When it comes to hiking, there’s one piece of equipment that can make or break your trip: hiking boots. You don’t want to be suffering from blisters 30 minutes into your hike, or be able to feel the rocks through the soles of your shoes or worry about getting wet feet on wetter hikes. Choosing a pair of hiking boots can be difficult since there are so many different styles and brands. What works well for someone else might not work well for you. If you’re looking for a new pair, here are some tips on how to choose hiking boots that work for you!
Different style of hiking boots & shoes
Hiking boots come in lots of different styles. Depending on the types of trails you usually hike and where in the world you usually do it, you’ll likely be looking at different styles of boots.
Most of the time I hike in light hiking shoes. These are pretty much a tougher version of trainers and usually have better water resistance. The plus is they’re much lighter than hiking boots, easier to put on and off and there’s usually less of a wearing-in period too. These work great for me since I’m not doing long multi-day hikes with a pack on my back.
If you plan to hike on trails strewn with boulders, or over glaciers and snow then mountaineering boots might be a better style of hiking boots for you. They’re more expensive than hiking shoes but are built to withstand pretty much any terrain you’ll come across.
These are perhaps your more traditional style of hiking shoe. Some go past your ankle, giving you some ankle support. They also tend to have some waterproofing for stream crossings. The soles are tough and durable and if you look after them correctly they can last you for years! However there is usually a breaking-in period needed where you may have to deal with some blisters! It’s important to remember to take these on shorter walks to get used to them before you head out on a multi-day trek!
What material to go for?
The material your hiking boots are made out of makes a big difference. It can make them lighter and less sweaty, but it can also be the difference between a pair of boots that’ll last you years and one that’ll only last the season.
Boots made from synthetics
This tends to apply to hiking shoes. Hiking footwear from synthetic material tends to be lighter and dries faster when wet. However, they aren’t very water resistance. They’re also more susceptible to rips and tears.
You can get both split grain leather, and full grain leather hiking boots. The former is more breathable than the latter but not as water resistance or durable. Full leather hiking boots tend to be the most expensive and take longer to break in but they’re very durable. They’re also great on more uneven terrain. However if you’re hiking in very hot places you’ll find leather boots aren’t very breathable!
Things to consider when it comes to fit
Don’t just opt for one brand of hiking boots, try on different brands as they all have a slightly different fit. For example, some brands tend to be a bit narrower than others which isn’t best for everyone. If you’re buying online check out customer reviews. A lot of websites now have sizing guides to get a better idea as to which is right for you.
Your toes shouldn’t touch the front of the shoe when your laces are done up and you want to be able to wiggle your toes too. You can test the length of the hiking shoe by standing up in unlaced shoes. Slide your foot forward until your toes touch the front and at this point you should be able to slip your index finger between your heel and the heel of your shoe if the size is right.
The ball of your foot should be snug (but not squished!) and the correctly fitting boots are meant to hold your heel in place. If your heel slips up and down you’re likely to get some blisters or fall on uneven terrain.
Go for the slightly larger size if you can’t make your mind up between two sizes as most feet swell a little bit after a day of hiking.
How to make your hiking boots last longer
Once you’ve found the right pair of hiking boots there are several things you can do which will help keep them in top shape!
- Keep them clean: After a muddy or dusty hike clean your boots – apart from anything else it’ll make them look nicer!
- If they’re wet, let them dry out properly: If your boots or shoes have got wet while out hiking, make sure you leave them somewhere airy to dry out properly. You don’t want them going mouldy!
- Re-waterproof them: Buy some waterproofing gels to keep your boots water resistant after lots of use and heavy rains or washing.