s boots are usually made on a larger last, to account for the additional size and volume of a man’s foot.
  • Weight. Men’s boots usually weigh more.
  • Higher ankle support. Usually the men’s version comes up higher on the ankle.
  • Colors! Designers tend to make men’s boots earth tones, and recently they’ve started to add some unique colors to women’s hiking boots!

The most important thing for you is fit. Generally I recommend that women wear women’s specific boots, but if you have a particular foot shape that makes the men’s version more comfortable for you, go with that!

The best thing to do would be to test each of them on a moderate distance hike, as long as the store you bought them from has a return policy that allows dirty shoes to come back! Otherwise, wear them on carpeting – walk up and down steps to mimic hiking hills, and see if you notice a difference.

Happy trails!
Hiking Lady

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14 comments

  1. jane snar says:

    I bought a man’s pair on a whim because they were on sale. I will tell you, with Salomons and Saucony, mens or womens, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. You might get a better value with mens as they are built to withstand weight more. Mens are cheaper too on the average when shopping on amazon etc. I have both mens/womens in both brands, zero difference unless I got out a gram scale. I have a narrow foot and am not big boned at all, so not sure what the made for women’s foot thing is about. They feel the same, with laces you customize the fit anyway. If the boots are indeed “taller,” it’s incremental and appreciated because I hate rocks and twigs in my boots.

  2. pedisbox says:

    Exactly i agree with you although women’s hiking boots or other shoes looks similar with the men’s shoes but they have some difference.As you mentioned here about the color,size,weight etc. so we should careful while dealing with such shoes

  3. Bill Cok says:

    Really just have to try them on. I’ve had a pair of ladies Brasher boots which have given great service under all conditions for years and are only now are showing wear.

  4. Robin says:

    Just recently, I bought a new pair of Salomon XA Pro Ultra 2 Trail Running shoes (my preferred hiking shoe) in men’s size 7 (I normally wear women’s size 8). I was really surprised to see that there is a notable difference in the men’s. For one, the forefoot in the men’s is much narrower than the women’s (whoda thunk?). And, although this is purely anecdotal, I think the men’s is also more supportive and the soles seem to be made of harder rubber. I wore my new shoes on a 2 hour day hike the other day and, for me, they are more comfortable than the women’s, possibly because they’re a little narrower and the last is more rigid. I know a lot of women who wear the XA Pro’s complain that they’re too wide – maybe they should give the men’s a try. I know I’ll be wearing them from now on.

  5. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Karen!

    So sorry that you threw out your Pivettas! I am working on an article right now about resoling hiking boots :(. Anyways, as you probably know Pivetta was an Italian brand that made about 3-4 boot styles back in the 1970s. Not that many were imported to the U.S., but people who had them loved them. As far as I know, the company no longer exists.

    Some options of boots that are somewhat similar are the LL Bean Women’s Gore-Tex Cresta Hikers (they come in women’s size 6-11) and the Vasque Sundowner Women’s boots (these come in size 5-11 for women).

    Hope that helps, and happy trails!

  6. Karen says:

    Sorry for the typo on Pivettas. Also, I forgot to check the notification box, so I’m doing it now.

  7. Karen says:

    PIvettas. Due to an uninformed recreational company employee who told me it was not worth resoling them, my beloved 76 Pivettas are gone to dust in a trash dump. I have been searching for their equivalent ever since, without any luck at all. Are there any boots that match the quality of the Pivetta? Depending upon cut and maker, I wear something between a size 9 and 10 in women’s boots.

    I am not sure, but I think I have tried just about every boot line available through at least one recreational company (others don’t have my size). I have looked almost everywhere, including writing to the Italian Consulate, to find a modern equivalent to my Pivettas. Any recommendations?

  8. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Great question! Women’s feet are indeed shaped differently than men’s. Women tend to have narrower heels relative to the ball of their foot, and women who are runners tend to have higher arches. Since all of us, whether a man or woman, come in different shapes and sizes, the most important thing is to find shoes that fit YOUR feet, regardless of what the manufacturer specifies. Some women’s brands run wide with flatter arch support, others are narrow. If you are very concerned about the arch being too supportive (or in some cases not supportive enough), swap out the insoles with a pair of Superfeet enhanced insoles. One thing to note – enhanced insoles generally are not gender specific. And if you really want to wear men’s specific shoes, there are a few brands (Adidas, Five Ten, Scarpa) that sell size 6 on Zappos. They have free return shipping, so order a bunch and just keep the pair that fits you.

    Happy trails!

  9. Jeff says:

    Hope you’re still actively blogging, hiking lady. I am a man with extremely small feet (men’s size 6). Since it’s really hard to find men’s shoes in this size, I’ve been buying neutral colored women’s outdoor shoes for years. I don’t like kids shoes because they aren’t as durable. I especially like the equivalent women’s sizes Merrell hiking shoes. But my wife now insists that women’s athletic shoes have an arch that is shaped differently enough that I’ll hurt my feet. Does she have a point? Thanks for your advice.

  10. DD says:

    Been looking for hiking and western boots. I have to tell you it is very difficult to find decent women’s boots. All the good ones are made for men. Whoever said it is best for a woman to buy a woman’s boot obviously is not a woman. You have very little to choose from, especially Made in USA.

  11. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Helen,
    Thank you for the very detailed question. The Lowa brand has a great reputation, and they are known for high quality hiking boots. As far as how they’ll fit your foot, I recommend that you try to find an outdoor retail store near you that may have both models in stock so you can try them out. Alternatively, order them online at a store that offers a generous return policy so you can really test them out. Good luck!
    For more tips on how to get the best fit once you’re at the store, please check out these 10 Tips for Hiking Boot Shopping.

  12. Helen McCracken says:

    Hi-
    I am obsessed and confused. Just bought a pair of men’s Lowa Timoks size 9 reg.
    They are too long and narrow. I usually wear mens shoes because my feet are just like my dad’s- wide forefoot, high arch.I’m 5’9″ 115lbs., but have heavy bones and I’m very hard on my gear. I also walk on the outside of my foot
    and feel comfortable with it. I need boots that are not high on the outer
    edge of the footbed. I’m really impressed with what I hear about the men’s Lowa Ranger and Trekker. Based on what I’ve told you, do you think either of these would work for me? If I’ve not made the situation clear, please contact me for more specifics. I really want to get this one right.
    Thank you very much, I look forward to your reply.

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