We hear this a lot: "Do I need a low or a mid?"

So, I decided to ask Krystina, one of Oboz's Training & Education gurus, some tough questions in the hopes of determining once and for all...is one better than the other?

Q: Ok, Krystina. Mid, or low?

K: When I worked on the floor, I would answer, “Whatever’s comfortable.” Because it's really based off of your own comfort. Some people really like a mid-top boot, having your ankle enclosed. But, it’s a common misconception that ankle support comes from a mid-top boot rather than anything else.

In reality, ankle support comes from the foundation of the shoe. So, styles like the Sypes, Arete, Bridger...all those have a nice wide base in the outsole, coupled with the O FIT Insole™, that help put your foot into a neutral position and reduce the chances for the muscles in your foot to micro-fire. Micro-firing is when muscle groups in your feet fire off to keep your foot and yourself stable, unbeknownst to you. Our O FIT Insole puts your foot into a neutral position, keeping it nice and relaxed, with low risk of micro-firing. This neutral position also lets your foot articulate naturally.

Then, you can add the mid-top element if you want. It will provide some extra ankle support as well, but the support is really coming from that base. All three elements combined (supported, relaxed and naturally positioned), and you’ll have a solid shoe where you don’t have to worry about your ankle rolling.

Q: Micro-firing? That sounds exhausting!

K: Yes, and at the cost of efficiency, too. If you’re wearing something that doesn’t have good arch support like an O FIT Insole, more than likely your foot is micro-firing. Micro-firing happens when your foot and arch aren’t supported how they should be, or if you’re wearing something with too much cushioning, which is why you find a lot of our styles don’t have high amounts of cushion. All Oboz styles aim to keep your foot in a neutral position, so you can go further longer and your feet don’t get fatigued too quickly.

Q: Too much cushioning?

K: Some insoles that are made with all cushioning are horrible for your feet! Sure, feels great right out of the box, but after a month of wearing them, you’ll notice more ailments start to pop up.

Q: Ok, back to the heights. I have weak ankles. Don't I need a mid height for better support?

K: Ankle support comes from the foundation of the shoe, from within. Once you stabilize the foot, that’s when your feet are best supported.

You’re not going to run into issues with wearing a low cut show. A lot of people going on thru-hikes will choose a low. If you’re wearing an Oboz Arete Low, you’re going to be solid on a thru-hike. The Arete provides that really nice stable base that you need, coupled with the O FIT Insole. If you go with the Arete Mid in this situation, you’re getting a little bit of added benefit, but it’s not going to make or break your trip. The low will still perform really well.

Q: Are there terrains where you should think about a mid versus a low?

K: Situations where you’re in scree fields or more gravely trails, anything where debris can get into the top of your shoe would be a good idea to have that mid top boot. You can always couple this with a good gaiter if you’re concerned about stuff getting inside your boot.

Q: Do mid heights automatically mean warmer?

K: You’re probably splitting hairs at this point, but a mid will trap a little more heat. You’re also probably wearing a crew or mid crew sock, which will add warmth, too. If you’re concerned with your feet getting hot, you can combat that with finding a non-waterproof style like the Sawtooth II Mid or Arete Mid. They're great if you want the comfort of ankle support but don’t want to overheat your feet.

Q: What height sock would you recommend for a mid-height boot?

K: Crew height has been traditionally what you would go for, however companies nowadays are creating a sock height called "mid-crew," if you don’t want much sock to show over your boot, but you still want to protection from the cuff. With a mid-crew, the top of the sock will hit right at the top of the cuff.

Q: Lots of pros for mids. Any pros for lows?

K: Remember, it's all about being comfortable! Some people can’t stand having their ankles enclosed by mid-height boots. I’m one of those people! When I’m hiking, I like to have my ankle out and free, (even though I roll my ankle a lot). But, I find with Oboz shoes that my ankle doesn’t roll as much because my feet are already supported by the the shoe's foundation. 

You will get a more athletic feel out of a low, if you don’t like the idea of having a boot. Weight savings, too: if you’re doing a longer trip and concerned about weight, you should consider a low height.


Regan Betts
Regan Betts

Bozeman, MT

Oboz Marketing Manager