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Hiking boots: How to find the right pair

If you’ve made the decision to jump into the pool of hiking possibilities, congratulations! Hiking isn’t only a great activity for shuffling some pounds around; it’s also calming, scenic and educational.

woman and man going hiking
Now all you need is a great pair of hiking boots, and you’re good to go!

Purchasing your perfect hiking boots is one of the most important decisions a hiker-to-be must make, so do put some thought into it. Before you get started, figure out the intensity of your activity. Will you be using the boots for long expeditions or just weekend afternoons?

Get your style on


This is your basic boot, the kind you see pretentious outdoorsy people wear in public. Lightweight and flexible, this style of boot is designed for day hikes and relatively even terrain. A light hiking boot is perfect for a beginner.


This is a more “advanced” boot. It’s designed to withstand extensive hikes and support the added weight of a knapsack. A backpacking hiking boot provides more support for your foot, thus allowing for longer hikes.

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This is the “grown-up” boot of the hiking world. Designed with an outer cage (usually made of plastic), which permits crampons, and a softer inner shell for comfort, the mountaineering boot is perfect for multi-day trips. It provides solid support for your foot and will last varying terrains.

Make the right cut

Low- to mid-cut

Most lightweight hiking boots will come in low- to mid-cut. They are more flexible and manageable. These will serve you well on short hikes and on well-kept trails. The downside of this cut is that debris can easily find its way into your boot and cause discomfort.

Mid- to high-cut

This cut is generally more durable and provides better ankle support. High-cut boots are best suited for long hikes and trips. They might not be as versatile and aesthetically appealing, but they last longer and get you where you want to be.

Be constructive about it

The material

As with any boot, synthetic construction does not beat the durability of leather. The issue with leather hikers is that it takes longer to break those bad boys in, whereas the synthetic boots are easier on the feet but do not last nearly as long. We recommend you look for a boot that combines the durability of leather with the lightweight qualities of synthetic materials. Most companies offer a wide selection.

The heart and sole

Look for hiking boots with a water-resistant layer, as they will permit hikes on any terrain in any weather. Check out the sole of the boot, and make sure it’s well constructed and has traction. The best soles will combine natural and synthetic rubbers for optimal durability and flexibility.

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Finally, when you’re trying on boots, do so later in the day, since feet tend to swell over the course of the day (as they will during hikes), and bring your own hiking socks. Walk around in the boots of your choice, and make sure they feel right.

Good luck, and happy trails!

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