A good hiking trip starts with a good pair of hiking boots; they’re your most important piece of equipment. Most of the time if you don't have good hiking boots you won't enjoy your trip into the wilderness.
Why Do I Need Hiking Boots?
Hiking is a fairly safe activity for the most part; your feet are always in contact with the ground (hopefully). The constant pressures on your feet and ankles may seem like nothing at first, but after walking for a few miles problems can quickly arise. Your feet can develop blisters and start to ache from lack of support in regular sneakers. Also you may trip over a root or stick and hurt your ankle along the trail resulting in a painful walk back out. A good pair of hiking boots will address all these potential problems and give you a much better experience on your hike.
What Type Of Hiking Boots Do I Need?
The type of hiking boot all depends on the hiking trail you are planning on traveling. For the most part there are three types of hiking boots you should look at.
Hiking Shoes – Good for short trails with a solid trail-bed and few obstacles.
Day Hikers / Lightweight Hikers - The average hiking boot, it's great for day hikes and has good support for light backpacking. They can be made out of leather and you can usually get a waterproofed version of this boot.
Heavy Hikers - These are great for hiking while carrying a heavy backpack on long trails or overnight trips. They are usually waterproof and made of leather with stiffer soles.
What Brand Name Should I Buy? How Much Should I Pay?
Brand names and price don't matter when it comes to buying your hiking shoe. The "fit" is what you should be concerned about when picking out your new boots. If they don't fit right, all the brand names and cash in the world won't help your feet in your fifth mile on the trail. That being said, you don't want a cheap poorly made boot either so keep these points in mind:
- A good boot will probably run between $80 - $300 or more depending on the features.
- You’ll need a boot that has good ankle support and a stiff sole, with good grips for traction.
- A waterproof boot is always a good idea; there are many ways this is done but the most popular is called Gore-Tex TM, a waterproof layer in the walls of your boot.
- The upper part of the boot should have as few seams as possible. For a waterproof boot there should always be a thin piece of flexible leather sewn to both the tongue and the upper part of the boot.
How Should The Boot Fit?
When you are trying on a pair of hiking boots use socks of the same thickness that you will be wearing in your boots on the trail. This will help give you a feel for how the boot will fit when you’re on the trail. The boots should fit snugly, but not too tight around your foot.
Put the boot on and don't lace it up; then tap the front of the boot against a wall. Your foot should slide forward and leave a gap barely big enough for your finger to fit between your ankle and the back of the boot.
Now lace the boots up and try to sense any pressure points on your feet when you stand up and walk around a bit. You should be able to wiggle your toes some and they should not feel pinched or cramped.
The arch support of the sole should fit nicely, if you feel like there's a big rock under your foot these might not be the boots for you.
Look for an incline and decline area of the store and walk up and down it a few times, make sure your foot isn't slipping around inside the boot.
Okay! I've Bought Them Now What Do I Do?
Once you have bought your boots wear them for about two weeks around town, just breaking them in. Or spend a couple of weekends breaking them in on short trails before using them on a longer harder trail. This will help you find out if the boot will cause any discomfort during your hiking trips in the future.