The myth about high cut hiking boots and ankle health 🥾 - A Kinesiologist’s perspective:
Often advertised as being better for ankle health and safety, a higher cut boot for hiking seems to be a no brainer no? What if I told you these common claims are missing some vital considerations. It’s true, with a lower cut boot the ankle is more likely to move around more and be susceptible to the uneven terrain, but is that such a bad thing?
I tend to prefer and recommend a lower cut shoe for hiking for a couple reasons.
First, I don’t believe the extra movement is something that should be feared, but rather embraced! I often make the analogy to an ankle brace, or anytime we immobilize a joint. What happens then? With the basic “use it or lose it” principle, by wearing a higher cut boot we’re actually detraining the natural stabilizing properties of the ankle joint by relying on an external support system - which in the long term is actually much worse for our ankle health and resilience. In other words, by wearing a lower cut shoe and trekking on uneven terrain you’re actually strengthening the ankle complex by doing so!
Next, looking at the joint itself - the ankle is meant to be a mobile joint with a large range of motion. When we take away the ankle’s role in absorbing force in multiple directions we place these stresses on the next joint upstream, the knee, which isn’t meant to move or absorb forces in the same way the ankle is - inevitably putting some increased risk of injury upstream.
As with anything, there are always exceptions. Perhaps someone’s current ankle status might not be up to the task for hiking in a low cut just yet - but that’s where building in some ankle specific training and some strength in the surrounding musculature can build up the capacity over time.
An added bonus, low cuts are lighter and often more comfortable!