What Hiking Boots Should I Buy? | Hikers University

Hiking boots help keep your feet comfortable and supported when hiking over uneven gravel tracks or rocks if you hold an expedition-weight load or a light pack.

Many alternatives are available for hiking boots, like burly backpacking boots, supportive day-hiking boots, low-cut hiking shoes, and lightweight trail runners.

Hikers concerned about broken ankles or with past ankle problems need a solid and comfortable boot like the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX, Merrel Moab 2 Mid WP, or Salomon Quest 4 GTX. They are the best in their categories and often have a strong core integrated between the outsole and midsole.

There are many brands available, including Zamberlan, Scarpa, Salomon, Merrell, and Keen. So how can you decide what type of hiking boots or shoes you need? You need to determine which ones are ideal for your needs.

After careful research and a focus on materials, breathability, waterproofing, and other qualities, we have created an in-depth guide for the type of hiking boots you should buy.

Table of contents


Determine What Kind of Hiking Boots or Shoes Do You Want?

People used to hike in huge leather boots. Nowadays, there are various boots to pick from, including trail running shoes, backpacking boots, day hiking boots, and day hiking shoes.

1. Hiking Shoes for the Day

Low-cut daytime hiking shoes bulk up the comfortable bottoms of trail shoes for the demands of the path. It protects your feet and also provides greater stability than trail runners.


  • The product is flexible and lightweight.
  • Available in a variety of fabric choices for better waterproofness and breathability.
  • Trail shoes are more sturdy.


  • There's not enough ankle comfort.
  • These shoes are not stable or durable.

2. Hiking Boots for the Day

These hiking boots are available in high- and mid-cut designs, providing extra ankle support on challenging treks or handling big packs.

Long-distance hiking, technical trails, hikers carrying big day packs, and adventurers who require additional ankle stability and support are all good reasons to use these boots.


  • The high- or mid-cut cuffs provide excellent support and stability.
  • Better durability.
  • Uppers and soles are long-lasting.
  • These hiking boots are waterproof.


  • Heavier and bulkier than trail running or hiking shoes.
  • People might have to break them in because they are less versatile than hiking shoes.
  • Some of these boots aren't particularly breathable.

3. Boots for Backpacking

High-cut hiking boots, designed for rocky terrain and heavy loads, help support your ankles while taking a heavy load in your bag. They're substantial in reducing foot stress. Boots for backpacking are incredibly sturdy and can withstand the most difficult treks.

Boots for backpacking are ideal for hikers who require a lot of ankle strength and strength and hikers who carry big hiking bags.


  • High cut to provide maximum ankle comfort.
  • Midsoles that are stiff give the maximum support and avoid foot discomfort.
  • Uppers and soles are long-lasting.
  • The majority of trekking boots are waterproof.


  • They are not extremely flexible.
  • Most hiking boots aren't airy and breathable.

4. Hiking Trail Boots

Trail boots contain rubbery grooves on the bottoms to provide stability on the mountain and padding to protect your foot from rocks and roots. Because trail boots provide a flexible and comfortable fit, several individuals choose to use them when exploring. Trail runners aren't for everyone because they lack the balance, ankle comfort, and reliability of climbing boots.

Trail boots are ideal for small treks on thru-hiking, trail running, groomed trails, hikers who don't require comfort or a lot of flexibility, and hikers holding light backpacks. Hiking trail boots

Trail boots contain rubbery grooves on the bottoms to provide stability on the mountain and padding to protect your foot from rocks and roots. Because trail boots provide a flexible and comfortable fit, several individuals choose to use them when exploring. Trail runners aren't for everyone because they lack the balance, ankle comfort, and reliability of climbing boots.

Trail boots are ideal for small treks on thru-hiking, trail running, groomed trails, hikers who don't require comfort or a lot of flexibility, and hikers holding light backpacks.


  • The product is extremely flexible and lightweight.
  • Some are more open and airy, and they last longer.


  • There is no ankle comfort.
  • They are not durable and sturdy.
  • They are not water-resistant or waterproof.
  • They get hot in summer.

Considerations for Choosing the Right Hiking Boot

When looking for boots for hiking, you'll come across a variety of features and materials. What is the importance of full-grain leather? Is there anything like a gusseted tongue? All reasonable concerns – below are some of the most common materials and features used in hiking boots and what serves to make them beneficial.

1. Different Types of Material

The soles of boots for hiking are usually manufactured of rubber. However, the section that goes around the foot (commonly referred to as the uppers) could be constructed of a variety of materials. The material used decides how light, durable, breathable, and water-resistant each hiking boot or shoe is.

Full-Grain Leather

It is the most long-lasting, scratch-resistant, and waterproof leather. As a result, it is the stiffest, least ventilated, and less bendable.

Suede and Nubuck

Smoother and more agile than many other materials, but less water-resistant and durable.

Synthetic Leather

It might mean that it is constructed of nylon, polyurethane, or nylon in various densities and thicknesses. Most have qualities similar to cowhide, while some are much more breathable and lighter in weight.

