How To: Shop for Hiking Boots

Fall is upon us and that means that the flip flops get put away for outdoor activities, and the hiking boots are dusted off. Are your boots worn out, no longer a proper fit or you simply desire a new pair? Read this guide before you go shopping.

Step One:

The first thing you need to do is think about the type of hiking you will be doing, and how much hiking you will do each time you go. Are you going on several multi-day trips that will cover a large amount of miles? Are you going to be carrying a heavy load? This will be important information when determining the type of shoe you will need for the maximum protection, comfort and support. As you shop, more decisions will need to be made in terms of cut and materials.

Step Two:

Choose what type of hiking shoe you will want. There are three options: light hiking shoes, hiking boots and backpacking boots. Each type works for a different kind of hiking. Use the chart below to help make your decision on which type will work best for you.

Type of Shoe
Light Hiking Shoes
Hiking Boots
Backpacking Boots
Flexible midsole
Relatively flexible
Not flexible
Low cut
Mid or high cut
High cut
Good for day hikes and long distances because of weight
Good for day hikes or low mileage weekend trips
Good for carrying heavier loads on multi-day trips and allows for maximum off trail traveling support

Type of Cut
Less ankle roll resistance
Improved ankle support
Height is best
for ankle support
Dirt and debris easily inside
Keeps dirt and debris out
Keeps dirt
and debris out
Best for well-maintained trails
Good for shorter trips with medium sized loads.
Best for off trail
hiking/rock climbing
or heavier loads

Step Three:

After you have chosen the right type of shoe, it is important to choose the correct materials. Options include a waterproof lining inside and 4 different materials for the upper portion of the boot to be made out of: full-grain leather, split-grain leather, Nubuck leather or a synthetic material. While the full-grain leather is more durable and scuff resistant, it is not as breathable. If you’re looking for a breathable leather, you might want to try split-grain leather, which is a little less resistant to water and scuffs due to its breathable nature. The Nubuck leather option has a suede-like finish and is durable and water resistant and keeps the shoe flexible. The synthetic option is a lighter material and easier to break in, but may show signs of wear sooner. All options have pros and cons so it is a matter of personal preference.

Step four:

The last step is to ensure you have the proper fit in terms of length, width and volume. Your toes should have enough room to wiggle around with enough space between the foot and top of the shoe as to not injure yourself during your hike. Your foot shouldn’t slide around, but it shouldn’t be too tight through the narrow part either.

Finally, just a few tips for shopping for the boots. Your actual shopping and selection will take some time; it is not something that can be done in 10 minutes. When you go to the store, bring your favorite hiking socks and any shoe inserts you would normally wear such as arch supports or orthotics. If you’re shopping online for the shoes, try a brand you’ve previously purchased. If necessary, purchase a couple options and return the ones that don’t fit properly. Comfort, in a hiking boot, is key.

For more options on hiking boots, be sure to check out our selection of hiking boots for the whole family!!

So, now that you know how to pick out your hiking boots, where will you take them?