How to choose footwear for hiking?
Hitting the nature trails is a great way to unwind, get some fresh air, and admire Australia's beauty. Whether you're walking for a day or a week, wearing the right footwear will make all the difference - saving you from sore feet and painful blisters. Choosing the right hiking shoes is about more than just shoe size, so we've outlined the key decision-making factors to help you pick your perfect pair.
- They give your feet more traction on dirt and mud trails so you're less likely to slip.
- Hiking shoes with strong support protect feet from the pain of walking on rocks and roots.
- Hiking boots can support the weight of a full backpack so some of the pressure is off you.
- High-cut hiking boots give your ankle more support and stability on uneven ground.
- With the right hiking shoes you can walk comfortably and happily for hours or days.
While you can you use trail running shoes for hiking, these won't give your feet the support they need if you're hiking long distances, trekking on rocky terrain, or carrying a heavy pack. Only highly experienced trekkers who like to hike ultra-light will choose trail running shoes over hiking shoes.
There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. The best hiking shoes for you depends on:
- How long you'll be hiking for (hours, days, a week or for a few weeks?)
- The ground conditions you'll face (will the trail be smooth or rugged?)
- How much you'll be carrying (a light day pack or big, heavy backpack?)
- How long you want them to last (for a few hikes or many years to come?)
Working out which shoes or boots to buy is easier when you break it down into these five steps:
There are a few different types of hiking shoes.
Short-Ankle Hiking Shoes
- Are the lightest and therefore add the least weight to your carrying load.
- Have a flexible mid-sole so bend slightly when you put your weight forward onto your toes.
- Give you the greatest range of movement in your ankle area (but less ankle support).
- Are best for short, same-day hikes on well-maintained trails.
- Don't give you enough stability for long hikes and uneven terrain.
Mid-Cut Hiking Boots
- Can have low-rise tops for ankle agility, or mid-rise tops for ankle stability.
- Last longer than short ankle boots, but need to be broken in at home before hiking.
- Are best for 2-3 day hikes with a light backpack.
High-Cut Backpacking Boots
- Are cut high above ankle for extra support, and are the stiffest, most stable, durable shoe.
- Allow you to carry a heavier load without putting as much strain on knees, ankles and feet.
- Give you the most ankle support, so you're less likely to roll ankles (use walking poles too).
- Boots with a higher ankle also make it harder for stones and sticks to get into your shoes.
- Are best for multi-day hikes, and for carrying a big, heavy backpack while hiking.
The materials your hiking shoes are made from determine:
- How heavy and comfortable they'll be when you're wearing them.
- How well the shoes will handle ground conditions like mud, rocks and tree roots.
- Whether the shoes are waterproof and will allow your feet to breathe.
- How durable and long-lasting your hiking shoes will be.
The three key components of a shoe are the:
- Upper - the top part of the shoe that wraps around the top of your foot.
- Mid-sole - the sole that sits inside your shoes and your foot sits on top of.
- Outer sole - the sole on the outside of your shoes that connects with the ground.
Determines how waterproof, breathable, heavy and long-lasting the shoes will be.
Uppers can be:
- Full grain - which is the most durable and suited to difficult conditions (but heaviest).
- Nubuck - full-grain leather that's buffed to resemble soft suede, durable for tough conditions, and water resistant (but takes some time to break in).
- Split grain - leather that's been split in two, and the smooth exterior is used to make boots lighter and more breathable for hot weather (but less waterproof and durable).
- Polyester or nylon - break in and dry fast, and also light, but not as long-lasting.
- Vegan - you can get vegan uppers so you know no animals were used to make them.
- Mesh - lets feet breathe to help you stay cool in hot weather (but not waterproof).
- With a waterproof membrane - keeps feet dry but it's not as breathable as mesh so feet can get sweaty in hot weather.
- Insulated - to keep feet warm in extremely cold conditions. Synthetic insultation dries fast if it gets wet.
Some uppers also have toe guards to protect your toes from rocks and boulders.
Gives your feet cushioning and stiffness for comfort and stability. The thicker the midsole the more supported your feet are.
- Be shock absorbent - with cushioning to absorb the shock when you step or jump.
- Be made from:
- Polyurethane - it's long-lasting and better suited to longer hikes (but heavier).
- EVA - it's lighter and better for shorter hikes (and also feels more cushioned).
- Have shanks - between the mid sole and outer sole which supports heavier loads.
- Have plates - underneath the shanks to protect the bottom of your feet from rocks.
