The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Hiking Boots
Getting to those lesser-seen views, unplugging from the stress of daily life, and reconnecting with nature and ourselves—the most essential thing to get there is what you put on your feet. Your hiking boots have the power to ruin the experience, as well as give you the power to complete a difficult, strenuous hike that you might not have thought you could accomplish.
This is why selecting the right hiking boots can lay the groundwork (literally!) for a great time on the trail. This can be especially true when you are planning on hiking for several days or weeks. Choosing the right pair for you is completely individual, since even recommendations from friends aren’t always a sure bet when it comes to your feet and needs.
Selecting the right hiking boots is key, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are choosing your boots:
• Are they comfortable?
• Are they durable?
• Are they water-resistant?
• How much support and stability do they offer / do you need?
• How much do they weigh?
Which Style is Right for You?
The first thing you will notice when you go to find the right pair of hiking boots is that there are a number of different styles to consider. Most of how these are designed have to deal with which type of hiking you do and what kind of terrain you’ll encounter. There are a few main types of styles, though hybrids are also common and can be a good option if you are planning on trying a few hiking styles.
If you plan on heading out on a trail that is well-maintained and might only last a few hours, then low or mid-cut boots are ideal. These all-around boots are meant to take on many different types of terrain, making them extremely versatile. However, they offer more stability than typical walking or running shoes. Keep in mind that, depending on your climate, you may not need to select waterproof boots.
For the backpacker or more intense day hiker, you’re going to want something with a bit more support and structure. These types of boots are typically waterproof and may offer additional ventilation for hiking in hot or humid areas. Look for a mid-height boot for extra ankle support and stability shanks for midfoot support and to help balance the weight of a backpack.
For upping the pace and turning your hike into more of a workout, Think less structure, more flexibility. Lighter weight boots with a flexible outsole will help you move faster. Look for anti-abrasion toe bumpers, which keep your feet safe while moving quickly, and a heel-capture system that creates a locked-in feel for more confident footing.
How to find the right pair
The right-sized hiking boots can make your adventure blister-free and can help you avoid additional issues such as blackened toenails, sprained joints, and more. These are all things that can ruin your hike instantly.
Before you start trying on new boots, think about which socks you are planning on wearing. Your socks are the padding between your feet and the material of the boot, so they play a key role. Heavier socks can provide more support, but they can also cause blisters if your shoes are too tight. Thinner socks can minimize this, but they might not insulate your boots as well as they should be.
FITTING YOUR BOOTS
The first thing to do when you go in for a fitting is to completely disregard the size you normally wear in street shoes. Hiking boot sizes can vary widely, and you might find that you need a larger size than you would typically wear because you’re sporting heavier socks and your feet often swell while hiking. It’s better to have a little bit more room just in case. You’ll also want to pay attention to the toe of the shoe, and give your feet enough room for your toes to splay naturally.
Hiking boots are designed around a wooden mold called a “last,” which is used to shape the boot. If this last differs from your foot, then you’ll automatically feel if that pair of boots won’t work for you in the long run. This is why it is essential to having your boots fitted in-person to identify pressure points you are likely to have problems with based on the shape of your foot.
The insole can be another consideration when you want to get the right fit. An insole that doesn’t fit can lead to pains in your arches, your heel slipping, and sore heels and balls of your feet. If you have high arches, you might want to consider replacement insoles for better support. You can get a good idea if you need extra support from how the soles of your boots have been worn down. If you notice the treads on either the outer or inner areas of the sole are gone, then it might be worth looking into.
MATERIALS AND DETAILS
Of course, what materials your boots are made of can also affect your hiking experience, as well. Shape, padding, and why a type of fabric has been used in order to make the boots are all factors that should be considered.
For starters, see how well the tongue fits against your ankle. It should provide plenty of padding between your skin and the laces. This can help to avoid that “cutting” feeling that comes from when your laces are too tight.
Ankle padding should be secure, but not too tight as to cause any blisters or rubbing. The back of the boot should be fairly secure, while the front should be a little more flexible so you don’t run into any problems with chafing. This can also help with heel friction, which tends to be the major cause of blisters.
Whether you choose leather or synthetic materials is up to you and the type of hiking you are planning on doing. When in doubt, go lighter and choose waterproof. You never know what kind of conditions you might run into on the trail, and wet shoes and socks are a recipe for blisters.
How to keep your boots in good shape
A good pair of hiking boots can last for years if you take a little extra effort to maintain them. If they’re leather, you can use a leather conditioner to make the leather suppler , which allows you to break in your boots faster and more effectively.
Anytime you come across water, make sure that your boots properly dry afterwards. After your hike, place your boots in a dry, clean location. Open your boots up so you can increase airflow and insert newspapers or another absorbable material in order to dry out any sweat. This can help you to avoid any mold or mildew that might occur thanks to the damp interior of your boots. Do not place them in direct sunlight or by a radiator or fire, as they can end up shrinking slightly.
You’ll have these hiking boots for years. If you need help finding the right one for you, chat with a KEEN Expert for fit recommendations at https://www.keenfootwear.com/contact-us/.
Tried-and-true hiking favorites for the whole family