Hiking is a great way to get outdoors and explore nature, but it’s essential to have the right gear. One of the most important pieces of gear for any hiker is a good pair of hiking boots. The right boots can make a big difference in terms of comfort, stability, and safety on the trail.
However, with so many different types, brands, and models of hiking boots available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right ones. That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide to help you find the perfect pair of hiking boots for your needs.
What We Will Cover
In this guide, we’ll cover the factors you should consider when choosing hiking boots, such as fit, support, traction and grip, waterproofing and breathability, material, weight, and purpose and intended use.
We’ll also provide tips on how to measure your feet and try on boots to ensure a good fit, as well as advice on care and maintenance to keep your boots in top condition. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, this guide will help you decide and find the perfect pair of hiking boots for your next adventure.
We’ll also be diving into the different types of hiking boots out there, from lightweight day hiking boots to heavy-duty backpacking boots. By understanding the different types and their intended uses, you’ll be able to pick the pair that’s perfect for your next hike.
Factors to Consider
Keep in mind that this is a general guide and that it’s always a good idea to seek advice from professionals or experienced hikers, but these are the main factors to consider.
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing hiking boots is fit. Make sure the boots fit well and are comfortable.
Your toes should have enough room to move and wiggle, but the boot should not be too loose. It’s also important to break in your boots before hitting the trail.
Look for boots that provide good support, including the ankle, arch and heel. This will help to prevent injuries and provide stability on uneven terrain.
Traction and Grip
Look for boots with a good tread pattern and a lug pattern that will provide traction and grip on the type of terrain you will be hiking on.
Look for boots that are made of durable materials that will withstand the wear and tear of hiking. Full-grain leather and synthetic materials are popular choices.
These days, boots with full-grain leather uppers have fallen out of favor for all but the most hard-core missions. The advantages of full-grain leather boots, such as their longevity and support, are usually outweighed by their extra weight, and time to break in
Synthetic materials are usually far more breathable and/or waterproof, lightweight, easy to care for, and offer enough support for most hikes.
Many boots these days will be hybrid, using a mixture leather, where strength is needed, and synthetics to keep the weight down and provide a waterproof membrane.
Waterproofing and Breathability
Depending on the weather and trail conditions, you may want to look for boots that have a waterproof membrane and are breathable, such as Gore-Tex or Hipora. This combination will help to keep your feet cool and dry and prevent blisters.
In hotter, drier climates, you may want to look for boots that are more breathable. These will typically sacrifice water resistance for ventilation to cool your feet.
There are also significant differences between men’s and women’s hiking boots – and not just the color schemes!
Men and women have different anatomies, which means the way that we walk is also different. Naturally, some people will find boots designed for the other gender are more comfortable or supportive, but it is probably wise to start looking for boots made for your gender as a starting point.
Consider the weight of the boots, as heavy boots can be tiring to wear over long distances. However, heavier boots often provide more support
Purpose and intended use
Consider what type of hiking you will be doing, the duration, the weight you will be carrying and the terrain and climate you’ll be hiking in. Boots designed for backpacking will be heavier and more supportive than day hiking boots.
Brand & Price
Naturally, the more money you have to spend, the better, but if you are starting out, you probably do not need the latest and greatest.
However you don’t want to find your boots falling apart halfway through a hike, so make sure you buy boots that are up to the task, which will usually mean buying from one of the better-known brands
Make Sure Your Boots Fit Well
Choosing the right size and fit is crucial when it comes to hiking boots. You can measure your feet and pick your size, but all boots are slightly different
Here are some tips on how to try on boots to ensure a good fit:
- Measure your feet: Use a measuring tape or a foot ruler to measure the length and width of both of your feet. This will give you an idea of your foot size and shape, and help you find the right size of boots.
- Try on boots at the end of the day: Your feet swell throughout the day, so it’s best to try on boots in the afternoon or evening when your feet are at their largest.
