Choosing a Hiking Shoe or Boot – What to Know Before Buying

Footwear is the most important piece of equipment hikers invest in. Choosing the best hiking boots can be difficult because they come in a variety of materials, heights and weights. This article will help individuals chose the hiking boot that is best for their situation.

New Hiking Boots – Light Weight Boots are Best

There is no one hiking boot that is best in all situations for all people. Hikers need to consider the season, terrain, weight of pack and duration of trip before buying new boots. Generally speaking, hikers should aim to buy the lightest boot that will meet all their needs. Rick Curtis, The Backpacker’s Field Manuel (Three Rivers Press, 2005) says that every extra pound of weight in a hiking boot is equivalent to five extra pounds carried in a pack. So, ensure the new boot will be supportive enough in the given conditions, while staying as light as possible.

Buy the Right Hiking Boots for the Trail

Light Weight Hiking Shoes – For day hikes or very light multi-day hikes where the pack contains a lunch and first aid kit, footwear is personal choice. Sturdy running shoes or light hiking shoes will suffice. If however, if a hiker has weak ankles, a boot that covers the ankle and offers more support should be used.

Medium Structure Hiking Boots – When hikers are carrying 20-40 pounds, hikers need a higher hiking boot that goes over the ankle. A medium height boot is required for heavier packs, longer days (over four hours) or terrain that is rougher. When hikers are navigating rocks and stumps, some ankle support is needed. There are many types of materials that work well with the medium support boot. Opt for comfort and light weight.

Heavy Duty High Cut Hiking Boots – When the pack is over 40 pounds or hikers are on a multi-day trip involving long days, opt for full ankle coverage and support. Look for light materials but be sure the ankles are adequately supported. Rick Curtis, who wrote The Backpacker’s Field Manuel  suggests that hikers who wear high cut, heavier boots pack a extra pair of camp shoes to allow feet to air out and reduce environmental impact around the camp. When intense hikers are traveling on tough terrain, full grain leather is worth considering. It is more expensive but provides excellent durability and support.

Gore-Tex Boots and Proper Treads

Wet feet are not fun and can ruin a hiking trip. If it is in the budget, it is a good idea to buy footwear with a Gore Tex or similar waterproof, breathable material. Boots with Gore Tex structure or linings will be a little more expensive but are worthwhile. Be careful, there are many waterproof boots on the market that are not breathable. For all hiking except dry, recreational short hikes, Gore Tex boots or linings are advisable.

Treads are another important consideration. Good traction is important when climbing or descending on any terrain. However, when it is raining, just about any surface becomes slippery. Look for good treads, perhaps even treads that run in opposing directions. A boot with good treads can prevent a fall and painful injuries.

Boots are available in hundreds of styles in all brands from Scarpa to Vasques. Shoppers should not go shopping for a brand, they should search for a comfortable boot that will suit their feet and needs. Shopping is best done late in the day, in the same socks that will be worn on the trail. Finally, break in new boots indoors, in case they are really uncomfortable and need to be returned.