Synthetic leather is less costly, flexible, breathable, lighter, and dry sooner than cowhide. However, these are often less reliable and less long-lasting when contrasted to leather.

Mesh Material

It increases ventilation and reduces heaviness in hiking boots. Because the mesh isn't very tough, you'll commonly find it in low-wear places.

Water-Resistant Material

Some synthetics and leather offer great waterproofing on their own. Some hiking boots contain a watertight seal placed between the outer and inner layers of the top to keep them water-resistant. It renders the shoe water-resistant while still making it ventilated. Many shoes feature commonly breathable and waterproof technology such as eVent or Gore-Tex, while some may use proprietary technology.

Rand or Toe Cap

A rubber cushion shields your footwear from collisions, such as accidentally slamming it onto a log or rock. Typically located on the toe; however, heavier boots may also have a toe cap or rand.

Gusseted Tongues

This function is helpful for keeping pebbles out of the boots and socks. A gusseted tongue indicates that the edges of the tongues are attached to the top section of the footwear to prevent sand, pebbles, and rainwater from getting inside.

2. What Weight Should Hiking Footwear Have?

Weight is a trade-off that should be considered when comparing different footwear. Heavy boots are excellent for support and durability; however, extra weight can cause fatigue. Lighter shoes and boots will not weigh you back but will give you significantly less comfort. Based on the hiking priorities, you'll have to determine which would be essential to you.

3. How to Fit Hiking Shoes and Boots?

When you're willing to try on a few shoes or boots, visit your nearest footwear stores and let one of their trained boot fitters assist you. Professional boot fitting visits are also available at certain stores.

When you are unable to visit a footwear store, try searching online and contact through phone, text, or video call. Experts will suggest different companies according to your foot size and the style of hiking or trekking you want to do.

4. Find the Ideal Size

Get your shoe size assessed in-store for the best precise fitting. When you can't go shopping, use a measuring tape to determine the length of your foot in cm, and match it to the measurement tables. Step up to acquire a more precise measurement of the feet. Please remember that measurements might vary between companies, so you may not finish up wearing the typical size.

5. Put Your Boots on and Give Them a Try

  • Take some minutes out to try on various kinds of hiking boots or shoes.
  • Try to replicate real-world trekking situations, for example, by trying them on an inclined surface.
  • When trying on the boots for hiking, put on your favorite and comfortable socks.
  • Remember to carry your orthotics when you use them.
  • Put on shoes later in the day; your foot expands a little over the day, giving you a more accurate fit than wearing it first thing every day.
  • Try on both hiking shoes, belt them tightly at the bottom, and then go for a jog.
  • Choose a sloping stair or ramp and take little steps down and up.
  • Your toes must not shift over half a millimeter as you climb. If it does, the hiking boot could be too big. Your toes must not be in contact with the front of the hiking boot on the way back down. Your boot is likely to be too tight and small when they do.
  • Your foot must feel stable within the hiking boot and must not flex or twist in rough conditions.
  • Check out after-market inserts when you need extra comfort or a better fit.

6. Assess the Shape of Your Feet

Several boot models or brands are well-known for accommodating wide feet, and others are ideal for flat feet or small heels. Do not get hung up on size. In one brand, you may be a size 6, whereas, in the other, you might be a size 7.

What Are You Choosing Hiking Boots for?

The majority of the latest hiking boots and shoes are good enough to wear straight out of the package. They would never be when they're not at ease on the first day. However, you would still need to wear them on. It's especially true for backpacking boots and stiffer hiking.

  1. Which Place or Terrain Have You Planned?

Will you be crossing mud, rocks, and roads? It's critical to think about what your boots for hiking will be subjected to. Terrain not just affects stress and strain, but it also dictates what qualities you may require.

Asphalt and concrete surfaces, for example, might cause the bottom of a trekking boot to wear out faster, and if you're traveling a great distance on the asphalt, you might well be more satisfied with a trail boot.

A flawless shape also prevents water from leaking in and significantly reduces friction, which contributes to blisters. These shoes and boots include specialized toe caps and soles for added durability.

Hiking boots constructed of nubuck and full-grain leather are weather-resistant, scratch-resistant, and long-lasting. Leather such as split grain is much less durable and weather resistant, but it takes time to break-in.

  1. Which Season Are You Planning for Hiking?

Would you be trekking and hiking in freezing temperatures, rain, heat, dryness, or humidity? The other environmental and weather elements will influence whether you pick a waterproof boot or a breathable mesh shoe.

If you're walking into or out of rivers, you'll have to decide if a water-resistant boot or quick-drying shoe is more useful.

A hiking boot with a waterproof and breathable liner, such as NGX or Gore-Tex, is required for completely waterproof footwear. Properly caring for your Gore-Tex boots can extend their performance and life. The waterproof lining will keep your foot warm. However, there is still a wide opening in the middle of your boots where the feet slip in; therefore, moisture may still dribble in if you're trekking through streams.

Begin by wearing them around the house or workplace, then go on shorter trips. Increase your weight and mileage gradually. You can exchange or return them if the size isn't ideal and you've not worn them outdoors.


Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

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