There are noticeable differences between women’s and men’s feet, so there really is gender in hiking shoes, as women’s feet require boots with different designs to ensure a comfortable hiking experience.
So there are definite differences in hiking shoes designed for women.
This article covers how women’s feet differ from men’s feet and hence the differences in women hiking boots.
Women Have Smaller Feet, Usually
The most obvious difference is that the feet of women usually have smaller feet than men.
However, just buying a suitably sized man’s boot is not a good choice as the design of hiking boots for women consists of far more than just making them in smaller sizes.
Women Have Narrower Feet
The female foot is generally narrower, while men typically have wide feet for the same shoe size, so most women will find they have loose hiking boots if they plump for a man’s hiking boot!
But the wide feet are not the only difference between women’s and men’s foot structure between men and women.
Women’s and Men’s Feet Are Shaped Differently
The foot structure of women and men is distinct and they have differences in foot shape. Women’s feet are usually wider in the forefoot and toe area and narrower in the heel for the same-sized foot.
So men’s hiking shoes typically have a wider toe box and longer fit, while women’s usually have a narrower toe box and shorter fit.
Men’s feet are also generally more voluminous, so they are built on a larger last
Additionally, women’s boots tend to have a compact heel box and additional stiff padding to hold the heel snugly in place.
Women’s Feet Are More Flexible So Need Different Support
As well as generally having more narrow feet, women also tend to have more flexible feet than men, so the arches and balls of women’s feet are different. This led to two other design changes from the basic hiking shoe.
First, the majority of women have greater flexibility in their feet which requires more support for hiking, especially during strenuous hiking or carrying a load. So many manufacturers of hiking boots have added a stiffer midsole insert to provide more foot support in their women’s hiking boots.
Arch Support Contrast
Women’s feet also frequently have higher arches, so women’s feet often require additional enhanced arch support, especially during strenuous hiking.
Women are also lighter than men, which means their boots do not have to be as heavy to support them. This lighter weight is a big benefit as it reduces fatigue, but it does mean that grip can be compromised compared to heavy hiking boots.
So women do not have to stamp down harder to gain grip, many hiking boot makers add deeper lugs on the outsole of women’s shoes to give them a more aggressive profile.
These deeper lugs do wear faster, but since women are lighter, the wear probably evens out so they usually have a similar useful life.
Women Generally Have Different Posture To Men
The Hip-Knee-Angle (HKA) is significantly different between men and women, there is a need to offset the ankle design of men’s hiking boots, which women do not need.
Men tend to have a less upright stance than women, which is why men’s hiking boots tend to feature an ankle shaft that is 2 degrees offset. This two-degree ankle slant helps men experience a better, more comfortable, and balanced walk over rough terrain.
However, the best women’s hiking boots do not have this offset and err toward a more neutral gait.
Different Lacing Systems
Additionally, many women’s hiking boots come with adjustable lacing systems that are geared toward female feet and calves. These allow you to customize your fit even further to ensure good fits and all-day comfort on the trail.
Colors and Design
The design of women’s hiking boots tends to come in a variety of colors and designs that are more classically “feminine” than men’s.
While men’s hiking boots typically come in neutral, earthy colors such as black, brown, or gray, the designers often add floral patterns and brighter colors to women’s hiking boots to appeal to the female market.
Can a woman wear men’s hiking boots?
Women can wear men’s hiking boots if the boots fit their feet well.
Not all women have “typically” female shape in the same way that men do not either. The most obvious thing you need to make sure of is, to check the boots are not loose from the front and sides.
When trying them on try to wear them for a while and walk up and down inclines and declines, and some stairs if you can find them too – anything to simulate some strenuous hiking, so you can get a good idea of their fit and support under duress.
See if your feet still feel supported as the fit might be good, but the support is not good enough for the reasons we mention above.
If you are left with the choice of a good fit, but not great support, vs good support but a poor fit, we would go for the former and then look at getting some orthotics to add the support
This will ensure that your feet are comfortable and supported while you are out on the trails.
When it comes to hiking boots, there are distinct differences between men’s and women’s. However, not all women have “women’s feet”, so look to find a good fit above all else.
If you’re looking for the right pair of hiking boots, make sure to try them on for size and check if your feet feel supported before making your purchase.
If all else fails, orthotics can make a huge difference.
I work in High Performance Sport and live in New Zealand among some of the most amazing trails in the world…life is pretty good!
- 1 Women Have Smaller Feet, Usually
- 2 Women Have Narrower Feet
- 3 Women’s and Men’s Feet Are Shaped Differently
- 4 Women’s Feet Are More Flexible So Need Different Support
- 5 The Outsole
- 6 Women Generally Have Different Posture To Men
- 7 Different Lacing Systems
- 8 Colors and Design
- 9 Can a woman wear men’s hiking boots?
- 10 Summary