When you need a little fresh air and exercise, a good hike will hit the spot for sure. Scenic views, peaceful nature trails, and a good leg workout are all guaranteed to make for a great adventure.
One thing that can ruin the beauty of a hike is a pair of unhappy feet.
When your feet are begging you to go ahead and pull out the tent for the night when the sun is still shining, you’ll know that you should have brought some better shoes. But, there are so many options out there, so how do you know what will make for happy feet when you’re out on the trails?
This guide includes our most helpful tips that are sure to put you on the right track for picking the best hiking buddies your feet could ask for.
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Best Hiking Boots: The End of your search
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The 3 Best Hiking Boots for Men and Women
Hiking boots are probably the most important piece of equipment you’ll take when you hit the trails. What is on your feet determines so much of your speed, your energy, and your safety on an adventure. Whether you prefer the day trails or the long backcountry treks, your feet need to be in their happy place. We know it can be tough to toggle through all the choices, so here are our top three favorites for the feet of the guys and the gals in the great outdoors.
Hiking Bott Reviews: Our Top Picks for Men’s Hiking Boots
Hi-Tec Men’s Flagstaff Waterproof
This attractive shoe comes in two great color schemes, but there are a lot more reasons for you to love it. A combination of real suede and mesh on the upper of the shoe provide a great balance of durability and breathability. Also, with the suede being waterproof and the inner lining of the shoe being made to wick moisture away from the feet, you are bound to stay comfortable. The laces are highly versatile, making the fit completely your own. The just-high-enough ankle support has ample padding for comfort and protection, along with a sturdy and soft cushioned sole for extra luxury. A removable sockliner is included to add cushion and prevent blisters. The rubber sole with Multi-Directional Traction makes the boot ready for any and all terrains. Many users say that the boots fit just right and are neither too heavy nor too light. Long lasting and immediately comfortable, and with an unbelievably low price available online, this is outdoor footwear that will make you and your feet happy for the long haul.
Timberland Men’s White Ledge Mid Waterproof Ankle
This sleek, all-black shoe is built to last with a leather upper and a firm rubber sole. The leather is treated to be waterproof, keeping your feet dry and comfortable, and to be abrasion-resistant, keeping your boots looking good. The fit is sure to be just right with the full toe-to-ankle laces, and you won’t have to spend all day tying them up with the D-ring and speed hook lacing system. The dual-density EVA foam midsole provides a perfect balance of comfortable cushion and long-lasting durability for the inner sole. Wearers find the boots very comfortable and supportive and the weight and fit to be just as expected, and the boots are priced right. These would make a great companion for the day trails or for the longer treks.
Salomon Men’s Quest 4D GTX Backpacking
This backpacking shoe comes in a variety of colors to suit your taste, and is durably constructed from a combination of leather and textile. The outer is waterproof and breathable, made possible by the incorporation of Gore-Tex Performance Comfort. Plus, the inner bootie is waterproof. The rubber sole yields just the right amount of flexibility, and your heel and toe are protected by extensions of the rubber sole. You’ll be safe from stray gravel and burrs thanks to the specially constructed gusseted tongue that locks out debris. Your ankles are sure to stay happy on your way with the stable ankle support on this mid-rise boot. The laces are simple to use and perfectly snug; with a locking system that makes the laces even more customizable, the fit is just right. Though it is priced higher than some, many users attest that the purchase was more than worth it. This footwear is the perfect balance of good looks, support, and a just-right light weight to help you on your journey.
Hiking Boot Reviews: Our Top Picks for Women
KEEN Women’s Targhee II Waterproof
This shoe is available in seven awesome color combinations, and is made, more importantly, from highly durable, waterproof leather. The KEEN.DRY waterproof membrane is breathable, but keeps water out. The rubber sole supplies great traction in all terrain, and the EVA foam footbed is removable, with a compression-molded EVA foam midsole beneath. You are guaranteed to have extra stability with the ESS shank preventing too much torsion in the shoe. They are beautifully light-weight, immediately comfortable, and properly fitting, with laces that are quick to tie and beneficial to the fit of the shoe. The tread has great traction, the ankle support is sturdy yet comfortable, and the price is extremely reasonable. You’ll go far with this great footwear!
