Choosing hiking boots is part personal taste, part use, and part sizing. With this little guide I hope to offer a little advice on how to choose hiking boots, from someone who has been wearing them on and off for decades.
How to choose hiking boots
There are lots of things to think about when considering how to choose hiking boots. These are the basics:
- Type of Boot
- Material used
- Season rating
How to choose hiking boots in detail
Seems simple, right? But it is, actually, a little complex when you dive deeper in, so below is a breakdown of these factors.
Much of your decision will come down to the use you will be putting the boot through. A simple walk around the local streets will probably require a different boot to one you plan on hiking in the mountains with. Although you may find that it suits you to wear the same shoe or boot for all walking (I do).
My real advice would be to visit a decent, reputable, outdoors shop, and discuss the requirements with them, they’ll know which boots are right for which activities and be able to measure your feet thoroughly. After all it isn’t just length that matters in a hiking boot, width, stiffness, and believe it or not volume, also matter.
The below is a guide, not gospel.
Type of Boot
When it comes to how to choose a hiking boot possibly the most important step is to decide what use the boot will be put to. Lowland hiking, dog walking, gentle rambles will warrant a softer shoe. If you plan on scrambling mountains, or rocky passes then you will require a stiffer boot to offer more support to your feet and ankles. If you plan on fell running, then you aren’t going to want a heavy boot, but a light weight shoe.
A good shop will be able to guide you to which boot suits which need. Different manufacturers will make lots of types of shoe, so there will be one that fits your need.
High Cut Mid Cut or Low Cut
A High cut boot will offer much more support, but less flexibility. A Mid Cut boot will offer support but also flexibility. A Low cut boot is a shoe! These offer no real ankle support but are very flexible, and light weight.
Do you want a light weight boot? Are you after something warm and waterproof? Will you be trail running or just walking? As with the boot type, the material you choose will likely differ depending on activity, time of year etc.
A light weight shoe will be made of fabric, possibly Gore-tex or some such water proof, breathable fabric. And these can be great shoes, personally I prefer a heavier leather boot, I find them easier to clean, and they stay waterproof better. The downside of a leather boot is breathability is much reduced.
|Weather proof||Cost more||Breathable||Need regular waterproofing|
|Easy to clean||Heavier||Light weight||Tougher to clean|
|Tougher against abrasions||Less breathable||Lower cost||Not so tough|
|Long lasting||Takes longer to break in||Quick to break in||Not so good against elements|
The material used in the sole will also be a factor, as mentioned above the use will dictate the stiffness, which will in turn affect the material used.
Believe it or not some boots come with different season ratings. Like sleeping bags, these ratings are a guide to how well they are suited to different times of year. It isn’t something I have personally come across much, but seems to be an indication rather than a hard and fast rule.
Fitting of a walking boot is important, in fact it is so important that I am writing another post purely on that element of choosing a walking boot. I’ll link to it here once it is up. But my best advice here is to go to a decent, reputable, outdoors retailer, and talk with them. It is best to do this later in the day, as your feet will be more swollen, and wearing the socks you are planning on wearing to walk.
Believe it or not, how you lace up your boots will affect how they fit. Rather than go into much more detail here, you can read about the different lacing techniques at: Backpacking.com
Using different lacing patterns can greatly help your feet feel better.
Although not technically the boots socks are important too. There are so many different types or combinations of walking sock that what you wear will affect how tight, or loose, your boots are. Thick winter socks, double layered “blister” socks, even 2 pairs of socks will all bulk out the foot area. This is why you should always try boots on with the socks you plan to wear.
I hope this post will go some way to show how to choose a hiking boot. But if in doubt a decent retailer (preferably one with experienced staff) should be able to hep you out.
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