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How to Select the Best Hiking Boots for You

Like any other sport, you require the right equipment to excel at hiking. More specifically, you need a great pair of hiking boots! Finding the perfect footwear will improve your hiking skills without putting you at risk of injury. The last thing you want to discover during a hike is that you’re wearing improper footwear. Especially since you’ll still have to walk back to the car! That’s why it’s so important to find the right hiking boots–before you even think about stepping on a trail.

Ultimately, your goal is to find hiking boots that compliment your natural gait and movements. They should be snug and supportive without pinching your feet. Comfort, stability, and durability are your top concerns, followed by the weight of the boot itself. Finally, they need to be an exact match for the hiking terrain. 

A lot to think about, right? When you walk into any outdoors store, you’ll be shocked by the amount of available choices for hiking boots. After all, hiking footwear doesn’t only include boots! There are shoes and runners too. As you can see, your life can get complicated very quickly when you’re a newbie hiker! To help you on your way, we’ll tell you how to choose your first pair of hiking boots.

Types of Hiking Boots

Before you try on a single pair of hiking boots, you need to understand the different kinds of footwear. The four main types are hiking shoes, hiking boots, mountaineering boots, and trail runners. Keep reading to discover the pros and cons of each:

  1. Hiking Shoes: Lightweight but still durable, hiking shoes are a less heavy alternative to traditional hiking boots. They’re ideal for shorter hikes, if you won’t be carrying a large load, or when you’re sticking to well-kept trails. That being said, some professional hikers opt for hiking shoes for all terrains. This choice is only recommended for individuals with strong ankles and feet. Beginners, do not attempt this!
  2. Hiking Boots: Traditional hiking boots are the tried-and-true option. They’re more supportive and offer better protection than hiking shoes. Unfortunately, hiking boots also tend to be heavier. So, keep that in mind when you’re selecting the right footwear for you. Hiking boots are preferred for longer trails with moderate terrain, where you’ll be carrying a light to medium-sized load. For beginners, hiking boots are frequently recommended, since your ankles and feet haven’t fully strengthened yet. As you continue hiking more regularly, it’s possible to make the switch to hiking shoes.
  3. Mountaineering Boots: If you need to use crampons, don’t even think about not buying mountaineering boots! These boots are super fitted, huge, and have stiff uppers. They provide maximum support and insulation. Mountaineering boots are ideal for rugged terrains and colder temperatures, due to their durability and weather-resistance. They can also stand up to heavy loads, which you may need to carry on your back. However, avoid them if you’re hiking in hot temperatures.
  4. Trail Runners: Trail runners are the lightweight cousins of hiking shoes. This type of footwear is specifically designed for running on less stable surfaces so that athletes can stray away from the pavement. While trail runners do offer great traction, we wouldn’t recommend them for hiking. These shoes are often built from thin, fragile materials, so your feet could easily become bruised or injured.

Getting the Right Fit

Once you know the type of hiking boots you want, it’s time to gauge if they fit properly. Hiking boots do require breaking in, once you’ve brought them home and before you wear them on their first hike. The best time to test out your new boots is mid-afternoon to early evening. Feet tend to swell near the day’s end, which they also do during vigorous hikes.

So, how can you tell if hiking boots fit? Here’s a few pointers:

  • Your hiking boots should have lots of space at their toes. If your toes are pinched or squished, the boots are too small. On the flip side, if your feet are hardly touching the sides of your boots, they’re much too big.
  • Does your heel lift up as you move around? If so, these boots don’t fit you! Wearing loose hiking boots makes your feet more susceptible to blisters, discomfort, and injury.
  • A perfect fit is a laced boot that feels snug, prevents your foot from sliding forwards, and leaves enough room to not cut off circulation or cause any pinching spots.

Lastly, it’s entirely possible that you’ll need to invest in more than one kind of hiking boots! Once you reach the higher levels of hiking and start exploring more diverse trails, it’s rare that a single pair of boots will meet all your needs. For instance, if you love your traditional hiking boots, but they can’t combat icy conditions or heavy loads–just buy another pair! Your health and safety is paramount on any hike. So, don’t cut corners by trying to wear boots that are wrong for the terrain. Take care of your feet and go enjoy the great wilderness around us.