Ultimate Guide: How to find the best hiking boots
The right Hiking Boots will get you anywhere
If you want to find the best hiking boots, you have nowadays the choice between hundreds of options. From cheap to expensive, from mesh to leather, high ankles or low. Heavy boots or light shoes. So how is it possible to find your best hiking boots?
There are a few factors you should consider when buying hiking boots. This way you might hopefully find one that last you a very long time.
Don’t save money when it comes to shoes! Your feet are carrying you all your life. Make sure they feel good. And make sure to take good care of your feet. You can save money when it comes to clothing, buying second hand is the best way…
If you go to a specialized hiking shop they will cover you with everything. Most of these guys are professionals and know what they need to ask you to find the best hiking boot for you, but I find it is always important to know what kind of facts you should think about so you can go prepared and know what to answer. In some cheaper stores you won’t have the professional help anyway, so then you should know what you are looking for. If you buy online, make sure to wear the shoes for a few times inside to get a feeling if they fit well, so that you could send them back in case they don’t fit at all.
How to choose the right hiking boots
To choose your best hiking boots depends upon where your gonna go for your hike. What kind of climate, length, terrain.
- Climate and weather: this will play a large factor for your boots. If you are gonna hike in cold, wet weather (rain, snow, wetland) you would need waterproof boots like Goretex boots, boots for mountain hiking. If you are going for a trip in hot and humid climate you’ll most likely need mesh boots with a good ventilation.
- Length of your hike: If you are going for a one day hike with no challenging terrain trail running shoes will be fine. If you are planning a multi day trip with a lot of rocky trail ahead you should consider some sturdier boots with a little ankle support.
- Terrain: will you be hiking on flat ground, or a will it go up and down and you might have a unstable ground. Some boots have rigid soles (like mountaineering boots), others won’t (like trail shoes) so will be unstable on rocky terrain.
Hiking Boot Sole
A hiking boot sole is made out of three: the insole, midsole and outsole.
Insole: is a soft, cushioned part of the shoe that you see when you look inside and feel directly when sliding in the shoe. It can get removed to replace with one that suits your shape of foot better. So if you are a regular hiker make sure to check if you need any arch support, so you can find the best insole for your feet. If you have the wrong arch support (too high or collapsed) can cause problems and pain when you are hiking, so do some research beforehand.
Midsole: It is the layer that you can see if you take out the insole. It is placed between the outsole and insole and helps to absorb the shock when walking on hard or rocky terrain. In hiking boots they will often be attached to a steel piece called shank. This provides extra sturdiness. Light, flexible hiking boots or trail boots won’t have that.
Outsole: The bottom of your boots. It is a thick, rubber sole. All terrain footwear will have dense outsoles with treads, providing a good grip on slippery surfaces. If you need better support, are going on a multi day trip or on trails with unstable and slippery surfaces you want bigger treads.
The right feeling
- always try shoes at the end of the day when your foot is largest and slightly swollen.
- Know your size. Measure your foot with a special device in a shoes shop.
- If you need special insoles, bring them with you to the shop so you can see if they fit into the boot.
- Wear the socks that you would wear on a hike.
- Wear the pants you most likely wear. To see if they fit with your shoes (not because of the style but because of eventually problems (like unpleasant pressure points)
- There should be enough space to slightly wiggle your toes.
- Walk around the store. Feel if they are too tight or loose. You don’t want your heel lift up when hiking. But you don’t want a squeezed foot neither.
- If you order online, the best would be to order shoes you already had before and not a totally new brand/shoe.
Hiking boot break in period
A lot of people going on a first time multi day hike are suffering from pain through blisters. Mostly because they don’t have a good fitting shoe or they didn’t know about the “break in” period.
Hiking boots are made from sturdier/heavier materials than normal sports shoes or trail shoes. They need to be more durable and are build to last longer, so they are made out of a mix of leather, mesh, suede. The heavier/sturdier the hiking boot, the more time it will take to get “broken in”. So if you have a heavy leather boot you need a few weeks before you can use them on a trip. Start by wearing them at home when you clean the house, then do smaller walks around the block, and then on a few shorter hikes before you wear them out on a trail.
If you have shoes made out of mixed materials and they’re a little more flexible it should only take a few shorter walks/hikes to break in.
4 different types of hiking boots
You will find 4 major hiking boot categories: Trail runners, Trail Shoes with low ankle, Lightweight backpacking boots and Mountaineering Boots
1) Trail Runners
Trail runners* are the lightest hiking shoes with least support.
If you don’t need much ankle support and don’t like to wear heavy boots this is a good option for you.
I just heard that a lot of thru hikers on long distance hikes actually wear trail runners because they are very lightweight. They are very versatile but they don’t give you a lot of support when carrying a bigger, heavier backpack or when walking on hard surfaces.
They are perfect if you are hiking in hot climate, if you like lightweight shoes, if you don’t want or don’t have the time to break them in.
Trail runners are not a long lasting shoe, they will wear down quicker and you need to buy new ones, they don’t have great support or stability.
2) Trail shoes with low ankle
3) Lightweight backpacking boots
4) Mountaineering Boots
Mountaineering boots* are the most sturdy, durable and heavy boots.
You would only need those if you are trekking up rugged peaks.
It is possible to attach extra features (crampons, spikes) to go on icy winter hikes.
Remember that you would need a few weeks to break them in to feel comfortable.
If you don’t go an extreme mountain climbing trips, you are better off to choose backpacking boots or trail shoes.
I haven`t been needing mountaineer boots yet, but a friend of mine swears on her Hanwag Boots*.
Since finding the best hiking boots is a very individual choice, and different from feet to feet, I can only recommend a few Boots here that either I or friends used/are using or can recommend.
Or I will recommend some shoes from brands I really like to support because they do great work.
You still need to choose the right one for you and your hike adventure. With all the tips above you will find the best hiking boots for your next destination for sure.
Happy Blister free Hike 🙂
And please share your favorite hiking boot with us in the comments!!
Choosing sustainably-made hiking boots
Are there sustainable boots to find already?
Eco-friendly hiking boots would be made with fewer toxic materials and involve greener production methods than conventional boots.
If you can’t find a real sustainable brand in your store yet, choose a longer lasting shoe.
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