Hi-Tec Women’s Altitude Glide WP Light
Made especially for a woman’s foot, this is sure to be a wonderful companion on the trails. Rugged, made from durable leather, and with a firm rubber sole that is lasted with a steel shank for additional sturdiness, this boot can handle anything. Its waterproof construction and moisture-wicking lining will keep you comfortable, and, since the hardware is rustproof and ultra light-weight, there will be no complications with these in the long run. The ankle supports are comfortable, the fit is right, and the lacing is strong and made to last. The waffled tread provides great traction, even on snow and ice, and, with the right socks, these boots can keep your feet warm on those chilly winter excursions. Offered at a very affordable price and built to be tough, these boots will lead you on many happy trails.
Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus
This durable outdoor shoe for women comes in two attractive styles, both a light and dark color scheme. Made of real, full grain leather, the shoe will serve you well on the trails for many expeditions to come. This footwear is waterproof and protected from stains thanks to OmniShield water and stain resistant treatment. The rubber sole provides rigid stability and moderate traction, while the compression-molded EVA foam midsole provides a comfortable fit on your feet. The laces supply the snug fit that is perfect for time on the trails. The boot is lightweight and provides good protection for the ankles. Many users call it the perfect introductory boot since it is available at a great price!
Do I Really Need Hiking Shoes
Trekking long distances can end up being a real chore for the feet when they haven’t been properly adorned for the trip. The terrain can be rough, the climb might be steep, and the amount of time alone may even be taxing on the feet. It is absolutely essential to consider the feet and the best way to equip them to maximize your enjoyment in the great outdoors.Tennis shoes, with their soft soles and breathable uppers, seem like a comfortable and attractive option when you’re about to hit the trails. However, don’t be fooled by their initial attraction. Sneakers will not provide the support you need for the soles of your feet or your ankles because they are simply too flexible. The traction on the soles of tennis shoes is less than desirable when you may be making your way up a steeper slope or traversing over slippery rocks. The breathable and flexible upper of a sneaker will not be strong enough to protect you from a stubbed toe or a vicious thorn, and, plus, sneakers can be a real pain to clean after your trip to the beautiful outdoors.Shoes designed for outdoor activity are going to be a much better option for your time on the trails. With a stable sole and upper, they will protect your feet from rocks and briers better than anything else on the market. This special footwear is easy to clean and comes in all kinds of attractive designs for any style of adventure. The well-supported sole will keep you comfortable for long distances and prevent blisters, and their superior design will give you the traction and stability you need to adventure wherever your heart desires!
What Options Are Out There?
While the choice is clear that hiking boots are an immensely better choice than any other footwear for your time adventuring outdoors, it still may be a real task to sort through all the options available on the market. The following features are some of the most important variations on the best footwear for the trails.
- Tread: The tread on outdoor footwear is more aggressive and sturdy than athletic shoes, but it still varies among different varieties of outdoor shoes. The more tread, the more grip the shoe will have. The heavier the tread, the more protection you have from the elements and the heavier the shoe will be. A softer rubber will have more grip on slippery surfaces, but will wear down faster than its firmer rubber counterparts, which will yield great grip in soft ground.
- Weight: Shoes vary in weight significantly. A lighter pair will require a lot less energy to walk around in, but may not offer as much support or grip as you need. A heavier pair will offer a lot of support, maybe warmth, and extra grip, but if you don’t need all the extra features, you have to carry the extra weight on your feet the whole time. Assess your needs and decide what is the best balance between weight and features for you and your trip.
- Sole: Mainly offering support and comfort, the sole is the portion directly touching your foot. A softer sole will be more comfortable, but may wear out faster than a firmer and more supportive sole. Many outdoor enthusiasts like to invest in an added insole for extra support and comfort for longer hikes.
