Selecting the Best Hiking Boots

Selecting the Best Hiking Boots

When it comes to hiking, the most important piece of equipment is neither your backpack nor the water bottle you are carrying. It’s what’s on your feet.

Hiking boots are the vital piece that are the barrier between the soles of your feet and the miles of trails that you embark on. With the plethora of choices on the market, what does one even look for in opting for the best pair? Hopefully, the tips below will help guide you in that selection process.

The first step of the journey is to determine what type of hiking you will primarily use these for. Hiking boots are assorted into a couple of different categories.

Photo by Robin Ooode on Unsplash

Low Cut

Low cut models which are like an athletic shoe are excellent for half day excursions and light treks throughout nature. They are generally lightweight and comfortable while only being suggested for use on slight inclines.

Photo by S Migaj on Unsplash

Mid / High Cut

The next group would be day hiking boots, these come in mid and high cut models. These look more like boots and are good for short trips while carrying a light pack. They can be light and comfortable however will provide more protection, support. These will also have more added traction for more moderate and steep inclines.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Heavy Duty

The last group, backpacking boots, provide extra support, durability and much more grip for steeper trails and increased elevation changes. You will notice the extra weight underfoot since these are designed for wading through streams, scrambling over rocks and meandering challenging terrains.

While there are ample choices for the material, it comes down to the destination that you will be wearing these boots. For example, I tend to wear boots more in the spring and fall here in New York, so I look for a boot that is more waterproof and has added traction for the muddy conditions. I also opt for boots that are constructed from an antimicrobial material, but when they are also waterproof, it doesn’t always allow my boots to breath.

Too many hikers overlook this important step and have ended up with sore feet.

No matter what style you select, it is important that the boots have a snug fit throughout, providing enough wiggle room for your toes, yet not be too tight anywhere on your foot. Trying your boots on at the end of the day should eliminate buying too small of a size. Bring along the socks that you plan on wearing with them as well. Same principle If you happen to wear orthotics, they will impact the fit.

Before purchasing, spend some time in the boots by taking a stroll through the store. Notice how the boots feel by walking up and down stairs. Even better yet, find an inclined surface and walk on it, noting how the boots feel.

While it’s always best to go to a store, purchasing online has some advantages. Some stores only carry regular width while online could have wide width availability. Buy a brand that you’ve worn before. Most boot manufacturers tend to use a consistent model over time. It is best to have your foots length, width, and arch length when you order. Double check the return policy and do not hesitate to read consumer reviews.

Other simple tips for proper fits are to change the way you knot the laces. This can change how they fit. Think about aftermarket insoles, some of these models can enhance comfort, support, or fit – or all three. If are you planning to do winter backpacking, having compatible boots and crampons is essential for your safety. It is also important to break your boots in before your first trip. Too many hikers (myself included) overlook this important step and have ended up with sore feet.

Using these tips to select the best boot for your situation will make your time out on the trail more enjoyable, thus allowing you to spend more quality time in nature.

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Joel M. Herrling
Is a freelance outdoors writer and photographer based in central new york.
instagram.com/joelherrling

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