Boots – How to choose.
Choosing the right type of foot wear is extremely important as it can make or break your trip. Get it wrong and your journey can be very uncomfortable, get it right and it will be a pleasure. I know because I have done both. So how do we know what is right? There is so much out there to choose from. My advise below is purely from my personal experience over many years and many km’s with different boots.
I will just add in here that not all people like to wear boots and that is OK, YOU wear what WORKS for YOU, not someone else. I have added into this post most types of footwear so happy reading.
There are Trail Runners, Hiking Shoes, Hiking Boots, Hiking Sandals, Full Ankle support, Low Ankle support, Gore Tex Boots, Leather Boots, it’s too hard to choose. Let’s break it down and make it easier.
First of all ask yourself
What type of hiker are you?
- Are you an occasional hiker, not much rough heavy-duty terrain? You would be looking at perhaps trail runners or even hiking Sandals.
- More a day hiker where you venture out on more rough and varied terrain, go out quite regularly? I would look at Trail Runners, Hiking Shoes and even Hiking boots.
- Distance hiker on varied terrain over long period of time. I would recommend more of a hiking boot though some people still swear by their Trail Runners or Hiking Shoes.
What at type of support for YOU?
- Do you have weak ankles? Tend to roll your feet a lot? I would suggest you look at a full ankle support boot. This is me! Protect your ankles.
- Strong ankles no issues with rolling? You would be fine with a hiking shoe as well as boots.
- Do you need arch support? I would recommend to go to a podiatrist, their assessment and recommendation that is best for you. You might need orthotics. Do this BEFORE buying your shoes.
Type of of footwear broken down.
These are best for running on smooth trails, dirt roads, pavement. They are low-cut, lightweight with breathable uppers. Not durable for long distance wearing and support is minimal while carrying a heavy pack. The soles are quite thin so they will wear down quicker and you will feel a rough path underneath.
These are best for day hiking with minimal backpack weight, good for short and long distance hiking on varied terrain. They offer more comfort than a trail runner as there is more protection on the soles so you don’t feel every stone under foot. The uppers are more supportive as well but they offer no ankle support. As I said before some hikers swear by them especially as they are also light weight, waterproof, though if you have issues with you feet or ankles I personally wouldn’t recommend them.
These are great for day hiking with heavier backpacks, great for long distance, cope better on rough terrain as they are far more durable and thicker soles with offering you more stability. You can have mid or full ankle support so great with us lot that have feet and ankle issues. Waterproof and for some people, (like myself), prefer leather where as other people go for the Gore Tex (a lot lighter than leather). The life of these will be longer than the Shoes and Runners as they are more of a heavy-duty shoe but do remember they are also heavier in weight as well.
Where to go from here?
Now you have worked out what sort of hiker you are and what type should suit you best, time to go shopping! DON’T, especially for your first, buy on-line! If there are boots you know works for you and if they are ones you have worn in the past, then no problems buying online, if you are not too sure then I would not recommend doing this as you really do need to try them on. You might read the description of the boot you wish to buy and it ticks all the boxes, sounds great, are a well-known brand and recommended by friends, put them on and they are crap! Yes it happens. I have bought a pair I thought I would love, read well, great brand, everything I usually look for in a boot and they now belong to a friend as it works for her and not me. Do remember too that our feet are all different and no one is the same so what works for you will not necessary be good for me. Some brands are better suited for narrow feet and some for higher arches etc. Read through the description of the boots and ask advice from the staff at the store.
This is very important to get it right! It could mean the difference in keeping your toes nails, preventing nasty blisters etc. When you go to try boots on take with you your orthotics, if you wear them, and socks you would be wearing. Don’t try on boots without these as the boot that you think fits well won’t fit correctly after adding them in. The rule usually is get the size bigger than your normal shoe size, though I find with so many different brands with sizing varied I don’t even know what my normal shoe size is!
So after inserting any orthotics, got your socks on you can then slip your foot in. It should go on without a struggle. You then push your foot all the way forward as far as you can go and if you can fit two fingers down the heel then you have the right size. If your hand fits TOO BIG!, if you struggle at getting your fingers down the heel TOO SMALL! Now tie them up and spend time walking around the shop. Stomp your feet, walk up and down the boot ramp if your store has one. Take your time! Don’t rush as your feet won’t settle and give you the true story. If you find that the heel is still slipping you can change the way you lace your boots. ( I will do a post on different ways to lace another time) but ask the sale person to show you different techniques to help.
Once you are happy and bought your boots it is then time to go home and walk in them! Wear them in the house for the first week or two. Most shops will take them back if you are not happy as long as they haven’t been walked in outside. Then get moving outside on all types of terrain. A leather boot will take more time to break in as they are far more rigid and take a bit of time to mould and soften to your feet. Wear a weighted backpack as this will also change the way your feet sit in your boots.
So what are you waiting for? Go get your boots and start walking!
Happy Walking 👣👣
♥ look out for my upcoming post on how to tie your laces and what socks do I get? and how to care for your boots. How to tie your Laces or How to Choose Socks or even How to care for your boots maybe you might like How to choose Underwear for hiking!
I like your comment that the right type of boots can make or break a trip. I would think that it’s very important to find quality shoes that are specifically for your needs. If I wanted some boots, I would think about my style and the purpose I needed the boots.
That’s right Zachary. There are some things you just can’t skimp on. 🙂
Lots of good advice.
Just to add. I generally recommend people go to a store that assesses your gait and your foot shape and get properly fitted for footwear…. BUT buy a half or full size bigger than the store recommends. Most of those stores do not appreciate the full extent of the increase in your foot size.
I personally use Merrells. I did an E2E of the Bib in size 10.5s. I staryed the Appalachian Trail in 2013 in size 11s and finished wearing size 11.5s. My current hiking shoes are size 12s.
Absolutely. The biggest problem people have is their shoes are too small. I’m now sitting at at EU45! Was 43 originally. Love my Merrells. Such a comfy boot.
I don’t know if I’m missing brands of shoes. I am going to NZ and will be hiking but not hard, long and it isn’t a normal thing but I want good shoes, not boots and not super expensive. I live in west TX and not lots of great hiking around😆 I don’t think I want sandels either. Can you recommend some brands?
Hiking shoes instead of boots I know a lot of people love their Salomon trail shoe. Merrill do some great ones as well. Keens are a great brand though not sure if you can get them in TX hope that helps. Just be sure you get something with a good sole. You don’t want to be feeling everything under your feet especially if it is rocky. Have fun and happy hiking. 👣
So much info on a topic I never gave much thought to. Thanks for posting this and all the suggestions. runsv.com
You are very welcome 🙏🏼