- Wear the same socks you will use for hiking: When trying on boots, wear the same pair of hiking socks that you plan to wear on your hike. This will give you a more accurate idea of how the boots will fit.
- Walk around: Walk around the store with the boots on, walk up and down stairs, and try to simulate the motions you’ll be doing while hiking. This will help you identify any areas of discomfort or tightness.
- Check the toe box: Make sure your toes have enough room to move and wiggle, but the boot should not be too loose. Your toes should not be rubbing against the end of the boot.
- Check the heel: Make sure the heel is snug but not tight, and that your heel does not slip up and down inside
Types of Hiking Boots
You need to pick your boots based on the type of hiking you plan to do as there are many different styles of hiking boots.
It’s important to note that these are the main types of hiking boots, you can find hybrid versions of those, and also brands may have their own designations for their products.
It’s always a good idea to research the specific type of boots you’re interested in and read reviews from other hikers to get a better idea of how they perform in different conditions.
Day Hiking Boots
These boots are designed for day hikes and shorter backpacking trips. They are lightweight, comfortable, and provide moderate support and traction. They are ideal for well-maintained trails and are suitable for carrying light loads.
These boots are designed for multi-day backpacking trips and are often heavier and more supportive than day hiking boots. They have a stiffer construction and a more aggressive lug pattern for better traction on rough terrain. They are suitable for carrying heavy loads and backpacking on rugged terrain.
Lightweight Hiking Boots
These boots are designed for the hiker who prioritizes a light pack and fast travel. They are typically less stiff and supportive than traditional hiking boots, and they are suitable for shorter hikes and easy terrain.
These boots are designed for climbing and hiking on glaciers, ice and snow. They have a stiff sole, high ankle support, and a crampon-compatible sole. They are not suitable for regular hiking, they are meant for more technical and extreme terrains.
These boots are designed for the approach to a climbing route, they are a hybrid between climbing shoes and hiking boots. They are lightweight, have a sticky rubber sole, and provide moderate support and traction. They are suitable for scrambling and rocky terrain.
Trail Running Shoes
Trail Running shoes are designed for running on trails, they are lightweight and have a low profile, flexible sole. They provide good traction, but less support than traditional hiking boots. They are suitable for fast-paced hiking on well-maintained trails, but not suitable for carrying heavy loads or rough terrain.
There are many other types of hiking boots available, such as waterproof boots, insulated boots, and sandals. They are designed for specific weather conditions and terrains, and it’s important to choose the right type of boots for your needs.
What are the main differences between high-cut, mid-cut, and low-cut hiking boots?
High-cut, mid-cut, and low-cut hiking boots refer to the height of the boots’ upper. The main differences between high-cut, mid-cut, and low-cut hiking boots are the amount of support and protection they provide, the intended use, and terrain they are designed for
High-cut hiking boots
High-cut boots, also known as backpacking boots, have a high upper that extends above the ankle. They provide the most support and protection for the ankle and are designed for multi-day backpacking trips and hiking on rugged terrain. They typically have a stiffer construction, a more aggressive lug pattern, and better support for carrying heavy loads.
Mid-cut hiking boots
Mid-cut boots, also known as mid-height boots or multi-purpose boots, have an upper that extends to just above the ankle. They provide a balance of support and flexibility and are designed for a variety of different types of hiking, from day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips.
They are suitable for a range of terrains and can be used for carrying moderate loads.
Low-cut hiking boots
Low-cut boots, also known as hiking shoes, have a low upper that extends to just above the ankle or lower.
They provide the least support and protection for the ankle but are the most flexible, and are designed for day hikes, fast-paced hiking, and hiking on well-maintained trails. They typically have a more flexible construction, a less aggressive lug pattern, and good support for fast-paced hiking.
It’s important to choose the right type of hiking boots based on the type of hiking you’ll be doing and the conditions you’ll be facing.
For example, if you’re planning on doing a multi-day backpacking trip on rugged terrain, high-cut hiking boots would be the best option, while if you’re planning on doing a day hike on a well-maintained trail, low-cut hiking shoes would be more suitable.
