Why wear hiking boots?
The right shoes for your feet can make all the difference for walking comfort. You should also have a variety of shoes to meet different climates and surfaces.
- Pavement: Athletic shoes do well on pavement. If your feet are feeling tired after you walk on concrete in malls or on sidewalks, you may want to look for shoes with some cushioning.
- Trail: If you walk on natural paths of dirt and rock, you may want more rugged shoes. Almost every brand of athletic shoes now has trail varieties. If you are still walking rather than backpacking, look for the lighter weight varieties and those with some flexibility like the Hi-Tec vLite series pictured above which are my favourites. Many boots are very stiff and should be used when carrying a heavy load, but are not pleasant to wear for a day hike.
- Waterproof: Often you can find a pair of lightweight hiking shoes that are waterproof. You will pay more for this option, but it will help you to keep walking through the wet months and is a good investment. You can also invest in a silicone waterproofing spray to cover non-waterproof hiking boots.
Choosing the right hiking shoes
Hiking boots that are designed for day hiking and short trips, often with rugged-looking soles and outdoorsy colours, are recommended. Designed to be breathable, comfortable, and cushioned, they sacrifice some support and durability compared to heavy boots. Hiking boots providing some ankle support are recommended.
The most important requirement is comfort. If the boots are not completely comfortable in the store, they will not be comfortable after 10 km. The best advice is that you try on boots at the end of the day when your feet are larger. Many people are quite satisfied with low cut boots to start with but higher boots will give better support on rocky ground. Expect to spend $150 to $200. If like me, the ball of your foot is tender, using a gel pad in that area can yield significant benefits.
Once you've narrowed down your options to a handful of boots or shoes, the best way to decide between them is to try them on.
- Measure Your Feet - Have an experienced salesperson measure both of your feet and use these measurements as a guide. If one foot is larger than the other, which is quite common, fit your larger foot first. You can use extra socks or an insert to take up additional space in the other boot, if necessary.
- Wear hiking socks Be sure to try your hiking boots on with the type of socks and liners you'll be using out on the trail.
- Check the fit - Lace up the new boots and stand up. They should feel snug around the ball and instep of your foot, but loose enough that flexing your foot forward is not uncomfortable. Your heel needs to be held firmly in place.
- Test walk your boots- Take a walk and check for any foot movement or heel lift. Good-fitting boots should hold your feet firmly in place without binding or pinching them. After a walk across a flat surface, step onto an incline facing downhill to check for slippage. Your toes should not contact the front of the boot. In addition, your feet should not slide forward easily, nor should you be able to move your heel from side to side.
- Try other boots - Try on a number of boot models before you decide on a single pair, even if the first pair feels good. When you purchase your boots, try them on at home and wear them for extended time walking on carpet. If you find they are uncomfortable, most good hiking equipment stores will exchange them for another brand or size.
HIKING FOOTWEAR VIDEO: