Unlike typical dress footwear, choosing suitable hiking boots that won't hurt your feet requires extra work. You'll need to ensure they suit your hiking goals, provide great foot and ankle support, come with the perfect material, and fit comfortably, no matter the condition. At first, you might be intimidated to try on what works for your friend; but no, it doesn’t work that way. Everyone has different feet, and if it's just the size or foot arch, chances are what fits your friend's foot would cause blisters on yours. So, before hitting the trail, start by following this expert's guide on how to choose hiking boots.
This guide contains:
Not all hiking is the same, and to ensure your feet are as happy as you are, you need deep thinking about how you'll use the boots. If you're hiking only for a few hours a day with light or no backpack, you'll need a different type of boot compared to someone planning to go on a more serious hike, covering long terrain and carrying heavy loads.
That way, you’ll know if you need light hiking boots with low-cuts, mountaineering boots with mid-cuts, or heavy hiking boots with high cuts.
These boots are very similar to your typical running shoes. They hit just around your ankles, come with flexible soles, and are generally light. However, being low cut means they don’t offer ankle protection.
If you’re planning for hiking that's not overly involved, light boots with low cuts could be the perfect choice for you.
Unlike low-cut hiking boots, these provide sustainable ankle support as they typically go a little above the ankle. Also, they’re built to be rugged, hence can help you cover long distances while carrying heavy day backpacks. So, if you’re into day hiking and want to carry some loads, getting a hiking boot with a mid-cut is essential.
Lastly, we have the backpacking boots built for hikers who want to embark on intensive hiking while carrying heavier backpacks. These hiking boots come with high cuts and highly durable materials; hence, providing excellent ankle support and stability, even on the fiercest terrain.
When learning how to choose hiking boots, the material used is something you can't and shouldn't overlook. That's what determines whether you'll enjoy the hiking with relaxed feet or with discomfort, blisters, and fire inside the boots.
When choosing hiking boots, take cognizance of the material and choose what fits your goals, environment, weather, and other conditions. Here are some of the popular materials to look for when learning how to choose hiking boots:
The split-grain leather builds of hiking boots often come with a hybrid of leather and synthetics, making them super-breathable than the full-grain leather. But on the flip side, water-resistance and durability are relatively low compared to the full-grain leather builds.
Talk of the heavy backpacking and challenging terrains, and you can't do but mention mountaineering boots. Most of them come from full-grain leather, which makes them highly durable, highly resistive to water, and rugged. However, breathability can be on the lower side and heaviness on the higher side.
Hiking boots made with synthetics are easy to break in, lighter, flexible, more breathable, and usually on the cost-saving side. And while they're not as resistive to water as others, they dry faster when wet. All these happen because they're often made with nylon and polyester, which is also less durable than leather.
Once you've found the desirable type of boot and material that suits your hiking goal, what's next on how to choose hiking boots is to ensure they fit and size you. The best hiking boots are the ones that fit snugly. To keep your feet happy throughout the journey, avoid boots that are too tight or extremely wide.
It's essential to know your foot size, whether you want to order the boots online or straight from the store. If not, measure it now.
Perhaps the shoe sizing isn't as effective as trying them on. That's when you need to ensure they're very comfortable. The best thing is to wear your socks (and other usual accessories) while trying on the shoes. Once your feet are inside the boots and laced up, walk around the store to examine if they're still comfortable or not. If not, feel free to try different sizes and styles until you find the perfect pair.
While still in the store, simulate walking on inclined/declined surfaces to access if your toes, ankles, and other parts of the foot are sitting comfortably.
Also, if needed, consider adding extra foot beds to your boots for additional comfort. You may not need this if the insoles that come with your hiking boots are good. But sometimes, it's just better when you add some cushioning.
Your feet won’t remain the same as the day goes on. So, even if the boots fit perfectly in the morning, chances are they’re a little tight in the evening when your feet swell.
The best thing is to try on your boots later in the day when your feet are in their “typical” size to ensure they’re still comfortable. While doing that, don’t forget to put on your actual socks and other accessories, too.
Finally, do not overlook the idea of breaking in your boots before hitting the trail! Many blisters and calluses gained from hiking happen because hikers didn't break-in their new boots.
After buying your hiking boots, dress up and wear them casually around your house. You may also put on your backpack and other accessories for complete simulation. Doing so will help you confirm if you’ve got the right pair of hiking boots or you need another one.
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