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    How to: Pick a Good Pair of Hiking Boots

    hiking boots

    Need a new pair of hiking boots to replace your worn out partners-in-adventure or just starting out and looking for some advice on what to pick? Whether you've been an avid hiker for years or a novice, it's worth doing some research, as the selection and options are vast (and if it's been awhile since you bought a new pair, you might be surprised by just how much is out there!). Follow these guidelines from our internal experts to help you sort through the mountains of hiking boot choices available.

    One of the first steps to selecting a new pair of hiking boots is narrowing in on the activity you're buying for and specifically, the load you're carrying, as the type of boot you need is very dependent on the intensity of your typical hiking experience.

    Day Trip

    Day Trip

    If you're more of day hiker and enjoy taking in the outdoors for an afternoon without lugging around a heavy load, hiking shoes provide support and traction without weighing you down. For the ultra-quick hiker, trail running shoes are an even lighter choice, offering additional grip without sacrificing comfort.

    When you're out for a shorter excursion, explain our experts, and likely don't have much (if any) equipment to carry, you can typically forego the higher ankle boot style and wear something shorter at will allow you to move quicker and faster. Additionally, a hiking boot or shoe with a flexible rubber outsole not only provides great grip, but also easily adapts to terrain. Whereas a rigid boot is best if you need substantial support to carry a heavy load for an extended period of time, when you're quickly scaling a mountain or rocky trail, more flexible footwear will keep you moving safely onward and upward.

    Weekend Hike

    Weekend Hike

    For longer excursions, you may want to consider a slightly more substantial shoe, and a mid-cut hiking boot offers that added level of ankle support that you won't get from a shorter style.

    Another feature to pay attention to is the sole; while some flexibility is still key here, a durable lug sole will offer increased stability and traction due to the deep indentations in the rubber.

    Extended Journey

    Extended Journey

    While your first instinct when looking for new hiking boots may be to splurge for the most expensive and solid pair, high-cut and rigid styles should be reserved for the serious backpacker who is setting out to traverse harsh terrain with a heavy pack.

    Other Features to consider:

    Ventilation & Waterproofing

    When you're out hiking, whether for an afternoon or days at a time, it's important for your feet to stay dry, but you want them to breathe, too. A lining like the GORE-TEX® membrane, which is found in many popular brands, provides protection from wet conditions and wind while also allowing perspiration to pass through.

    That being said, if you typically hike in dry and hot conditions, you may benefit from a boot or shoe with an upper made of mesh instead to really promote airflow.

    To learn more, read Do I Need Waterproof Hiking Boots and find out what's best for your favorite style of hiking.

    Arch Support

    As we've discussed, the type of hiking shoe or boot you need is very dependent on the type of activity in which you're involved. That being said, especially if you're carrying a heavy backpack, it's important to pay attention to the arch support provided by your footwear of choice. Many boots include an EVA Midsole, which helps to disperse weight and provides stability, so be sure to keep this feature in mind as you consider various styles.

    In order to conquer any feat, having the proper gear is the first step to success, and hiking is no exception. While a great deal of additional features and options remain to be considered, the above should give you a solid starting point on your journey to finding the right pair. Happy trails!

    Where will your boots take you? Bring us with you by tweeting @shoebuy with #MyBootStyle

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    Related Articles:
    Do I Need Waterproof Hiking Boots?
    What's the Difference Between Hiking and Work Boots?

    Frequently Asked Questions:

      Q. What is a lug sole?

    A. This type of sole is a key feature to many hiking boots. Find out how it keeps you safe.

    Read more here

      Q. What is Vibram®?

    A. Read how the founder of this popular brand of rubber outsoles changed hiking forever.

    Read more here

      Q. What is a toe cap or bumper?

    A. Similar to the steel-toe found in many work boots, this additional layer of material keeps you safe out on the trails. Find out how.

    Read more here

      Q. What is GORE-TEX®?

    A. This popular brand of waterproof liners keeps your feet dry while also allowing ventilation and sweat evaporation. Find out what it's made of.

    Read more here

      Q. What's an upper?

    A. The upper is the part of a boot or shoe above the sole...

    Read more here

      Q. What's an insole?

    A. The insole is the fixed inner sole of a shoe or boot where your foot bottom rests...

    Read more here

      Q. What's an outsole?

    A. It's the outermost layer of the sole (i.e., the exterior bottom)...

    Read more here

      Q. What's a welt?

    A. The welt is a strip of material, often leather, which is sewn around the edge of the outsole to attach the upper to the outsole of a pair of boots...

    Read more here

      Q. What's a steel toe?

    A. A steel-toe boot contains protective reinforcement made of steel...

    Read more here

      Q. What makes a shoe or boot slip-resistant?

    A. Slip resistance is determined by a shoe's outsole design, material, and tread pattern...

    Read more here

      Q. What's a rubber outsole?

    A. A rubber outsole is when the bottom of a boot or shoe is made of rubber...

    Read more here

      Q. What's an EVA Midsole?

    A. Suffer from back pain? Your footwear may be partially to blame. An EVA midsole helps to disperse weight and provide stability, learn more.

    Read more here

      Q. What's a Steel Shank in Boots?

    A. A shank is crucial to the functionality of your boots; find out why.

    Read more here

      Q. What's Thinsulate?

    A. Did you know the same material used in sleeping bags could help keep your feet warm?

    Read more here

      Q. What's Welting?

    A. This method creates a durable, long-lasting boot. You might not even have to replace your pair once it starts to wear. Find out more.

    Read more here

      Q. What's a Blake Welt?

    A. Blake welting enhances flexibility given fewer layers of material used. Find out how it works.

    Read more here

      Q. What's a Goodyear Welt?

    A. Goodyear welting allows for more support and water-resistance due to extra layers. Find out how it works.

    Read more here