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GUIDE TO HIKING BOOTS

Hiking Boot Buyers Guide

 
 
Nothing can ruin your adventuring faster than a pair of ill fitting hiking books, from blisters to bruising, new shoes can be hell for your feet, which is why finding the right pair of hiking boots is so important. The first thing to figure out is whether you need a simple hiking shoe for the trail, a hiking boot for longer more intense hikes, a backpacking boot or something more specialized.
 
 

 

Styles & Activities

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Hiking Boots

Made for longer hikes over rougher terrain, hiking boots are a good middle ground between the classic hiking shoe and the super technical backpacking or mountaineering boots. Hiking boots offer better support for carrying gear, with loads of flex for an easier break-in time. If you aren’t used to hiking, or have a tendency to roll your ankles, hiking boots might be a better option for you than hiking shoes. The extra support offered by hiking boots can help ease fatigue in muscles unused to hiking, and help to keep your knees and ankles from hurting
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Hiking Shoes

Hiking shoes are made specifically with shorter, well-defined trails in mind. These shoes weigh less, have a lower profile and are more flexible than hiking boots, but don’t have as much support as their burlier brothers. If you’re a casual hiker or you don’t plan on being gone for long periods of time, these classic shoes are the way to go.
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Backpacking Boots

If you’re planning a longer, multi-day trek with a heavier load, backpacking boots are the way to go. These incredibly tough shoes are made to handle all sorts of weather and terrains. Backpacking boots have a taller profile and are made out of stiffer materials than other hiking boots, to give you better support and durability. These boots often have thick, aggressive outsole to help you tackle a wide variety of terrains and are usually crampon or snowshoe compatible.

The downside to choosing a pair of backpacking boots over hiking boots is that backpacking boots are harder to break-in and are quite a bit heavier than hiking boots or shoes. I would strongly suggest taking the time to break-in your backpacking boots before you hit the trail; otherwise your feet are bound to come out of your new shoes blistered and bruised.
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Mountaineering Boots

Mountaineering Boots are the monsters of the shoe world. These boots were built to handle extreme terrain and weather with ease. They have a taller, stiffer design that offers better protection and crampon compatibility. Mountaineering boots are way more boot than most people need, so unless you’re going ice climbing or trekking over ice and snow for long periods, I’d give these boots a pass.
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Uppers

The material used in the upper part of your hiking boots play a big role in the durability, comfort and weather resistance of your shoes. Full-grain or Nubuck leather constructions are the most popular. Leather is naturally water resistant, abrasion resistant and incredibly durable, but can be a little bit harder to break-in than synthetic materials.

Synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and “synthetic leather” are also commonly used in boot construction. These materials aren’t nearly as durable as leather, but they’re lighter and easier to break-in.
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Midsoles

The midsole is all about keeping your feet comfortable and protected. Midsoles help to absorb shock and help to determine how stiff your shoe is. Most shoes have either an EVA or a Polyurethane midsole. EVA midsoles are light weight, less expensive and offer better support for a variety of hikes. Polyurethane midsoles are more durable and tend to be stiffer, which makes them ideal for more intense backpacking or mountaineering boots.

 

Features

 
 
There are a lot of other odds and ends to keep an eye out for when you’re trying to find the perfect hiking boot. If you plan on doing a lot of hiking in wet or rainy places, a waterproof boot is worth keeping an eye out for. The most common brands of waterproof membranes that you’ll see come from GORE-TEX® or eVent®, and while these laminates are breathable, a non-waterproof shoe is always going to have better breathability.

If you plan on trekking through the snow and ice, you might want to consider getting a hiking boot that is crampon compatible. Adding crampons to your boots helps keep your safe and stable in icy conditions.
 
 

 

Fit

 
 
It’s incredibly hard to get a perfect fit right out of the box, especially if you’re trying on some of the more technical boots, and the best way to figure out your size is by talking to your local shops boot expert. But if going to a shop isn’t an option, I’ll walk you through all the things that you need to look for to get the right fit for you.

Your feet are naturally a little swollen at the day’s end, so that’s the best time to try on boots. The first thing that you want to feel for are any seams or bumps that might start rubbing on your feet, this is the first place that blisters will show up, so you want to avoid this. Overall your new boots should fit snug everywhere, without being tight, while still giving your toes a little wiggle room to maneuver. Another thing to remember when trying on shoes is to wear the socks that you plan on hiking in. Your boots will fit differently with regular dress socks than they will with thick hiking socks, if you need to wear orthotics, bring those with you as well.
 

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