- Be breathable - circulating air so foot moisture doesn't cause bacteria and odours.
- Be insulated - insoles with insulation are warmer because the insulation traps heat.
Gives your feet grip and stability on the ground as well as comfort. The stiffer the outer sole the more comfortable feet will be, because they don't have to wrap around branches and rocks.
Outer soles can:
- Be made from:
- Rubber - most outer soles are made from rubber which gives you the best grip.
- Rubber carbon - some have carbon added to the rubber which makes them harder and last longer than rubber (but the grip isn't as good).
- Have a heel break - a gap between the heel and arch for stability on steep/muddy ground.
- Have lugs (the bumps on the bottom that give you traction) that are:
- Spaced far apart which gives you better grip and it's easier to clear out the mud.
- Thick and deep-set for better traction as they disperse water more efficiently.
The size of your hiking shoes need to suit your foot:
- Make sure you can wiggle your toes with ease on both feet.
- Most people have one foot bigger than the other, so fit to your bigger foot.
- You don't want either of your feet to feel squashed in from the sides.
- When you walk, your feet shouldn't slide around inside the shoes.
- The whole of your foot needs to fit the space inside the shoes snugly and feel secure.
- If foot and shoe volume don't match you can end up with blisters and black toenails.
Hiking shoes fit properly when:
- Your feet feel snug and supported and don't move around inside the shoes.
- You can move your toes around but not fit a finger under the laces when they're done up.
- The laces aren't tied up too tight (as this cause bruising on the top of your feet).
- You can slide one finger behind your heel (with the laces done up).
- You don't feel any pressure or sharpness (if you do they're too small).
- Your toes don't jam up at the front when you walk downhill-test to make sure.
Trying on Shoes Tips
Try on different hiking shoe sizes and fits in your nearest Anaconda store, and remember:
- Feet swell during day so go shoe shopping late in the day when feet are at their largest.
- What you wear with hiking shoes affects the fit and comfort, so always try them on with:
- Any orthotics, cushions or ankle-straps you need to wear.
- The socks you plan to wear when you go hiking.
For maximum foot comfort when you go hiking:
The socks you wear with hiking shoes will keep your feet warm, dry and comfortable if they:
- Fit you properly - loose socks can cause blisters.
- Wick sweat away from your skin - moist socks can cause blisters.
- Have padding - padding in the right places helps prevent blisters (but more padding means thicker socks and warmer feet, so keep the weather in mind when choosing socks).
- Are always clean and dry - only clean, dry socks every day will wick sweat away.
- Are thin and smooth - thick socks can cause sweating, rubbing and blisters.
- Are the right height - higher than the tops of shoes to prevent legs rubbing against shoes.
Hiking socks can be made from:
- Merino wool - most hiking socks are made from merino wool because it's breathable, soft, warm, dry (because it wicks moisture away from feet), and antibacterial so won't smell.
- Polyester or nylon - these synthetic socks dry fast if they get wet but aren't as breathable so feet can get sweaty and a bit smelly over long distances or in hot weather.
Some hikers like to wear sock liners:
- Either inside their socks or on their own in really hot weather.
- That are made from synthetic, silk or merino wool.
- To help keep them dry and protect against friction which causes blisters.
When you're weighing up which walking shoes to buy, think about quality versus cost:
- High-cut boots are more expensive but reduce the impact of walking on your body.
- Synthetic hiking shoes are cheaper than leather shoes but won't last as long.
When it comes to how much you should spend:
- If you'll only do short hikes every now and then, a cheaper pair should do the trick.
- Cheaper shoes tend to be less shock-absorbing and not as comfortable as more expensive shoes, so you get what you pay for.
- If you're an avid hiker, it's worth spending more on good-quality hiking boots that will give you stability and comfort, and stand the test of time.
At Anaconda! Online or from your nearest Anaconda store.
How much are hiking shoes?
Anaconda has hiking shoes from $40 to $290.
When you go to the Footwear section on the Anaconda website select Hikers. You'll see tick box filters down the left hand side of the page which make working out which shoes to buy easier and faster because you can choose to filter what you see by:
- Size - so you just see shoes available in your size on the page.
- Price - so you only see hiking shoes within your budget.
- Deal - so you only see hiking shoes that are on sale or at clearance prices.
- Colour - so you only see hiking shoes in the colours you like.
- Brand - so you can find a specific brand you like.
- Breathable - so you only see shoes that are breathable.
- Waterproof - so you only see shoes that are waterproof.