For a hiker, the importance of a pair of durable, comfortable and well-fitted hiking boots cannot be overemphasized. Since this is one of the most critical gear selections for your outdoor adventures, you should spend a little extra effort when shopping them. If you don’t know how to choose the best hiking shoes or boots for yourself, keeping the following hiking footwear guidelines in mind can be a good start.
First of all, you should have the clear understanding to your hiking ambitions. Currently, the hiking boots in the market can be broadly classified into hiking, trekking, and mountaineering types. Although the classification standards may vary in different manufacturers, in general the order should be Climbing, Mountaineering, Backpacking, Trekking, and Hiking according to the professional. That’s to say, the hiking one is an ideal option for a day hike or at your leisure; the trekking one is more sturdy and suitable for multi-day hiking under different terrains and conditions; the mountaineering one is preferred for mountaineering enthusiasts because it is tough, supportive and durable.
When it comes to outsoles, in general the one made from hard rubber can be a good choice because it means a better load-carrying capacity and improved grip in loose ground. Instead, the flexible rubber midsole is better since it is able to withstand high pressure. Besides, deeper, thicker lugs mean a lot in improving grip while widely, spaced ones in good traction and easy shedding of mud. So, it is a good idea to choose one based on your needs.
Make sure to choose the boots with good ankle support. Some of you may prefer the low-cut hiking shoes since it reduces weight while adding comfort. What should be really clear, though, is that lack of ankle support may sometimes put your at risk, especially when you are moving on to more difficult terrain.
Waterproofness and breathability are another two important factors you should take into account because the former keeps your feet warm and dry while the latter allows boots to dissipate sweat rapidly. Currently, leather and nylon are the two most common materials of the uppers. Each has its own merits. Leather is waterproof and easy to clean while nylon is breathable. Given that nylon uppers are less water-resilient, a leather layer is often added inside to make up for this defect. So make sure the details when shopping.
It is worth mentioning that the most common hiking boots are made of leather. This is why they are heavier than other types of shoes. They are durable, waterproof, and sturdy enough for multi-day hiking under varied terrain and snow conditions. Because they are less breathable, they make your feet feel very warm. If you are going to camp or hike and carry heavier loads, apparently this is the best choice. In comparison, the boots made of lightweight synthetic materials make more sense for one day and overnight hiking since they are more breathable, comfortable and less rigid.
When shopping another important thing to remember is that you should test for comfort and fit before paying for them. Tight shoes can cause blisters and negatively impact the leg muscles, ligaments, cartilage and bone. So you should choose the pair that are half or a size bigger than the ones you are wearing. After that, insert insoles, tie up your bootlace, feel front of boot with toe, and see if you can put a finger into the gap in the heel. If yes, congratulations and you have found the right size.
Just like any shoes, most hiking boots take some time to become comfortable. Before that they are stiff or sometimes can even cause blisters, chafing, or heel pain. The time needed mainly depends on the frequency of wearing. In general, the adaptation period can sometimes last for days or weeks. So it is a big no no to wear new shoes during a long-distance hiking because it may cause unnecessary trouble or even force you to give up your outdoor adventures earlier than you’ve planned it.
By the way, a pair of high quality cotton socks are equally important since they can be a good partner to hiking boots. Compared to nylon socks or stockings, cotton socks do a better job on serving as a sponge to wick moisture away from your feet and preventing chafing. Otherwise, your shoes will become hotbeds for bacteria very soon.