Choosing the right hiking boots

Doug Williams
 
Resting the hard working boots

In any camping and hiking situation, the boots you choose to wear on your feet can make the difference between being able to walk for miles or developing a blister or two the size of cherries.

Different boots are made for different kinds of environments, and you don’t want to find yourself walking up rough mountainous terrain with something that has the support of a tennis shoe.

Before you go and buy anything, stop and think: where will you be hiking? The boot you want will likely need to be flexible enough to use in a range of situations.

 

So, perhaps the first question should be what is the most rugged place you plan to be walking around and for how long?

Here are few tips that will help you with getting the best boots for your hiking adventures.

Trying the boots

When trying on shoes, wear the socks you will wear when hiking.  The shoe needs to fit snugly enough that your foot doesn’t slide about while you don’t want it so tight you strangle your foot.

Get good, qualified advice from the store you are purchasing from. When trying on shoes, you want the whole of your foot to be comfortable so get the right length so your toes can still wiggle. Good quality stores will have a fitting service it’s well worth taking advantage of this.

The width should fit your feet – you can get narrow boots and extra wide ones if you need them. A good hiking and camping store will have a small hiking corner that imitates a range of terrain so you can feel how the shoe moves when you go up and down a slope.

Types of boots

A light hiking boot looks like a running shoe and has flexible midsoles which make them great for day hiking and light terrain.

Then there are mid and high cut hiking boots that are good if you are doing day hikes or overnights and needing to carry a backpack.  These are great for the longer trails as they give you some ankle support and protection.

You also have a backpacking boot, these are flexible, supportive boots that have a stiffer midsole and are good over mixed terrain.  They are perfect for multi-day hikes into the wilderness while carrying a weighted backpack.

Mountaineering boots are more for the experienced hiker and mountain climbers. They are heavy and tough, and you can fit crampons onto them if you are heading out over ice and glaciers. These are usually very rigid so they’re not very comfortable, they’re for a specific activity and excel at it.

Boot cut

Boot cut is just as important. The more rugged the terrain, the more support your ankles will need. So a low cut boot is cut like a running shoe and is a good choice to use on flat, well-maintained tracks for day hiking.

Mid cut boots wrap around your ankles and give a little more support, perfect for short multiday trips, and high cut boots are good for both the ankle support and your balance overall. If you carry heavy loads and like to walk off track, these would be perfect for you.  With all new shoes make sure they are thoroughly broken in before you start any long hike, this will help avoid blisters and other injuries.

Materials

The construction materials are what give your shoes weather resistance and wearability. For the hardest wearing shoes, you will be looking at full leather, and this material is mainly found in the hard backpacking or mountaineering boots. Nubuck leather looks like suede and is hardwearing as well and is also resistant to water, scrapes and abrasions.

Synthetics are what the majority of boots are made from these days, especially the lighter, less pricey boots.

They are less durable but light and easily broken in. While they aren’t always waterproof, they do dry quickly. Waterproof linings are available in shoes, but you still have to condition any leather on the outside of your shoes regardless if you opt for a waterproof liner. They are a good option for keeping your feet dry when you are in wet conditions.

 

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