Hiking Footwear Guide | How To Choose Hiking Boots?

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Hiking Footwear Guide | How To Choose Hiking Boots?

Last updated

Jan, 01, 2020

Want to buy new hiking boots but don’t know how to choose the best pair? Let us help.

Without a doubt, boots are the most critical gear for any hiking trip. Your hiking boots can quite easily make or break the trip. To enjoy hiking without blisters and crushed toes, it’s important to buy the right hiking boots. While the right pair will boost your enjoyment and help you complete the hike with a smile on your face, the wrong pair will make you regret your decision of going on a hike. So it’s a good idea to get to know them well before you choose a pair for your adventure.

But there’s an endless range of hiking footwear. This makes it very difficult for you to find the right hiking boots without getting overwhelmed with so many choices. Luckily for you, we’ve created this comprehensive hiking footwear guide that explains how to choose hiking shoes that perfectly match your needs. From describing all types of hiking boots to features you need to look out for, this guide provides everything necessary to minimize confusion. And ultimately help you find the right hiking boots.

Learn more about choosing the right hiking boots below:

1) Types of hiking boots:

One of the first things you need to do is decide which type of hiking boot to buy. There are mainly three categories to choose from.

–    Hiking Shoes

how to choose hiking shoes

If you’re planning a short hike on an easy trail, hiking shoes are usually the best option. They are comfortable and offer plenty of traction. These shoes have thick midsole making them ideal for easy-going hikes. Compared to others, hiking shoes come with a cheap price tag. These shoes are made up of lightweight materials so they tend to be lighter than hiking boots. Hiking shoes are also more versatile and easier to pack. Normally these shoes don’t require a long break-in period. Keep in mind, hiking shoes cannot handle multi-day hikes. Don’t overuse them if you wish to keep them for a long time.

Check out this blog post by Switch Back Travel to find out the best lightweight hiking shoes of 2019.

–    Day Hiking Boots

how to choose hiking boots

Day hiking boots are perfect for those who love taking on challenging hikes frequently. This type of hiking boot is designed for high-impact hiking on rugged terrain. Ultralight backpackers routinely wear these boots. Unlike hiking shoes, day hiking boots offer coverage that extends over the ankle. Meaning your feet will stay protected on all types of terrains. These boots are made from durable materials that can cope with heavy use. So you can use them during day hikes and short backpacking trips. But these boots weigh more than hiking shoes.

–    Backpacking Boots

how to choose hiking shoes

Backpacking boots are designed specially to do well on uneven terrain and difficult inclines. They provide maximum ankle support for carrying a heavy backpack on multi-day hikes. These boots have a thick, stiff sole making them a lot heavier than day hiking boots and hiking shoes. Backpacking boots offer more support and cushioning than hiking shoes. It can take a much longer time to break into these boots. So you should take them out for a few test hikes before using them on longer hikes. If you want something that lasts several years then backpacking boots are the best ones to buy. But they will cost you a lot of money.

Tip: Hikers need to match their footwear to the activity they’re doing. Therefore, hikers going on a multi-day adventure are better off choosing boots than hiking shoes.

2) Protection

how to choose hiking boots

Protection is a key thing to consider when choosing hiking boots. Hiking requires your legs to be in tiptop shape. But no matter how fit you are, you won’t last long unless your feet are protected. It’s important to buy a pair of hiking boots that will protect your feet against bruising and abrasion. Look for footwear that comes with reinforced rubber toe and a heel protector. These features will help you reduce the risk of injury while hiking through rough terrain. Not only do these reinforcements protect your feet, but they will also help support your feet on slanted slopes and slippery trails. To some extent, the level of protection depends on the weight of the shoes/boots you buy.

3) Grip

how to choose hiking boots

Any hiking footwear you buy must have a sole that offers a great grip. Resistance to slippage is a major selling point for most footwear products out there. The outsole of hiking shoes is the layer that gives you a proper grip on the trail. So it’s crucial to have a look at the material and design of the soles before buying a pair. These days most outsoles are made from either blown rubber or carbon rubber. Hiking boots must have a sole that can perform well on both dry and wet terrain. The sole also has to provide a good amount of grip on snowy and muddy trails. The multidirectional tread is the best type of design to have on your sole. This design will help you avoid slipping and go downhill without stumbling.

4) Breathability

how to choose shoes for hiking

You should shop for hiking boots that offer high breathability. You will feel discomfort and agitation if there’s no ventilation to let air and moisture pass through your shoes. The more breathable the shoe, the more comfortable it will be – as simple as that. Ventilated hiking shoes will keep your feet dry in hot climates. This way you won’t have to deal with skin problems such as rashes and blisters. Opt for shoes/boots with a nylon mesh because it is more permeable than leather. Also, the layering of a nylon mesh is widespread. So, there’s more room for air and moisture to escape.

5) Cushioning

backpacking footwear

Poor cushioning will always lead to a miserable hike. That’s why it pays to buy shoes that can absorb shock efficiently. The shock absorption capability of hiking shoes can even help those with hip issues and knee pain. EVA and PU are the most popular materials used in hiking footwear for cushioning. These materials increase shock absorption and dampen the stress of forces on your feet. EVA midsoles cost less than PU midsoles. Hiking boots are more capable of reducing shocks than hiking shoes. The longer you spend on the trail, the more demanding it is on your body. As a result, month-long backpacking trips require hiking boots that provide more cushioning. Stiffer midsole and thick outsole also help reduce the impact force.

Extra tips for choosing the right pair of hiking boots:

  • Choose a pair that matches your particular foot shape.
  • Always make sure to buy one that offers your toes about a half-inch of wiggle room.
  • For a trip in the rain, get a pair of water-resistant hiking boots.
  • Check and see if the hiking boot is equipped with durable eyelets/loops or not.
  • Never buy boots that constrict your feet and restrict any type of movement.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it! These are a couple of things to keep in mind when you’re choosing hiking shoes. Always remember that hiking boots should never be bought immediately before a multi-day trip. It’s good to do research on them and search for any issues you may have with the boot you choose. Also, check the quality of the boot so that you won’t have to deal with blisters or any other problem while on the trail. And if it doesn’t feel right, don’t buy them. Take your time to choose the right hiking shoes/boots, and you won’t be sorry later on.

Planning to buy a hiking backpack but not sure how to choose the best one? Then check out this blog post “How to choose a hiking backpack?“.

Trekology LLC

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