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How to Pick Great Hiking Boots

Nothing sucks worse than blisters on long hikes. Your sweaty, stinky feet combined with open wounds are recipes for disaster. The easy way to avoid the pain is to pick a great pair of hiking boots.

Whether it’s your first hike or your 20th, the best way to make sure a hiking boot works for you is to go by how the boot feels. Comfort is king on all types of hikes. Follow this simple guide for picking the right pair of hiking boots for your next trip.

Hiking Boot Types

Hiking shoes: A great option for those looking for added stability without the weight of a full-size boot. The low-cut design allows your feet to breathe—perfect for long hikes in decent weather.

Backpacking boots
: These high cut boots tend to offer the most ankle support for wild backcountry trips. The ability to tighten the shoe above the ankle helps backpackers carry heavier loads over long distances. The midsole is stiffer, which helps protect the foot from rocks and debris on the trail.

Day hiking boots: A great option for shorter trips, these mid to high-cut models offer enough support to carry average size loads over short distances. While they do not offer the same amount of support as backpacking boots, these shoes are easy to break in and are lighter than backpacking boots.

Hiking Boot Materials

The materials used to make the boot will affect a whole host of things, including weight, durability, water resistance, and comfort. (1)
  • Waterproof: Great for if you know that your hike will be a wet hike. Materials like Gore-Tex will keep the water out, but they may keep the sweat in. It’s a good trade-off in wetter climates.
  • Full-grain leather: Most backpacking boots will be full grain leather. Advantages include excellent use over long periods of time and waterproof ability. Drawbacks include long break in times, heavier materials, and less breathing room for your feet.
  • Split-grain leather: Advantages include lighter weight, more breathing room for your feet, and almost always a cheaper price tag than full grain leather. Drawbacks may include less durability compared to split-grain leather,
  • Synthetic leather: Most modern boots are made from synthetic materials like polyester or nylon. While they break in faster and weigh less than traditional leather, they may have less durability than traditional boot styles. 

Hiking Boot Support

When it comes to getting the best support possible you really want to factor in what type of trip your taking. For longer hikes over rough terrain consider buying boots with a stiffer midsole (backpacking). For shorter hikes, consider boots with a flexible insole for less weight and a cheaper price tag (day hiking).

Be sure to check the weather and trail conditions before you leave. If you plan on hiking in the winter or in the mountains use boots that can fit crampons.

Hiking Boot Comfort

Comfort really comes down to one question—does the boot fit? Make sure to really test the fit of the boot around your unique foot shape.

Measure your feet:
If you don’t know your size or even if you do, have your feet measured to get the right size boot. Nothing sucks more than having your feet slide and rub against

Bring comfortable socks: Find a good pair of synthetic socks that will help you get a better feel for the boot shape. Cotton tends to trap moisture and can lead to more blisters.

Stroll around the store:
The best way to know if a pair is right is to walk around the store for at least a few minutes. Boots may take time to break in, but you can tell very quickly if they will be comfortable for you.

Find a brand you trust:
Rather than going with the top brand at the time, it’s better to pick a shoe brand that you have worn and liked in the past. This way you know exactly what you’re getting into.

Break your boots in: Never buy a pair of boots and take them out of the box on the day of the big hike. It’s better to break them in over time by walking around your neighborhood.

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