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How to Choose Hiking Boots

If you're planning on doing a bunch of hiking this summer, you may be wondering, "Do I really need to buy hiking boots? Why can't I just wear supportive waterproof sandals like these from Chaco?" Well, sandals are great if you are taking a leisurely hike or walk by a river, but they don't offer nearly the necessary support and protection that you get from hiking boots.

When going on a long hike, you need boots that will support your ankles since the terrain can be uneven. You also need durable, rugged soles to prevent you from slipping. Since hiking boots cover your entire foot and ankle, you won't have to worry about rocks getting in your shoes, or sticks poking and cutting you.

Consider what type of hiking you'll be doing. Think about how heavy a load you'll be carrying. Also consider the various advantages of fabric-and-leather boots vs. all-leather boots. Fabric-and-leather boots are lighter and easier to break in, but all-leather boots offer added protection and durability in rigorous terrain, as well as being water resistant and breathable.

There are more things to consider? So

When choosing hiking boots, try on a bunch with the socks you'll be wearing hiking, preferably ones that offer light cushioning and wick away moisture (they usually sell them at the outdoor gear stores that sell hiking boots). They should feel snug - but not so tight that your toes can't wiggle, and not so loose that your foot shifts around when you walk (that's a great way to get blisters).

Walk around the store for a while, to make sure they feel good. Walk down an incline to make sure your foot doesn't slide forward. Check to make sure your heel doesn't lift up either. It can take a while to find the perfect pair, so be patient since you'll have them for many years.

Fit's Tips: Just so you know, hiking boots won't feel instantly comfortable like sneakers do. They'll take a little while to break in, so after you buy them, check out this post to see how.


Join The Conversation
SU3 SU3 10 years
I definitely agree about the swelling caernarvan. Nothing sucks more than hiking in TIGHT boots!
beks78 beks78 10 years
Thanks for the post and for all the comments! I'm going to be hiking the Grand Canyon for the first time this fall and will be getting in gear this summer. You've all made it so much easier! :)
Sarabear Sarabear 10 years
I love my hiking boots from LL Bean. I've had them for over two years and they were comfortable from the get go. They got me through all my field courses which took me to the deserts of Baja, and Mojave National Preserve among many other places.
KerryG KerryG 10 years
I don't do very many overnight trips, especially now that I've got a baby girl, so I like the lighter hiking shoes that are sort of a cross between hiking boots and tennis shoes. I've had a pair of Merrell Pulse II shoes for about two years now and absolutely love them.
caernarvan caernarvan 10 years
Also factor in how long you'll be hiking. About once or twice a summer I go for a week long hike & have a specific pair of boots I wear on those hikes. They're a size larger since my feet swell. In the morning I wear 2 pairs of socks and by the end of the day 1 - maybe even switch to a thin pair I carry. So if you're planning long hikes keep in mind swelling!!
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