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HIKING FOOTWEAR- How to find the perfect pair

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Two years ago, if someone asked me to recommend a pair of hiking boots I would NOT even know where to begin. I used to hike in ALL kinds of footwear- not serious hikes. Maybe a day stroll through some pretty easy trails. Sneakers, sandals, rubber boots, you name it! (Definitely not something I encourage or recommend)  

We all have to start somewhere, right? 

Picking out hiking footwear can be a frustrating ordeal, if you have no idea where to begin. As soon as you start looking you will quickly find out there are a few different options and many different brands- Don’t sweat it, there is always someone to help find the perfect boot for you!

Let’s begin with cut:

Below the Ankle:  Typically sneaker cut, these models are great for day hiking and are usually very lightweight. 

Mid or Day Hiking Boots: Awesome for day hiking or short backpacking trip. Often does not have the support of a backpacking boot. 

Backpacking Boots: These boots are cut above the ankle and give great support. They are intended for multi-day trips and heavier loads. 

Every brand varies in material, size, width, stiffness and comfort- your search is not over yet!

Hiking boots come in a few different types of material: 

Leather: Durable and water resistant. Usually found on a more rugged boot intended for backpacking. 

Polyester and Nylon: Light, fast drying, easy to break in, have a lower price point and usually have some kind of waterproofing technology.

Gore-Tex membrane: Waterproof, reduced breathability (your feet will most likely get sweaty), used in a wide variety of boots/ materials. 

Hiking boots should fit snug, not tight. Being able to wiggle your toes is a necessity. TRY THEM ON. Walk around the store, as many times as you need! Take them home and wear them around the house if you have too, make sure they are comfortable. Trying them on at the end of the day is recommended. After all day on our feet, they swell, it is important not to buy your boots to small. Most people also have one foot bigger than the other- go with the size that feels more comfortable on your bigger foot. 

Do you wear orthotics? If yes, bring them with you!

Have you thought about socks? They make all the difference. My recommendation- Merino Wool. Smartwool makes great socks with merino wool and all are sweat wicking with natural odor control, say no more! Whatever sock you plan on wearing, make sure you try them on in your boots to make sure they feel comfortable.

Stiffness and width, in my experience, depends on the brand. Some brands are stiffer than others and some brands are made with a wide toe box. While one brand may be tight across the top of your foot, its competitor may feel just right. Keep in mind- most brands offer a wide specific fit.

Finally, break in your boots. This is very important. No one wants to be half way through a 5K hike with sore feet.

Ultimately, the only person who can determine what is good for your foot, is you! Don’t be shy, if you don’t like what is being recommended for you- tell them. Keep trying. You will find your perfect fit!