You’ve picked the date, which trail you want to tackle, and who you are going with. Back pack loaded up, walking stick in hand; you look down and notice your dungy old sneakers on your feet. We are going to want to upgrade. With so many options for hiking boots, it can feel overwhelming. You don’t want to get the top of the line boot for just a nature walk. On the other hand, buying non water resistant boots seems irresponsible if you’re crossing some small streams. Like Goldie Locks, let’s choose a hiking boot that is “Jussttttt Right”.
Light Hiking Shoes:
Looking for comfort and most of the same protection? No need to get the bulky boots, you can pick up a pair of light hiking shoes. These aren’t even classified as boots, since they are low cut and almost look just like a normal shoe. Long journeys will be a cinch (if you are carrying a light load) with these type of shoes. Just be aware, you will not have the same stability if you had a normal boot. This hiking shoes are not suitable for challenging hikes and rugged terrain.
The hiking boot offers more protection than the light hiking shoe. With mid and high cut options, these boots give more support for the ankles and added protection. Added loads on your back make these ideal for increased stability on the rougher terrain. If your hike has steep terrain or if you’re carrying a heavier load, I suggest looking into a high cut boot that is usually found in the backpacking boots section.
For those long journeys over just about any terrain, backpacking boots are your boot of choice. Being highly durable and offering maximum support, there is a down side. These boots usually take longer to break in.
Types of Boot Cut
A well-traveled trail will usually not have too much debris. If this is the case, wearing low cut, will not be a problem, considering protection for our ankles will not be needed. Also, loads less than 5 pounds will not need the extra stability you would find in the higher cut options.
With added ankle protection, this will allow you to move through debris easily. You may carry a moderate load on your back with this type of cut. These are great for 3-4 day trips on trails that aren’t as well maintained.
Tough terrain and heavy loads make this cut ideal for your boot. It may take a while to break them in, but with the added support and protection, it’s well worth it for those long travels.
Nubuck Leather: durable leather that has been buffed to have the same type of look as suede. Nubuck leather has the ability to resist water and scuffs. Although being pretty flexible, still allow time to break in these types of boots.
Split Grain Leather: By splitting away the rougher inner part of the cowhide from the smoother exterior, you find yourself with cheaper leather. This process sacrifices resistance to both water and abrasion. Split grain leather is usually putting together with nylon or nylon mesh to give the boot more comfort. Usually a boot with split grain leather needs to have a waterproof liner with it.
Full Grain Leather: Highly Resistant to abrasion and water. Durability is great, which makes these types of boots great for longer trips, rough terrain, or carrying a heavy load. Down side is the boot is heavier and not very breathable.
Synthetics: This category is constructed of mostly polyester, nylon and “synthetic leather.” These are nice and cheap, and you are getting exactly what you pay for. Buying these types of boots may have you wanting a new pair after a few hikes considering they wear out very quickly.
Having your boots water resistant is a big deal. Wet boots make for a tougher travel, and we don’t want socks soaked in water.
Waterproof Linings: The outside of the boot is made up of a different material than these linings. When the nylon or split grain leather doesn’t do its job, these waterproof linings (i.e. Gore-Tex) are the back up.
Waterproof Leather: A properly constructed boot made of full grained leather will be treated topically to resist moisture. Make sure to check the seams for loose threads or missing stitches, for this will defeat the purpose of becoming waterproof.
Waterproof Construction: Is the boot seam-sealed or has specialized stitching? These techniques are used to add maximum water resistance.
Also Read: Best Hiking Shoes for Men
Putting it all together: Does it fit?
- Test the boot out with the same socks you would be wearing for your hike
- Your foot should fit nicely inside the boot. Little bit of wriggle room is ideal. Test this out by flexing your foot forward and wiggling your toes. These motions should not be restricted and be comfortable.
- The heel of your foot should not slip up. Any type of slippage will cause friction and blisters.
- Make sure to test different lacing techniques, socks, and insoles to optimize your boot.
- Break in that boot before you bring it out in the field.
Quick Tips: How to Clean your Hiking Boots
General Maintenance Tips
- Clean them after every walk or hike.
- Always store them at room temperature. Never store near excessive heat sources.
- Remove the inserts or soles from after a wet hike or walk to ensure the entire shoe is able to dry properly.
- Add a waterproofing treatment to ensure proper water resistance.
- Use a leather conditioner as needed and as recommended by the manufacturer.
After a Hike Maintenance Tips:
1. Be dedicated to cleaning them after every walk or hike. Specks of dirt and sand can become ingrained into the leather and wear it down over time. Mud, as well, can make the leather of your shoeless pliable, so it is important to remove all debris after every use.
2. Use a brush to scrape off extra dirt or mud. Be gentle when bruising off the dirt or mud. Use a specialized tool or even an old toothbrush. If necessary, warm water and mild soapy water can be used, but always be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions or recommendations regarding what cleaning products are recommended for your specific shoe.
3. Check the overall condition of your shoes before heading out on a hike. Are the shoelaces in good shape? Is it entirely dry from your last walk or hike? Ensuring the overall condition is a key component of having them last for a long time to come.
4. If you went for a hike when the ground was wet, or in the rain, then gently wipe them off to get rid of any excess moisture.
1. Air flow is important in properly drying your shoes. Keep them in a dry place, without exposure to excessive heat. If you can, use a fan or provide extra air flow that will help them dry a little faster.
2. Never put them in the dryer or on top of a wood stove to dry. The excessive heat is not good for the delicate leather.
1. When not in use, store them in a dry, non-humid environment.
2. Do not store in a plastic bag as this does not allow the shoes to breathe.
3. Make sure they have been thoroughly cleaned, dried, and conditioned before storing them for long periods of time, such as in the off-season.