How To Select the Best Hiking Boots

Best Hiking Boots

Why go to a lot of trouble selecting the best hiking boots? Because they are your feet, yes your feet. If you are going hiking, that means a lot of steps. Probably the most important part of your body to keep healthy during a hike is your feet. If you can’t walk, you can’t get back home.

Your boots are probably the most important item that affects the enjoyment of hiking. That is why you want to pick the best hiking boots for your needs. If you have a pair of boots that are uncomfortable or are designed for the wrong hiking experience, it can ruin the entire trip.

Another thing to consider is that these boots are to last you for a long while, so don’t just buy a boot because it’s on sale. Get the right set of boots for you. Don’t skimp on your hiking boots. You might regret it when it is too late and you are miles into your hike.

Choosing the right hiking boots for your feet can be confusing, but here is some advice to make it easy.

The Hiking Boot Selection Process

First and foremost, you must try on the boots. I know ths sounds like a “duh” moment, but trying them on in a store and verifying its comfort is key to an enjoyable hike. How do you know if the boot is a correct fit?

  • Try on boots in the afternoon. The foot normally swells during the day.
  • Bring the socks that you are normally going to wear. Proper fit depends on having the exact socks.
  • Put the boots on and lace them snugly (but don’t over tighten them to the point where you are hurting your fingers, that is too tight) . Stand and try and raise your heel. Your heel should rise no more than 1/8”. Too much heel lift means too much friction.
  • Tighten the laces and find a hard object to kick the toe of the boot into, like a post or the floor. Kick the object a couple of times. If your toes slam into the front of the boot, then these boots are not fitting correctly. On a steep downhill trail, your toes will get a beating and it could cause problems with your toenails or feet. Your toes should press towards the front of the boot on the third or fourth kick, but never slam. A few things you can try if your toes are smashed is to change socks, re-lace the boots or try on another pair of boots.
  • Some stores have a ramp you can walk up and down on to help you decide if they fit. Use it. Trails aren’t flat, use the tools in the store to identify the best hiking boots for your feet.
  • If you have time (and you should have time for this decision) walk around the store. The more time you can spend in the boots, the better you will know if they fit properly.
  • Before you buy your boots, make sure that you can return them. Some stores are good about letting you return them if you have only worn them indoors and not had them for a long period of time. Verify the return policy before you leave.
  • After you have bought your boots, they need to be broken in. (Do not head straight out to a 10 mile trail with new boots!) Wear the boots around the house, take short walks around the block. If they seem to fit well, you can wear them on a short day hike. The object is to get the boots to form to your feet.

Money Saving Tip: If you are on a budget then try the boots on in a store, find one you really like and then buy that same model online for a lot less.


  • Make sure that you straighten the tongue every time you put your boots on. This prevents the tongue from sagging and creating creases. Creases in the tongue cause blisters and friction.
  • Make sure to read the care of the boots. Treat them if necessary to create a water repellent seal. If they are leather and they get wet, let them dry slowly. Don’t put them in front of a fire, this can cause cracking of the leather. Open them up every night on the trail and after a hike to let them air. Also, before putting them away until your next hike, clean them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Get any dirt off of them to help prolong their life. This can be done with a bristle brush. Treat the leather with saddle soap, let them air dry and then apply a sealer or wax.

When Choosing the Best Hiking Boots For You, Keep These Things in Mind:

  • Materials:
    • Leather: More durable and water resistant. Heavier than synthetic. Normally meant for longer hikes with a full backpack.
    • Synthetic: Lighter weight than leather, but shows wear and tear more.
    • Waterproof materials: Many boots offer a waterproof membrane that is attached to the inside of the boot. (such as Gore-Tex ®)
  • Hiking Type:
    • Day Hikes with a couple bottles of water in a fanny pack
    • Over Night Hikes with a small pack
    • Multiple Day Hikes with a 40 to 50 pound backpack
  • Boot Cut:
    • Low Cut: Good for more level terrain, shorter hikes. Not a lot of ankle support
    • Mid Height: More ankle support, can be used for short multi-day hikes with a lighter pack.
    • High Cut: Normally the most durable and sturdy boot. Perfect for long multi-day hikes with a heavy pack.

Day Hike / Low Cut Boots

A Low Cut Boot would be the best hiking boot for day hikes. These would be used on a day hike with level terrain. You would have a small day pack or a fanny pack with a couple of bottles of water. Also, the trail should not have a lot of gravel, because it could get in between your sock and the boot. These boots can also be waterproof and are made of synthetic or synthetic/leather combination.

Long Day or Short Multi-Day Hike / Mid-Cut Boots

The best hiking boots for a longer hike would be the mid-cut. Mid-Cut will be good for steeper inclines and they have more ankle support. Most are waterproof and come in synthetic or a synthetic/leather combination. They do a slightly better job of keeping out gravel and pebbles and will give you more stability on muddy surfaces. These boots have adequate support for carrying a lighter, small backpack.

Mountaineering or Long Multi-Day Hike / High Cut Boots

High Cut Boots are the best hiking boots for the serious hiker. These are all leather hiking boots or can be a leather/synthetic combination. They are an extremely strong boot with a lot of ankle support designed to be worn with a heavy pack. They can also be used with crampons for snow. These are truly designed for the most challenging terrain.

In Addition: It’s great to have the perfect hiking boot, but what happens when your laces break?

It’s important to have a spare pair of laces on the trail. The laces should be designed for boots and not shoes. I would suggest a round style instead of a flat style lace, these tend to last longer. The support that laces provide is paramount to a comfortable hike.

Every hiking boot needs a good boot insole. Insoles do wear out over time. Make sure that your insole is still giving you the best cushioning.

Remember, protect your feet with the appropriate hiking boots. They will thank you at the end of the day.

I hope that this report has been helpful in selecting the best hiking boots for you.

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