- Exterior: Seemingly available in every material under the sun, outdoor shoes are highly customizable. Leather is a great option for variable terrain and water exposure; it is expensive though, and does not allow the feet to breathe as much as some other boots. Synthetic materials are lower in cost than leather and dry faster, allowing the feet to breathe; these boots do tend to age faster than their leather counterparts.
- Ankle Support: Ankle support is essential in some rough terrain or for those hikers carrying heavy packs that may cause balance to be an issue. No one wants a sprained ankle while out on the trail! Ranging from high tops, which rise over the ankles, to mid-rise, which surround the ankle, to low rise, which provide no ankle support, boots are variable in style to accommodate the needs you’ll have on your expedition.
- Water Resistant: Some boots are designed with materials especially made for water exposure. Waterproofed shoes with materials like Gore-Tex allow sweat out, but they don’t allow water from rain or puddles in. These shoes are still warmer and less breathable than regular outdoor footwear, so only go with this option if you do expect water in your way.
- Toe Cage: A toe cage, either of rubber, hard plastic, or even steel, can be a good mechanism for protection. They do add a little weight to the shoe, but the hard rubber cages are an especially nice exchange of a little added weight for the protection from that occasional unseen rock in the path.
How Do I Choose My Best Hiking Boots?
Since there are such endless options in the outdoor footwear realm, it’s essential to think of your needs before deciding on which pair is the very best. Where is your most visited outdoor location and what will best suit your needs there? Are you a day hiker or a long-distance backpacker? What are the weather conditions you expect to encounter? Considering questions like these and the following details before you make your choice will help make for happy feet.
- Terrain: Are you heading to easy trails in grassy meadows, steep and muddy switchbacks, or a field of boulders? Maybe what you expect to see is a combination of all three of these or other terrains. Whatever you expect, make sure that the tread on your boots is suitable for the roughest and toughest portions of your trek. Wet rocks in your future? Pick a shoe with some heavy-duty traction to give you confidence and sure footing. Thorns and briers in your way? Maybe you should consider a strong upper like leather to protect your feet. If the terrain is highly uneven, you may benefit from added tread, a toe cage, and ankle support to protect you on your way.
- Climate: Some outdoor footwear is designed for specific conditions, like especially hot or cold weather, snow, or excessive rain or stream-crossing, If you know of some special weather coming your way or expect to be crossing some wet or muddy paths, it would be to your benefit to choose a shoe designed specifically for those conditions. A shoe with a breathable upper would help in wet or very hot conditions, while a shoe with a leather upper or other cold weather design would keep feet warm in the winter.
- Weight Conscious: If your trip is planned to be a long one, your feet will thank you for choosing a lighter-weight shoe. The heavier your shoe, the more energy you have to expend to lug them around; the weight of your shoes is equivalent to three times as much as if they were in your pack!
- Heavy Packers: If your hike is longer and you plan to carry a heavy pack, footwear with sturdy soles and ample arch and ankle support will be much more comfortable in the long run. Even though the lightest weight shoes will require less of your energy, don’t sacrifice support where it’s really necessary. Just a little added weight on the feet in the right places will make your whole body more comfortable over the course of your excursion.
- Best Fit: To prevent blisters and tired feet, a proper fitting shoe is essential. Boots should be large enough to allow you room for good socks, and a sock liner also, if you are prone to blisters. At the same time, though, boots should not be so large as to allow too much slippage or movement of the foot inside the shoe. Your feet may swell over the course of a long hike, so leave room for that possibility. Shoes with laces from toe to ankle help to make the fit highly customizable.
Taking Your Next Step
Now that you know all about proper footwear for the trails, you’re almost ready to head out for that great outdoor adventure! Order your favorite pair today and they could be waiting on your doorstep before you know it. Your feet will certainly thank you for making the right choice. The only thing left for you to do is get your perfect hiking boots on your feet and go!
With all these great examples in front of you, now you’re ready to order the hiking footwear of your dreams and get on your way to big adventures. Happy trails to you!
