Choosing Hiking Boots: 5 Things to Consider

Dan Kasper hiking in the CatskillsWith Spring officially here many of us are getting outside and hitting either the trails, crags or mountains. Choosing hiking boots can be a daunting task of trial and error. Depending on your activities and budget you may find yourself looking for one pair of all around hiking boots or several pairs for variety of options similar to your climbing trad rack. Here are 5 recommendations to help you alleviate some of the hassle and mistakes!

Choosing Hiking boots

Styles of Hiking:

Hiking is a broad description now a days. Your choice of hiking can range from day hikes, to multi-day backpacking or even high elevation mountaineering. The style of hiking in which you are looking to pursue will play an integral role when choosing hiking boots. If you looking to just get started into hiking a pair of low cut hiking shoes or a day hiking boot should be sufficient. On the other hand if you have a specific goal in mind such as doing Mount Washington or Rainer you are looking more into Mountaineering boots.

Ritter looking at Whitney Gilman horizontal

Terrain & Season:

Are you hiking carriage road & foot paths on a dry day? Are you looking to do aggressive trails, mountain peaks or in variable weather conditions? The weather conditions and terrain you plan on hiking will play a large factor into what kind of hiking boots you should choose. As previously mentioned if you are just starting out, a pair of low cut hiking shoes can be good.(My current hiking shoes)  If you are looking to start out and quickly transition into hiking more aggressive trails with some mud, rocks or even snow a pair higher cut boots for ankle support will be required. These are the boots I use as my year-round for almost everything – My Hiking Boots

The terrain and conditions requiring mountaineering boots will be generally beyond the standard definition and/or scope of hiking.They will have a need or call for technical equipment such as ropes, ice axes or crampons as an example. We will save that for another write-up but if you are interested in learning more about Mountaineering this is a good article by REI – Mountaineering: Summit Adventures

Michele hiking up the trail on Cannon mountain in the White Mountains

Socks, Socks, Socks!:

Those favorite pair of socks of yours? Yeah…you want to wear those when you go try on hiking boots. The thickness of the socks you wear will have an impact on the comfort and fit of your hiking boots.The reason being is there is a good chance you will probably be wearing them when you go out hiking or find a comfort in the thickness of the socks you normally wear. This will also give you an opportunity to examine & realize what your socks are made of. Are they made of Cotton? Wool? Synthetic? The material your socks are made out of will affect the comfort and fit of your hiking boots. Fully cotton socks are not recommended to wear when hiking. They hold sweat, do not retain heat when wet and will often lead to blisters while hiking. We recommend considering trying new socks and hiking boots together to make sure your foot wear “system” works well together. To see more information on sock options and consideration – Choosing Socks for Hiking

Kevin looking into the depths of the Narrows

Toebox fitting –

Make sure the toebox is comfortable with the socks on! If the toebox is narrow and cramps your toes do not buy it! The toebox can be hard to “break-in” to your feet, especially in hiking boots that are thicker or stiffer in design. If you are hiking down hill, say a 4000 ft peak you just finished bagging, you will notice and feel the pain of the toebox if it is to small the whole way back down the mountain!

Switchbacks up to angels landing1

Go at the End of the Day:

When trying on hiking boots it is best to go at the end of the day. When you are out on the trail your feet will naturally swell while out hiking. At the end of any regular day your feet will be a little swollen from running doing daily activities and coincidentally at their largest. This will help you avoid buying hiking boots that are too small and possibly the painful hike realizing it!

Hiking through the valley in Pine Creek

There is obviously many more tips out there to consider when choosing a proper pair of hiking boots. Everyone’s situation & experience  is different and at the end of the day it is going to come down to your style, local terrain and goals. If you have any questions or feedback please feel free to email me –

Looking to go hiking? – Recommended Hikes


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