Your footwear is one of the most important piece of hiking gear you own. You want to keep your feet healthy, happy and supported when you travel through the wilderness.
The great variety of hiking boots and hiking shoes can make the selection process confusing. Different styles can be good for different settings. Here’s a guide that will help you to narrow down the selection.
A few key questions consider: How long is your trip? How much weight will you be carrying? What kind of weather and terrain are you expecting? These basic questions will help you settle on a category of the style of your hiking shoes.
Light Hiking Shoes
This style of hiking shoes are mostly made with low-cut models. They are flexible and lightweight, which makes them great for day hiking.
Mid-weight Hiking Boots
These mid-to-hight-cut models are great for short backpacking trips or longer day hikes. They have the benefits of a low hiking shoe and add additional ankle support to provide security you need for a variety of adventures.
Heavy Backpacking Boots
These boots are designed for carrying additional weight, and a high cut offers great ankle stability. The usually have heavy outsoles to provide more traction on rugged terrain. The downside is that they are much heavier and less nimble compared to other options. Therefore they are ideal if you have a heavy load on multiway trips.
Full-grain leather offers excellent durability and abrasion resistance and very good water resistance. You will find it commonly used in backpacking boots built for extended trips, heavy loads and rugged terrain. The down side is, it is not as light or breathable as nylon/split-grain leather combinations. Ample break-in time is needed before starting an extended trip.
Nubuck leather is full-grain leather that has been buffed to resemble suede. It is thinner and softer than full grain leather, which makes it fairly flexible. It is very durable and resists water and abrasion.
Synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester are commonly used on many boots. They are easy to break in, lightweight, and dry faster than leather.
Synthetic materials are often used together with unbuckle or full grain leather to provide the best of both worlds – synthetic materials to allow your shoe to remain cool and dry and leather to offer support, protection, and re-enforcement.
The midsole provides cushioning and buffer from shock. Stiff boots provide more stability on rocky terrain, while softer midsole tend to feel more soft and requires little to no break-in time.
Midsoles are generally made of two materials: ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), or polyurethane (PU). Both materials come in different densities. More dense foam will offer more support but requires longer break down periods. Compared with their EVA counterparts, PU missiles are denser and weightier, which means they provide better support, but also requires a break in period before it becomes more pliable and comfortable.
The outsole is the bottom of the shoes that makes direct contact with the ground. Generally made of rubber, the outsole can be made in different densities to accommodate different needs. Softer outsoles are more often found in most approach shoes, will grip onto surfaces better, but also wear down more quickly. Wantdo hiking shoes with Vibram outsoles are great with gripping wet and dry terrain.
Hiking shoes with cleats or lugs provide good traction. Deep, thick lugs are used on backpacking or mountaineering boots to improve grip.
Waterproofing membranes such as GORE-TEX or HydroGuard are commonly used to keep the shoes waterproof. They are often the inner-most layer of the upper to protect the membrane. They have microscopic holes to allow water vapor to escape but small enough to keep liquid water out. However, they are still noticeably warmer and less breathable. Therefore if you are not hiking in the rain season or somewhere with puddles, non-waterproof boots might be a better option.