When you go hiking, chances are that you’re doing it to enjoy the unspoiled outdoors. The last things you want to deal with are irritants like rude hikers, ruined landscapes, or dangerous man-made situations.
You can avoid most of these by following the seven principles of Leave No Trace:
- Plan ahead. Before you arrive, know the rules for the park or reserve you are visiting. Anticipate the weather and terrain situations you may encounter, and bring the equipment you expect to need. Be sure to wear the right hiking boots, or pick a versatile pair of boots like KEEN’s Targhee IIs (for women) or Salomon’s Quest 4Ds (for men).
- Travel on durable ground. Stay on the trail to avoid injuring yourself on uneven ground and damaging habitats. In the cases where you are allowed to go off-trail, stay on surfaces like rock, gravel, and dry grass.
- Dispose of waste properly. Don’t litter—carry your trash with you until you find a trash can. Leave human wasted in cat-holes 6-8 inches deep, at least 200 ft (about 80 paces) away from water sources, campsites, and trails.
- Leave what you find. Take photos. Don’t collect souvenirs.
- Minimize campfire impacts. Limit fires to permitted areas. When your fire is done, burn your wood and coal to ashes and scatter them.
- Respect wildlife. Don’t feed, approach, or otherwise interact with wild animals.
Respect other people.Give uphill hikers the right-of-way. When in a group, make sure no one is left behind. Stay quiet, avoid talking on the phone, and give each person the room and silence they need to enjoy the outdoors in their own way.
Before you hit the trail, bringing the proper equipment can mean the difference between daring and danger, life and death. Ensure that you have what you need to have a safe, enjoyable, and memorable hike by checking the following items off your list.
- First-Aid Kit: This should be pretty self-evident. Without a kit with which to tend to injuries, small wounds are in danger of turning into dangerous infections, and major injuries can become extremely painful.
- Hiking Boots: While it’s tempting to go with the most affordable choice, cheap boots or tennis shoes will raise your chance of injury and discomfort. Invest in quality boots that will keep your feet warm, dry, and protected.
- Navigational Equipment: Always pack a compass and current maps of your hiking area, or use a GPS or phone. However, if you plan to depend on electronic devices to navigate, make sure you don’t exhaust its power.
- Cell Phone: Always have a way to call for help in an emergency.
- Water Bottles & Purifiers: Dehydration can be extremely dangerous, so always bring a water supply and a way to replenish it.
- Duct Tape: This is a quick fix for all unexpected situations. Use duct tape not only for patching up unwanted holes in tents, backpacks, and food bags, but also to mend hiking boots, since even premium brands like the Timberland Men’s White Ledges have been known to spring a leak under extreme conditions. In a pinch, duct tape also makes effective bandages, ropes, and sandals.
Even when you pick out the best hiking boots, they will eventually break down. Naturally, if you invest a lot of money into a premium pair, you want them to last as long as possible before that happens. So here are some basic tips for helping them serve you for as long a time as possible …
- Keep them clean. Otherwise, you will accumulate abrasive dirt that wears down the leather.
- Apply leather conditioner on a regular basis. Conditioner is designed to replenish the moisture and keep the leather from drying or cracking.
- Maintain water repellency. Even footwear with GoreTex soles, like the Salomon’s Men’s Quest 4D GTX Backpacking Boots, will need maintenance in order to retain waterproofing abilities. This is normally as simple as applying a few coats water repellent via either brush or spray.
- Keep your footwear away from direct heat. Alternative drying methods include hanging your shoes upside down from a clothesline or a shower rail, placing them in the path of a fan at room temperature, and stuffing them with newspaper (replace every half hour).
- Handle with care. Always follow the care instructions enclosed with the product. Break in the shoes before attempting an extended trip, even if the product description says no break-in time.
