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How To Choose The Right Hiking Shoes

[no_toc]Having the best and right pair of hiking shoes can break or make a hike. The wrong features or size may result in sore feet and blisters and a disappointing experience on a hiking trail. Below are some of the tips on how to select the right hiking shoes:
Photo Credit: Mountain Warehouse

What Features You Should Look for?


The materials impact the weight, durability, water resistance, and breathability of the hiking boots.

  • Insulation – A synthetic insulation is actually added to several mountaineering boots for warmth when hiking on glaciers and snow.
  • Vegan – Hiking boots and shoes that are made without any byproducts or animal ingredients.
  • Waterproof Membranes – Shoes and boots considered waterproof feature uppers made with breathable or waterproof membranes to keep your feet dry in the wet conditions. The downside is that reduced breathability made by membranes might encourage one’s feet to sweat during summer days.
  • Synthetics – Nylon, polyester, and synthetic leather are found in the modern boots. These are lighter compared to leather, break in quickly, cost les, and dry faster. The downside is that they might show wear sooner because of more stitching on the boot’s outside part.
  • Nubuck Leather – It’s a leather that’s full-grain and has been buffed to look like suede. It resists abrasion and water and it’s extremely durable. It is also flexible, yet it requires a lot of time to break in before extended hikes.
  • Split-Grain Leather – It’s typically combined with nylon mesh or nylon to make a lightweight boots that provide excellent breathability. The split-grain leather basically splits away rougher inner part of cowhide from smooth exterior. The advantage is reduced cost, yet the downside is actually less resistance to abrasion and water.
  • Full-Grain Leather – This provides great abrasion resistance and durability and good water resistance. It is used commonly in boots for backpacking that are designed for rugged terrain, heavy loads, and extended trips. It isn’t as breathable or light as nylon or the split-grain leather combination.

Internal Support

  • Plates – Such semi-flexible and thin inserts are placed between the outsole and midsole and below the shanks. They also protect the feet from getting bruised by uneven rocks or roots.
  • Shanks – These are three to five millimeters thick inserts, which are sandwiched between the outsole and midsole of the boots to add stiffness to the midsole. They differ in length and others cover the midsole’s entire length while some just cover half.


These provide cushioning and buffers feet from any shock, and determines the stiffness of the shoes. The stiff boots might be a good thing, yet for longer hikes on uneven and rocky terrain, they could mean greater stability and comfort. These will not let any foot wear out through wrapping around each tree root or rock you step on. The most typical materials for midsoles are polyurethane and EVA.


Rubber is often used on the outsoles of hiking shoes. The additives including carbon are sometimes added to mountaineering or backpacking shoes to boost hardness. The hard outsoles increase the durability, yet may feel slick once you go off the trail.

  • Heel Brake – It refers to defined heel zone that’s distinct from the arch and forefoot. This lessens your chance to slide during the steep descents.
  • Lug Pattern – The lugs are basically the traction-giving bumps on outsole. Thicker, deeper lugs are used on some shoes to improve the grip. The lugs that are widely spaced provide good shed mud and traction much easily.


The shoe’s midsole is what offers shock absorption and cushioning. Many are created from polyurethane and EVA. The EVA can offer lighter weight shoe and could reduce the expense. Several shoes have thinner and thicker sections of EVA throughout the shoes for better support. The heavy duty hiking boots and mountaineering boots will have midsoles that are made of polyurethane for firmer fit.


Different style of hiking shoes

There are various kinds of shoes for several hiking types. The low cut styles are ideal for short hikes or backpacking. The mid high boots are designed for those who want to go for day hikes and long weekend treks. Both provide flexible midsoles. The shoes that come over the ankles are ideal for trips that can last for several days. These are also best for rugged environments. Higher cuts offer better support for ankles. The mountaineering boots are also higher on calf and meant for heavier climbing or backpacking and designed to accommodate the crampons for the icy terrains.


Make sure that you measured your foot at a particular shoe store to ensure that you are using the right size. Since size may differ from a manufacturer to another, it is nice to have a solid baseline you can start from. The online charts for sizing work well, yet in some cases, measure both of your feet and double check for the right measurement. To account normal swelling that happens as you move during the day, consider measuring your foot at the end of your day. Bring the orthotics or insoles you wear often and slip them into the hiking shoes you’re trying on. You should wear the same kind of socks you’ll wear with the new boots.

If trying boots and shoes on in the store, consider putting both shoes on and walk around the stores a bit. Look for uncomfortable or pinching seams. Never worry about trying on some pairs, you like the right fit for your feet. If you are shopping over the internet, take a look at the brands you’ve worn before for consistent fit.

Getting the right style and fit for your needs mean better hiking. Take note that hiking boots and running shoes are different. Their features differ and have several purposes. But, the decision is yours as it depends on your own preferences. The basic golden rule you should follow is to use the hiking boots if you are just getting started and go for running shoes if you are comfortable with the ones with less protection.

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