Hiking Boots vs Shoes
The main differences between Hiking boots and hiking shoes are their construction, features, and intended uses. While both are designed for walking, they have some key differences.
Hiking boots are designed for more rugged terrain and carrying heavy loads, while hiking shoes are designed for well-maintained trails and fast-paced hiking. It’s important to choose the right type of footwear based on the type of hiking you’ll be doing and the conditions you’ll be facing.
Hiking boots are designed for backpacking, carrying heavy loads, and hiking on rough and rugged terrain. They are typically a taller style of boot, heavier, and have a more robust construction than hiking shoes.
They have high ankle support giving better ankle protection from loose rocks and providing more stability on uneven terrain that helps to protect it from twisting. They also have a stiffer sole that provides more support and protection for the foot and a more aggressive lug pattern for better traction on rough terrain.
Hiking shoes, on the other hand, are typically lower cut, lighter, and have a more flexible construction than hiking boots.
They have low ankle support and are designed to be more comfortable and breathable.
They have a more flexible sole that provides less support and protection for the foot and a less aggressive lug pattern for better traction on well-maintained trails. Hiking shoes are designed for day hiking, fast-paced hiking, and hiking on well-maintained trails.
Care and Maintenance: How to Keep Your Boots in Top Condition
Hiking boots are not cheap, but proper care and maintenance will help prolong their life. Here are some tips on how to take care of your hiking boots:
- Clean your boots regularly: Use mild soap and water to clean your boots after each hike. This will remove dirt and debris, and prevent the build-up of salt and sweat.
- Dry your boots thoroughly: Make sure your boots are completely dry before storing them. Stuff them with newspaper to help absorb any moisture, and avoid storing them in a damp or humid place.
- Condition the leather: If your boots are made of leather, use a leather conditioner to keep the leather supple and prevent it from cracking.
- Protect the boots: Apply a waterproofing spray or wax to protect your boots from water, and a protectant to protect the leather from stains and scratches.
- Replace worn parts: Check the laces, insoles, and liners of your boots, and replace them if they’re worn or damaged.
- Store them properly: When not in use, store your boots in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat.
- Rotate your boots: If you have multiple pairs of boots, rotate them, that way each pair can dry out and rest in between hikes.
By taking care of your boots, you’ll help ensure they last for many hikes to come, and will always provide the comfort, support, and protection that you need.
Conclusion: How to Choose the Right Boots for Your Hiking Needs
Hiking boots are an essential piece of gear for any hiker, and choosing the right pair can make a big difference in terms of comfort, stability, and safety on the trail. In this guide, we’ve covered the factors you should consider when choosing hiking boots, such as fit, support, traction and grip, waterproofing and breathability, material, weight, and purpose and intended use.
We’ve also provided tips on how to measure your feet and try on boots to ensure a good fit, as well as advice on care and maintenance to keep your boots in top condition.
When it comes to hiking boots, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and it’s important to find a pair that fits your specific needs. By considering the factors outlined in this guide, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision and find the perfect pair of hiking boots for your next adventure.
Remember also to seek advice from professionals, and experienced hikers or read reviews to get a better idea of how the boots perform in different conditions.
In summary, investing time in research, measuring your feet, and taking into consideration the type of hiking, terrain, and weather conditions you’ll be facing, will help you make the best decision when choosing hiking boots.
By Day I am a surf instructor and coasteering guide based in Newquay, Cornwall. By night I am a multi-genre DJ
To escape it all, I hike!
- 1 What We Will Cover
- 2 Factors to Consider
- 3 Make Sure Your Boots Fit Well
- 4 Types of Hiking Boots
- 5 What are the main differences between high-cut, mid-cut, and low-cut hiking boots?
- 6 Hiking Boots vs Shoes
- 7 Care and Maintenance: How to Keep Your Boots in Top Condition
- 8 Conclusion: How to Choose the Right Boots for Your Hiking Needs