Even when you choose from the best hiking boots and take the best possible care, it’s impossible for them to last forever. Even if you do frequent maintenance and timely repairs, after a certain point, your shoes will start doing you more harm than good. Below are just a few important indicators that it’s time to get a new pair:
- Is the tread worn? If there are lugs on the sole to help with traction, such as those found on the Timberland Men’s White Ledges or the KEEN Women’s Targhee IIs, have they lost texture? If so, that means that it has lost traction and may endanger you on the trail. In some cases, you can get resole them, but when you can’t, replace them.
- Are you starting to feel uncomfortable when hiking? Pay attention to signs from your body—aches, pains, blisters, or chafing, especially in your legs, knees, hips, back, or feet. These indicate that your shoes are no longer doing their job.
- Are your feet getting wet? If the waterproofing is starting to fail, chances are that it’s near replacement time. This is especially true if the leakage results from worn fabrics or a damaged waterproof bootie structure.
In many cases, minor damage, wear, and tear can be fixed by an expert, but a good rule of thumb is that when the cost of repairs begins to exceed the original cost, replace your boots.
Even when you have resolved to explore the outdoors and picked out a good pair of hiking boots, there are still many choices to be made before you hit the trail. You should ask yourself: What are you looking for in an outdoor experience? What kind of activities do you enjoy or think you would enjoy learning? Depending on your answers, there may be a specific activity out there that is suited to you.We can divide the activities discussed below into two rough categories: general hikes enjoyed by a diverse range of hikers, and types done only in specialized environments.
- Cross-country: involves traversing woods or parks using marked trails, which range from easy to difficult. Perfect for beginners and families.
- Backpacking/Trekking: typically multi-day and takes on more challenging terrain. Pick footwear like the Timberland Men’s White Ledges: well-padded, solid, and offering continuous support so that you can carry loads and walk comfortably for an extended period of time.
- Mountaineering and canyoneering: climbing mountains and exploring canyons. You need rock-climbing skills, the ability to deal with heights, and equipment such as ropes, harnesses, helmets, and shoes with significant toe and ankle protection, such as the KEEN Women’s Targhee IIs.
- Swimhiking: involves trekking across the countryside on foot and swimming across the bodies of water you encounter.
- Snowshoeing: done in colder climes.
- Caving/Spelunking: exploring caves. You need some training and may encounter hazards like high water, darkness, low temperatures, and falling rocks. Bring things like a helmet, headlamp, flashlight, gloves, rain gear, and boots with superior waterproofing like the Hi-Tec Men’s Flagstaff.
When to Replace Your Hiking Boots
Even when you choose from the best hiking boots and take the best possible care, it’s impossible for them to last forever. Whether you do frequent maintenance and timely repairs or not, after a certain point, your boots will start doing you more harm than good. Read on to learn about important indicators that it’s time to get a new pair.
You can do what many call the “press test” to know whether your built-in soles are still working properly. Use your thumb and press the outsole upward into the midsole, so that the boot’s entire bottom bends as it would when you walk in it. If you can see the midsole fold into fine lines and small wrinkles, it is in fine condition. But if it shows heavy compression lines and bends into fewer folds under the same amount of pressure, it no longer works as effective padding and should be replaced.
When your boots start consistently leaking, chances are they’re near replacement time. Sometimes leaking can be remedied by simply applying a few coats of waterproofing treatment. However, if you find that the leak comes as a result of damage to the waterproofing bootie, or because the shoe fabrics are wearing out, then it’s probably time to buy a new pair.
Discomfort on the trail is a good sign that your footwear is no longer doing its job. Pay attention to signs from your body—aches, pains, blisters, or chafing, especially in your legs, knees, hips, back, or feet. Blisters typically mean that you’ve stretched your shoes to the extent that your feet are moving around too much within them. Aches and pains, especially if they occur sooner than they once did, often indicate that the soles have gotten thinner, leaving your feet less protected from the discomfort of small stones, pebbles, and other rough terrain.
Check not just the appearance but also the amount of physical wear and tear. Examples of questions to ask yourself include:
- Are the laces fraying? If so, replace them before they can break at an inconvenient time.
