West Coast Trail Footwear – Waterproof Boots vs Trail Runners

Before I hiked the West Coast Trail (WCT), I spent a lot of time thinking about whether I wanted to wear waterproof boots or trail runners. I hike and backpack mostly in the Rockies and trail runners are my go-to. Most of the recommendations on the internet were to wear boots, but there was also a lot of terrible advice out there for the West Coast Trail, so I had my doubts.

In the end, I ended up choosing to wear waterproof boots, but two of my group did wear trail runners. Here are the pros and cons of each and the reasons why I chose waterproof boots!

Waterproof Boots


  • Durable
  • Waterproof
  • Foot and ankle protection


  • Heavy
  • Dry slowly if the inside gets wet
  • Not breathable – hot
  • Leather boots will require break-in

Trail Runners


  • Light
  • Dry quickly
  • Breathable


  • Less durable
  • Feet will get wet
  • Ankles are exposed to sticks and rocks

So why did I choose waterproof boots over trail runners?

  1. I believed that, with waterproof boots and gaiters, I would be able to keep my feet dry throughout the trip. I was successful in this and it probably contributed to why I did not get any blisters.
  2. There is a lot of mud on the trail. Having waterproof boots allowed me to step in the shallower mud and not worry about getting mud inside my footwear. Mud inside footwear would be a big pain. Not having to worry as much about where I was stepping allowed me to move quickly through the forest.

While I went with waterproof boots and gaiters, I don’t think trail runners would necessarily be a bad choice. If it was a wet trip and I was going to be wet regardless, I would rather have lighter trail runners with ankle gaiters.

Most importantly, make sure your footwear fits properly and has good grip for scrambling across wet logs and rocks. If you achieve both these things, I don’t think footwear will ruin your trip.

Hi guys. Justin here. I hiked the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, Canada in the summer of 2018. It was an amazing trip with ups and downs (but mostly ups). Hopefully, with some of these blog posts, I can help people have as an amazing of a trip as I did by taking some of the questions and stress out of planning.

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