How to find the right hiking boots?

What’s the big deal about hiking boots? Aside from the fact that they’re expensive, that is. But do you really need to buy such an expensive item when you’re only starting out?
The answer is “Yes.

Although hiking doesn’t necessarily require a great deal of equipment one item that is crucial to your enjoyment is a good pair of hiking boots. A good pair of hiking boots will give you comfortable support and provide the traction that you need for even the trickiest of surfaces. A bad pair of boots however can make a day’s hiking sheer misery.

Hiking over any distance puts a great deal of stress on your feet and ankles, which is transmitted upward to the legs and affects your back and indeed your whole body. Although most people think in terms of bad boots giving you blisters, the real problem is not the possibility of blisters but a lack of good solid support.

A good pair of boots will provide both the stiffness and springiness that your foot and ankle need. You need to be able to press off the ground, whatever the surface, with confidence and know that your boots will support you. Without this support, sore feet and ankles, or even twisted ankles, are virtually guaranteed.

Many boots today are made from a variety of specialized materials but, perhaps surprisingly, leather is still a large component of really good hiking boots. It’s no accident that leather has been used for many years in the manufacture of shoes and boots and is still used today because it is tough, water-resistant (when treated), has good stiffness and excellent moisture and thermal properties.

When we talk about comfort it’s easy to substitute the word luxury these days but, when it comes to hiking boots, comfort is a necessity rather than a luxury. You need to be able to walk long distances without producing blisters or chafing and you need to be able to wear your boots for long periods of time without moisture building-up or excessive heat or cold becoming a problem.

Buy a pair of hiking boots that feel right for your feet and that doesn’t simply mean buying boots that are the right size. Get boots that feels good the minute you put them on and don’t be fooled by the old adage that ‘they’re bound to feel a little uncomfortable until you break them in’. Boots will of course wear in, but if they don’t feel right when you buy them then they will rarely feel right later on.


We have put together a list of all the things you should look out for when buying hiking boots so that you can enjoy them for a long time:

That “Solid” Feeling

    • This is what hiking boots are all about. The good ones have that “solid” feeling on the bottom, which means that you should not be able to feel rocks or stones through the soles.
    • What if you can? Well, then sooner or later after many miles on the trail, there is a very good likelihood that your feet are going to start hurting.
      That’s not great, especially if you still have a couple of miles to go before breaking camp.
    • When buying a pair of hiking boots, test its solidity. Try pressing the sole of your thumb in the bottom.
      If it feels soft, then those boots cannot give your feet the protection they need.
    • You can also try twisting the soles of the boot. If you can, then it’s also probably too soft for hiking.
    • Always remember that trails are not like the pavement in front of your home. They are most certainly rocky and if you are not wearing a good pair of hiking boots, they can also be a huge pain.

Side Protection

    • The bottom part of your hiking boots is not the only thing important. Good boots are also expected to provide you with protection on the sides.
    • In fact, the reason they are called “heavy” hiking boots is that they have extra padding to protect your foot from stones, rocks, and branches you may step on which could gouge into the side of the boot.
    • If you’ve chosen to pick fabric boots, be sure to get those with protective “welts.” They’re found about ½-inch or more up from the soles to give added protection.

Ankle Support

    • Achilles obviously didn’t know the first thing about boots, so he had nothing to protect himself when Paris hit him with an arrow on the ankle.
      Don’t follow in Achilles’ footsteps. Pick good hiking boots with good ankle support.

Here’s how to pick them:

    • Grab the top of the boot.
    • Try to bend it sideways.
    • If it bends easily, it’s probably not going to provide the level of protection needed on the trail.
    • The top of the boot should be stiff enough to hold the ankle in place. That’s how you determine a pair of hiking boots with good support.

5. Don’t Let the Water In

    • Wet feet cause blisters. Blisters are painful. Blisters are evil.
    • Avoid blisters at all costs.
    • Get hiking boots that are waterproof.
    • If you found hiking boots that aren’t waterproof, at least make sure that they are capable of being waterproofed.
    • Fabric boots may be waterproofed with special waterproofing solutions, such as liquid silicone.
      However, these solutions generally do not waterproof enough to make the boots useful.

Bear in mind too that hiking boots are not shoes. They should feel stiff and have little give on the outer sole and around the ankle if they are to do the job that they’re designed to do.

You’ll be scrambling over wet rocks, slippery gravel, flaking hills and muddy trails and, while no boot can cope perfectly with every eventuality, a good pair of hiking boots will come pretty close.

Modern well-designed hiking boots will utilize various materials and geometries to minimize slippage on wet rocks and maximize sticking power on flaking hill grades and Vibram lugs with some kind of tread should be a minimum requirement. These look a little bit like car tires, but with a little more plastic and a little less rubber.

There are of course other things that you should look out for, such as gusseted tongues that keep out stones and grit, but the major features covered here will provide you with an excellent starting point. The really serious hiker will probably possess several pairs of boots to cope with different forms of hiking but for the novice one good sound pair of boots will do for starters and, if you buy wisely, they should last you for many years.

Your hiking boots, in fact, is the most important item in your whole hiking gear. In hiking, you’ll be using your feet more often than any other part of your body, so all the more reason for you provide them with ample protection. Hiking boots that are built sturdy can protect your feet from rough trails.

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