How to choose the best hiking boots for your next adventure
If you're heading off on a hiking adventure, getting the right boots or shoes should be on the top of your to-do list. When you're spending most of the day on your feet, having the right shoes can be the difference between having a great time, and wishing you were somewhere else entirely.
Hiking boots not only provide traction to help ensure you maintain a solid foot hold on the ground beneath you, but they also protect you from sharp rocks, tree roots and other potentially hazardous objects you're bound to come into contact with. They're purpose made to support your feet on long days on the trail while also allowing your feet to move freely.
Will trail runners work as hiking shoes?
For some people, trail runners can be a perfectly good alternative to dedicated hiking shoes. They're lightweight, provide all the traction you need and come in a wide range of styles. However, they don't usually offer as much protection from the elements and won't provide ankle support. Whether trail runners are a good option for you will come down to a few key variables.
Are you an experienced hiker?
If you're new to hiking, it's likely you'll benefit from the added support and stability offered by hiking boots or shoes. Hiking on uneven terrain with a pack can take some getting used to, so it's a good idea to use all the support you can get.
Where will you use them?
If you're planning light walks through well maintained trails, then trail runners may well be a great option for you. However, because trail runners are light weight, they often won't stand up to the same degree of punishment or offer as much protection from tree roots and rocks as a sturdy pair of hiking boots will. Likewise, they won't keep your feet as warm as boots — so if you're planning cold weather hikes, hiking shoes or boots are likely a better option.
How fast will you be going?
Trail runners are built for going at higher speeds. Their soles are designed to grip slippery surfaces when the wearer is moving fast but can actually be less effective than hiking shoes when you're moving at slower paces. So for fast-packers and even brisk day hikers, trail runners can be a great option. But for multi-day hikers or those who like to take in the scenery, hiking shoes will probably be perform better.
Hiking shoes vs hiking boots
The most obvious difference between hiking shoes and boots is the cut around the ankle. Hiking shoes are low cut, making them lighter, more versatile, and great for easy day hikes and general travel. They often also have a more flexible sole than boots. Hiking shoes usually vary from light weight synthetic or mesh uppers to sturdier (though heavier) leather options.
Mid-cut hiking boots
A step up from hiking shoes, mid-cut hiking boots are cut higher around the ankle than hiking shoes with just enough height to cover your ankle bone. This provides better ankle support than a shoe (an important consideration if you plan on carrying weight) but still offers greater flexibility and freedom of movement than a high-cut trekking boot. Likewise, the soles of mid-cut hiking boots usually sit somewhere between hiking shoes and trekking boots in terms of flexibility.
Mid-cut hiking boots are a great option for a wide range of activities including day hikes, 2-3 day hikes (provided you're not carrying too much weight) and also work well for general travel, especially in colder climates.
High-cut trekking boots
Unsurprisingly, high-cut trekking boots are heavier, more rigid and higher around the ankles. This type of footwear is best suited to serious adventuring like multi-day treks over rough terrain. They offer a high level of ankle support for carrying a heavy hike pack over rough, uneven terrain. The sole has limited flexibility as this offers more support for your foot over rugged ground.
High-cut hiking boots are usually heavier than other kinds of hiking boots and shoes so can weigh you down unnecessarily on shorter, lighter hikes. They're also usually less breathable so can cause your feet to heat up when hiking in warmer weather. While they're indispensable for hardcore treks, if you don't need maximum support and durability, the added weight and lack of flexibility can actually be more of a hinderance than a help, so these should be reserved for longer multi-day hikes and when carrying a heavier pack.
Another important factor when choosing hiking boots or shoes is what material they're constructed from. Modern hiking boots are made from a range of materials, and all have their pros and cons. Let's take a look at how to choose the right material for your needs.
Leather offers great durability, resistance to wear and solid protection for your foot. However, leather is a relatively heavy material so is most commonly used in high-cut hiking boots or heavier mid-cut boots where support and durability are most important. Leather boots will often take longer to wear in than other materials.
Synthetics are becoming increasingly popular in hiking boot construction because they're relatively light weight, fast drying and easier to break in. However, they will often wear out faster than leather boots and won't offer the same level of protection to your feet.
Many hiking boots and shoes are made with a combination of leather and synthetic materials. In many cases, these shoes offer the best of both worlds and they provide protection where it's needed but are still relatively light weight and breathable.
Hiking shoes and boots often come with a waterproof membrane made from materials such as Gore-Tex. These are excellent if you're hiking in wet conditions in cooler climates, however a waterproof membrane will often reduce breathability in the shoe and may cause sweating in warmer weather.
If you're hiking in hot climates, highly breathable shoes or boots and quick drying socks can often be preferable to waterproof shoes &mdash
Whatever kind of hiking shoes or boots you decide on, it's imperative they fit you well. A properly fitting pair of boots will lock your heels in place so they don't slip up and down, creating blisters as you walk. They'll also provide a decent amount of toe room so you can wiggle them freely and not bump the front of the shoe, even when going downhill.
It's also worth remembering that your feet can swell up after a few hours on the trail so be sure to factor this in when you're sizing your shoes, it's always good to have some extra room, provided your feet are locked in place and not slipping around.
Wearing them in
While leather boots and shoes will often take longer to break in than synthetic varieties, whatever shoes you have, it's super important to wear them in before setting off on an expedition. There's nothing worse than getting half a day into a multi-day trek to find your feet covered with blisters!
Once you've got your hiking boots sorted, there are a range of other hiking accessories that can help provide a great experience of on the trails. Walking poles, gaiters and hydration packs are all worth considering if you're planning a hiking adventure. Check out our Hiking Essentials Buying Guide for all the info you need.
Hiking is a great way to get fit and active while experiencing the great outdoors and once you've chosen the right hiking shoes or boots for you, you'll know your feet have all the support and protection they need to take you wherever you want to go. If you'd like more help choosing hiking footwear, take a look at our Hiking Footwear Buying Guide, or drop into an Anaconda store and chat to a friendly team member.