- Is the tread worn? If the sole has lugs to help with traction, such as those found on the Timberland Men’s White Ledges or the KEEN Women’s Targhee IIs, are they still clearly defined, or have they lost texture? A sole that has been rubbed smooth means that it may not have the same traction it did when new. In some cases, you resole your shoes, but in most cases, you should move on to a new pair.
- Are the stitches fraying? Frayed stitches may affect waterproofing and the overall integrity of your shoes.
- Has the shape changed? If the boot has grown baggy and shapeless, then the structure is giving way, meaning your ankles and feet may not be as secure or protected from injury as they once were. This is especially true when the ankle cuffs are sagging; however, that particular problem can be solved by wearing socks if the rest of the boot is in good shape. If it isn’t, however, retire it and invest in a new set of shoes that can better safeguard your feet.
- Are your boots getting dirtier, especially on their insides? If you notice yourself having to empty out dust and debris more often during hikes, it is likely the scree collar padding has worn thin and is unable to keep out the irritants it was designed to filter.
A good rule of thumb is that when the cost of repairs begins to exceed the original price tag, buy new shoes.
Maximize the Life of Your Hiking Boots
Even when you pick out the best hiking boots, they will eventually wear out. Naturally, if you invest a lot of money into a premium pair, you want them to last as long as possible before that happens. Boots, however, are like friendships. You get out of them what love you put into them. So here are some basic tips for helping your footwear serve you for as long a time as possible.
Keep Them Clean
Over time, your footwear will accumulate all manner of harmful particles. The dirt on the exterior, for example, contains abrasive grains that, left alone, will break down and shorten the life of the exterior. Always begin cleaning by taking out your insoles and shaking out dirt, sand, and gravel that may have gotten inside. Wipe the interior to remove the salt deposits that build up on the lining with continued use and perspiration. Use water and a bristled brush to clean off lighter layers of dirt. If need be, you can also make use of saddle soap or other mild cleaner, but make sure that whatever you use is made specifically for cleaning shoes. If you have caked mud on the outsoles, soak them in a shallow pan for several hours, then hose away the sludge when it becomes soft. To get rid of mold, use a mixture of roughly 80% water and 20% vinegar.
Apply conditioner on a regular basis. Conditioner is designed to replenish the moisture and keep leather from drying or cracking. There are a wide variety of conditioners available, but you should avoid animal-based fats like mink or neat’s foot oil, which will soften the leather instead of moisturizing it. Liquid conditioners typically darken the leather, so if your shoes are light-colored or you are invested in maintaining their looks at all costs, avoid liquids and instead utilize spray conditioners.
Maintain Water Repellency
Even footwear with GoreTex soles, like the Salomon’s Men’s Quest 4D GTX Backpacking Boots, will need maintenance in order to retain waterproofing abilities. This is normally as simple as applying a few coats water-based water repellent. Be sure to avoid wax-based repellents, which will block the pores in the leather, causing it to become cracked, dry, and inflexible. They will also reduce the breathability of your shoe.
Avoid Heat While Drying
As tempting as it is to speed up drying your boots by putting them near a radiator or heater, doing this will actually cause any leather to crack and flake. Keep your footwear away from direct heat, and dry at room temperature. Alternative drying methods include:
- Hang your shoes upside down, from a clothesline or a shower rail
- Place them in the path of a fan without heat. To make sure the whole shoe dries, take out the insoles and pull the tongue open as far as it will go.
- Stuff the wet boot with newspaper, which is surprisingly and effectively absorbent. Replace the newspaper periodically (recommended every half hour) until your shoe is dry.
Handle With Care
Lastly, you should exercise common sense and treat your boots with care. Always follow the care instructions enclosed with the product. Break in the product before attempting an extended trip, even if the product description says no break-in time. You can do this by wearing your new shoes inside the house while going through household tasks. Expand the areas in which you wear them slowly, and apply conditioner in any areas where you find stiffness. Also, take them off properly—unlace them or remove them with your hand, rather than just kicking them off with your feet.