Choosing the best hiking boots is essential for your hiking experience. You want to stay comfortable, safe and dry while you are exploring new trails and spending time in the wilderness. In order to find the most appropriate hiking boots, you must first consider when and where you are planning to hike, the terrain, the weather, the distance as well as the weight of your backpack. Also, getting a proper fit and the break in time are other key factors to keep in mind when shopping for hiking boots.
First of all, choose between the various types of hiking boots available, including: trail shoes, light or backpacking hiking boots or heavy duty boots for mountaineering.
Hiking shoes are the lightest options. They have good traction and provide moderate support and cushioning. Suitable for shorter trails, good weather, a mild terrain with slight elevation, these shoes can be worn as casual wear as well.
The light hiking boots are also pretty lightweight but provide more support than the trail shoes. They are suitable for good terrains and moderate elevation. Great for good weather, these boots can dry quickly and are breathable. No break in time is needed for the light hiking boots.
Backpacking boots or hiking boots are heavier and more durable. They are usually made of waterproof full grain leather, and provide reliable support on rougher terrains and when carrying heavy backpacks. They are good for snow and bad weather as well as for rougher terrains. Durable and cushioned, these boots have good traction and will keep your feet dry and warm.
Last but not least, mountaineering boots are the most durable, heavy duty option of them all. They provide maximum ankle protection. Their thick and stiff soles are superb for very difficult terrains and for big elevations and climbing. Waterproof and insulated, they are an excellent option if you are planning on doing winter hiking. They are heavy and stiff and are not the best choice for day hikes in normal conditions and terrains.
Offering maximum support and foot protection, mountaineering boots are extremely durable and provide the best ankle protection. These boots have thick, stiff soles designed for difficult mountain topography and significant elevation gain. Most boots in this category are waterproof, and some include insulation to protect feet in cold, windy and wet conditions. If you don’t know what to look for in the top winter boots, check this article by My Bootprint. Many mountaineering boots are compatible with crampons, which makes them suitable for traversing ice and snowpack. Although these boots are excellent for mountaineering, they are probably overkill for most day hikes.
The soles of your hiking boots are also very important. First of all, look at the construction of the hiking boot – are the soles stitched or are they cemented to the upper and the midsole. The boots which have a Goodyear welt construction have the strongest and most durable construction and can be resoled. The cement construction wears quicker but is a cheaper option. The outsole must provide sufficient traction and be made of a durable material. Real gum rubber soles are an excellent choice due to the fact that they are durable, provide superb traction and are semitransparent, brown or white.
With all types of hiking footwear, durability and foot protection is always a high priority. Remember, hiking shoes are not travel shoes. For this reason, hiking footwear is crafted of more rugged materials than casual shoes. The tougher the construction, the more break-in time will be required.
Another factor to consider when buying hiking boots is the material of the upper. You can choose between full grain leather, split grain leather, nylon and suede. The fist type, the full grain leather boots are the most durable and weather resistant of them all. They are also usually the most expensive ones. They do need break in time, so you must make sure they are properly broken in before wearing them when going hiking.
The other three types of materials are lighter and moderately durable. They are often paired with mesh materials to provide breathability. They are great for casual hiking. They usually require little or no break in time.
You will need to choose the height of your hiking boots too. Taller hiking boots provide more support and are more suitable for rougher terrains and heavy backpacks. Hiking shoes and mid cut boots are more suitable for shorter trails and easy to moderate terrain. The high cut boots provide superior support and cover the ankles. They need the longest break in time, but are the best choice for difficult and steep trails.
One last thing: boots are rarely comfortable right out of the box. Don’t forget to break in your new boots to avoid the pain and discomfort.
So, already you should have a pretty good idea what to look for in a good hiking boot. Now get your new boots on and happy hiking!