Hiking shoes vs Boots

Snake boots or hiking shoes for day outings?

For years I swore I’d never venture out again without my snake boots. I live in Texas where most snakes do not hibernate. In additon, Texas is home to the following venomous snakes: the Copperhead, Cottonmouth, Rattlesnake, Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, Timber Rattlesnake, Mojave Rattlesnake, Blacktail Rattlesnake, Western Rattlesnake, Massasauga, Pygmy Rattlesnake, and Harlequin Coral Snake. After so much time spent outdoors and so many close calls with snakes, typically involving me almost stepping right on them, I wouldn’t consider anything but snake boots outdoors.

What finally changed my mind

One day hiking at Cossatot River State Park I misjudged how deep a small area of water was that I was crossing. After water poured over the top of my waterproof boots, I ended up hiking two miles with water sloshing around my feet. The downside of waterproof boots is that it goes both ways, water can’t get out either.  That was the most miserable two miles I have ever hiked. For two miles, I had to listen to the sound of water slurping and slopping every time I picked up my foot.   For two miles, the skin of my feet felt like it was being ripped off and rubbed raw. The pain of stepping down nearly brought tears. The only thing I could do was wince and focus on getting back to camp and getting my boots off.  Walking barefoot wasn’t an because of the rocky terrain. Had I tried that I would have probably ended up in worse shape. It took two days in the hot Texas sun to get those boots dry. Since taking them off in camp that day, I have yet to put them back on.

Ditching the snake boots

My snake boots were great for hiking around the dry grassy terrain of the LBJ grasslands. Other than that limited use they are a terrible choice for footwear. Snake boots were designed for the purpose of keeping a snakes fangs from getting to your skin, not for comfort and traction. I grossly overestimated their performance on typical hiking trails.

While hiking shoes won’t save my feet or legs from snake bites, they will save me from the more likely ailments of backpacking… rocks, treacherous terrain, and blisters. For most outdoor activities you shouldn’t buy gear for things that almost never occur, like snake bites. Bring gear that fits your activity, not gear that caters to exaggerated fears. Snake boots have a place where they are appropriate but for most hiking trails hiking shoes will serve you far better.

I now have a set of footwear I bring on every trip you can check out here.

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A Web Developer by trade, find me on Github
A motorcycle enthusiast at heart.
Most days I’d rather be in the woods anywhere.