How to Pick the Right Hiking Shoes
Your shoes are arguably the most important gear you will take with you on a hike. And while a well selected, broken-in pair will probably get little credit for your rewarding experience, an ill-fit pair will feel like slow torture. So how can you be sure you’ve picked the best shoes?
Styles—know your options
For the hike that lasts a couple hours or where the trail is well worn, a pair of light hiking shoes may be the best choice. These are basically a glorified running or walking shoe. They will often be slightly heavier than your cross-trainers and have deeper tread on the soles. Use them for hikes near camp or a day hike where you’ll be sticking fairly close to the trail and doing little or no scrambling over rough terrain.
Hiking shoes or boots are usually slightly heavier, cover the ankle like a high-top, and have some padding in the tongue and around the ankle for some support and give against the work you may put them through over rougher terrain. They will stand up against some rougher terrain as long as your pack is fairly light.
Backpacking boots are usually designed to cover higher up the leg than hiking boots and are made of stronger, more durable materials. Choose this boot if you’re packing into camp or plan to blaze your own trails.
Mountaineering boots are for the serious backpacker who needs a lot of support and grip to handle the steeper terrain they’ll be facing. These boots are high rise and built to accept crampons that will claw their way up a mountain side. They’ll support you under the weight of a big pack as well.
Perhaps more important than which style of shoe you pick is how the shoe fits. And you don’t want a shoe that is heavier than you need either. These are a few tips to help with fit:
– Expect to spend a good deal of time shopping. You should try on at least three pair of shoes before buying.
– Consider wearing the socks you’ll wear on the hike.
– Speak with a knowledgeable sales representative. A little one-on-one guidance could be invaluable at this point.
– Some stores provide boot-testing areas. These spaces will often have some version of a rougher terrain to try out your shoes on so you can test the traction, support, and flexibility of the shoe ahead of time.
Breaking them in
Now that you have the perfect pair of shoes, take the time to really break them in before you actually go hiking. Mountaineering shoes are going to take a considerable amount of time compared to a light hiking shoe.
Ultimately, let your feet be your best source for recommendations. Don’t take a pair of shoes out adventuring if they are heavy or painful to wear. They need to be comfortable so you can go the distance.