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Which hiking boots are the best for you?

Comfy boots that fit your feet are the key to hiking and backpacking bliss, while poorly fitting ones will ruin your day.

Lightweight hikers

Lightweight hikers are a great choice for day hiking on smooth trails, and for experienced backpackers with strong feet and ankles. These focus on comfort out of the box and minimalist construction to keep weight low. The ankle collars are cut lower than traditional boots, and offer minimal ankle support. If you want a model that is light and comfortable from day one, and you do not plan to carry much more than snacks, water, and a jacket, the products below are for you.


Midweight hikers

These models are intended for day hikes or weekend backpacking trips with light loads. They often flex easily and require little break-in time, but they lack the support and durability of stout backpacking boots. They offer a comfortable fit with a fully padded insole and collar, a shock absorbing unit to the heel and complete with a full front lace up for a secure fit.


Heavyweight hikers

hese are designed to carry heavier loads on multiday trips deep into the backcountry. Most have a high cut that wraps above the ankles for excellent support. Durable and supportive, with stiffer midsoles than lighter footwear, they are suitable for on- or off-trail travel.


Hiking boot features

Water Resistance

Dry feet are key to avoiding blisters, and staying warm when hiking in the cold and wet. These waterproof boots have an embossed front and are sure to keep your feet dry and warm in the worst of weather. The reduced breathability created by a membrane (compared to the ventilating mesh used on some nonwaterproof shoes) may encourage feet to sweat on summer days.


All boots will wear out. After enough use, seams will begin to come apart, waterproof membranes will start leaking, and the sole will wear down. This wear and tear is to be expected with time. With today's focus on lightweight footwear, compromises in materials and construction are inevitable. Many hikers praise their boots purchased decades ago that have endured 20 years, while failing to mention that the pair weighs four or five lbs, and may have cost 600 bucks in today's dollars.

Leather hiking boots will benefit in waterproofness and durability when a leather treatment is applied. There are several simple ways that you can prolong the life of your footwear:

1. Use waterproofing conditioners for leather - Apply it by rubbing it on, and gently heating with a hair dryer to melt it into the leather. Leather conditioners will need to be reapplied every few months to yearly, depending on how many miles you put on your footwear.

2. Apply a seam sealer to the stitching in high wear areas - Will keep out dirt and sand, increases scuff resistance, and has the added benefit of keeping water out.

3. Clean them regularly, especially of mud and sand - A soft bristle brush and warm water perform the trick best on the outer boot. Using the least pressure necessary, remove all visible mud, dirt, and debris. Do your best to let wet boots dry slowly, out of direct sunlight.

4. Do not put your boots in the washing machine, and never put them in the clothes dryer - Insoles that are super funky can benefit from a gentle cycle in the washer, but let them air dry slowly.

5. Do not place your boots near extreme heat  - Leather that dries very quickly will become hard and brittle. 


The more weight you carry, the more energy you expend carrying it. But weight that you carry on your feet is actually much more significant. Weight on your feet will zap 4-6 times more energy than weight on your back. So, swapping that 4-pound pair of boots for a 1-pound pair of running shoes will be the energy saving equivalent of removing 12-18 pounds from your pack.


One of the ideas behind hiking boots is that they afford more ankle protection and foot protection than regular street shoes or running shoes. Some of that support is simply a product of the design—firm soles offer greater stability and prevent the foot from “rolling over” into a sprain. But most hiking boots also use a tall design and heavy leather material to keep ankles aligned and upright, even on rough trails. Hiking boots with a mid height, or full cut, reduce the chance of taking missteps and twisting ankles. During long days carrying a pack, this support keeps the ankles and feet from tiring as quickly. When choosing a boot for stability, first keep in mind that a boot that fits your foot well is necessary for stabilizing you ankle and foot. 


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Last modified on 29 May 2015