Choosing the Best Hiking Shoes
Hiking and trekking are very popular outdoor activities, letting people out of their homes and offices, providing them with some fresh air, some sunshine (vitamin D anyone?), but also helping people burn plenty of calories.
Finding the ideal hiking/trekking shoes and boots can sometimes be complicated. Here is the list of the most important details to look for when choosing the best hiking shoes that best suit your style and activity, depending also on the different types of terrain and weather conditions.
Different people require different shoes, so when choosing the best ones for You, consider your own needs and requirements.
Updated: July 29, 2021.
Types of Hiking/Trekking Shoes and Boots
Let's start by reviewing a little bit of the main differences between the various types of hiking shoes.
Here we can also include the trail running shoes, which do not have a high neck or collar, featuring great flexibility in the ankles. For this reason, this type of footwear is recommended for flat walks, and for those with ultra-light equipment, like lightweight backpacks, bottle of water and similar.
Like the mid-mountain shoes, these already have a cane that protects the ankle better. Also, some of them can be medium size or also with a slightly higher cut.
Here we can include variants such as light trekking boots, or boots for hikers, although the latter offers a better grip on the ankle, and are more suitable for difficult terrain, as their design reduces the risk of injury.
There are also models with a higher neck. They are more rigid, and although this makes them less comfortable for very long journeys, they are useful on difficult or very rocky terrain.
High mountain boots
Here we find the footwear with the highest cane, they are designed to be safer in areas with very steep slopes, as they offer a better grip to avoid injuries. The soles tend to be more rigid, thanks to the very materials the boots are constructed.
It will be the right footwear for walking in the snow, for use with snowshoes or crampons. Within this category we will include the mountaineering boots, more rigid, and oriented to icy terrains and colder conditions.
How to Pick the Hiking Boots
Here are some recommendations on how to actually pick the right boots:
Of course, size is the first essential factor to take into account, although because there may be slight variations depending on the brand and place of manufacture. Also, remember the toe rule; if you try on your boots without tying them and push your foot as far as possible, you should have room to insert a toe in the heel area, which is the recommended space.
How to try them on
Remember that it is best to try them on in the afternoon, when your feet may be more dilated, and it will also be better if you try them on with the same type of socks that you normally use for your excursions.
Buying hiking boots online is also a good option, as they usually have a return policy that allows you to change them if they do not fit properly.
It is important that when you go up or down you do not feel loose - your foot must feel comfortable, without the empty space around it. If the boots are tied and your foot moves inside, with some space left in front or behind the heel, you are more likely to suffer blisters or some kind of similar injury.
Adapting the boots
It is also important to make sufficient use of the boots before making a first serious trip, as this way you run fewer risks than if you decide to start using them on a trekking trip. It is not a question of using them once, but of giving them some time to adapt so that they become flexible and adjust to your feet, so that you can make sure they are comfortable for a long journey.
Hiking Boot Components
We also recommend that you consider some of the following features:
Boot body material
Depending on the type of material, conditions such as durability, ventilation and comfort may vary significantly.
- Full-grain leather: This is usually the most expensive type of leather, as it represents the outer part, which is where you need the best quality. For this reason this type of hiking boots are quite durable and water-resistant, so they are usually the main choice for trekking boots.
- Split-grain leather: This type represents the lower part of the cowhide, which is rougher and separates from the smooth part of the exterior. Due to its characteristics, it is usually combined with a nylon layer, which favors a lighter style with good breathability, making it suitable for hot conditions. Although it is usually more vulnerable and less resistant to water.
- Nubuck leather: This is actually also a type of full-grain leather, but it has gone through a polishing process, leaving a similar effect to chamois leather. It resists water, abrasion and is usually very durable. Its adaptation time is longer, so you should use it on a daily basis, before a long hiking adventure.
- Synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon and "synthetic leather" are included in this category, they are cheaper and dry quickly. They are also flexible but last less on average.
- With insulation: For very cold or high mountain routes, boots with thermal insulation are highly recommended.
- Waterproof membranes: Hiking footwear with this type of protection will better avoid the entry of humidity, although they are not very comfortable in hot conditions, due to their limited breathability. There are membranes like Gore-tex that offer, in addition to that necessary waterproofing, ranges of adequate breathability.
- Vegan: There are also hiking boots made with materials, usually synthetic materials with or without plant fibers that are obviously not of animal origin.
The midsole largely determines the stiffness of the hiking shoe, the following being the main types:
- Etilvinylacetate: Also known as EVA, they have the quality that they can have different types of density, for example with more hardness in the forefoot. They are more economical and flexible, and therefore suitable for long and not very complicated routes.
- Polyurethane: These mid-soles are more rigid, and therefore protect more comfortably on cobbled ground or for long walks, providing firmness and stability.
There are at least a couple of factors to consider here:
- Texture: Depending on the bump pattern and design of the sole, the type of traction also changes. Boots with deeper and more pronounced "footprints" allow for better grip, ideal for mountain climbing. On the other hand, those with wide spaces offer better traction on flat ground, as well as greater capacity to avoid the accumulation of mud.
- Heel brake: Those trekking boots with a very marked heel are more recommended for mountain expeditions, as they reduce the risk of slipping on steep slopes.
Compatibility with crampons
If you are one of those who like trekking in the high mountains, checking that your boots are compatible with crampons will also be a good option to ensure greater grip, because although many tend to adapt to all types of footwear, those with this special adaptation are more resistant and reliable for this type of high altitude expedition.
There are crampon boots and semi crampon boots, depending on whether they have slots to attach the crampons to the heel and toe respectively or only to the heel. Check what type of crampons you have, for what type of boot. Bear in mind that a cramponable boot is a very rigid boot designed for mountaineering and that it will in no way be used for long hiking routes.
Long Story Short: If You like trekking and hiking and especially if you like going into the mountains for long hours and even days, then You are very aware of the importance of having proper footwear.
Depending on the conditions and the length of hiking trips, it is no uncommon for people to carry few pairs of shoes and boots (and socks!) and to change them according to the path/trail ahead of them.
Regardless of your preferred hiking/trekking shoes/boots choice, whatever you do, stay safe.