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How to choose hiking boots and shoes

How to choose hiking boots v1

Whether you plan to trek the Himalayas or explore a nearby national park, your footwear can seriously make (or break) your experience. This is our guide on how to choose the best hiking boots.

To choose the best boots for you, you'll need to find the perfect fit in either boots or shoes designed specifically for your intended purpose.

What is the ideal fit?

The ideal fit for hiking boots is for your foot to be snug enough that it doesn’t move around when you walk, but you’re still able to wiggle your toes without them touching the front of your shoe.

When you push your toes to the front of the boot, you should be able to slide two fingers down either side of the Achilles, and while walking, the heel should not lift.

To achieve this fit, it’s essential you try on footwear with the socks you intend to wear them with.

Get some socks on

Socks can influence the overall fit of your shoe, and if you’re going hiking, you should consider hiking socks. Generally speaking, they’ll provide you with added cushioning and temperature control and can be moisture-wicking and anti-bacterial.

Hiking socks are thicker than regular socks, so it’s important to wear them when trying on hiking shoes. For additional comfort and moisture-wicking, consider sock liners. They’ll add to the thickness, but may be beneficial for your activity.

Customise your fit

Not all feet fit to standard foot sizes, so you may find that your feet require a custom insole. These can add up to a whole half size to help you achieve the perfect fit.

Insoles can also be helpful if you have low or collapsed arches, one foot longer than the other, or if you find your heel slipping.

These steps are worth it. The better the shoe fits, the better the technology will work to protect you on your adventure.

Beware the swollen foot.

Try your boots on in the afternoon. Feet swell throughout the day — especially if you’ve been walking for hours — so try on shoes in the second half of the day when your feet will be at their largest.

How to choose hiking boots v2

How will you use your boots?

To get your dream boot, you’ll need to better understand your terrain, the length of time you’ll be on your feet, and the general weather conditions of the hike.

The importance of terrain

Did you know that concrete and asphalt surfaces can make the sole of your hiking boot wear out more quickly? Not many people do. And what’s why it’s crucial to think about your terrain.

Your typical hiking trail will be full of mud, grass and stone. Fine grit on this kind of terrain can wear into a hiking shoe’s seam and rip the material.

To counter this, look for hiking boots with as few seams as possible. The design also stops water seeping in and can help stop friction that leads to blisters. Our hiking boots are also made with specialised soles and toe caps for enhanced durability, plus a gusseted tongue to keep debris out.

Boots made from full-grain and nubuck leather offer water resistance, abrasion resistance and durability. Split grain leather is a little lighter in terms of durability and water resistance, but requires much less time to break-in.

Tip: If you will be hiking in rough terrain, you may want to pair your hiking boots with gaiters to protect your legs and stop debris coming in from the top.

If you do intend on literally pounding the pavement, you’d be better off with a trail or a lifestyle shoe designed to hike on sealed surfaces.

Walking for a long time? Get some support.

The longer your hiking adventure, the greater the demand on your body and feet, the more support you’ll need from your boot.

A longer trip also usually involves carrying a heavier pack – again requiring further boot support; both under the foot with a stiffer mid-sole, and around the ankle with good heel support.

Despite the benefits of sturdy and durable hiking boots, lightweight hiking shoes have their advantages too. A lightweight shoe can save you 100–200g every time you move your foot, so you will save a lot of energy over the course of a day.

Boots made of synthetic materials are lighter and cooler than leather products, have a much shorter break-in period and tend to cost less, but aren’t as durable over the long run.

Factor in the weather conditions:

Will you be hiking in icy-cold, wet, hot, dry or humid conditions? The weather and other environmental factors will determine if you need a breathable mesh shoe or a waterproof boot.

If you are hiking in and out of water, you’ll need to weigh up whether it’s more important to have a quick-drying shoe or a water-resistant boot.

For a truly waterproof boot, you will need a boot with breathable and waterproof liner, such as Gore-Tex or ngx®. Taking proper care of your Gore-Tex footwear will prolong its life and performance. A waterproof liner will also add warmth. (There’s still a large hole at the top of your boot where your foot goes in, so water may still trickle into if you’re wading through rivers.)

So, remember the two golden rules: the right fit, and footwear made for your intended purpose. Get these right and your hiking boots will take you on many adventures for the years to come.