There might not be any Manolo Blahniks on the shoe storage rack in my basement, but there are several dozen pairs of trail runners, lightweight hikers and heavy hiking boots. Just call me the Carrie Bradshaw of the trail crowd.
When it comes to hiking boots, the choices are overwhelming. If you’re relatively new to the world of hiking, how do you know what kind of footwear you should invest in? Before you can answer that question, you need to ask a few more.
Questions to ask before buying hiking boots:
How much hiking do you plan to do?
Are you a beginner hiker who will start out exploring well-groomed trails with relatively little elevation gain or loss?
Are you a striving to become a hard-core hiker tackling a long-distance trail with a 40-lb backpack?
Will you be going out in all weather conditions or are you a fair-weather hiker?
Three basic types of hiking boots:
1. trail runners – these are just beefed-up running shoes. They are cut a little higher around the ankle with a bit more padding and better grip on the sole. They are immediately comfortable and are perfect for short, easy hikes without a pack.
2. lightweight hikers – built more like a shoe than a boot, these are also comfortable, don’t need to be broken in and work well for longer day hikes with a light pack on easy to moderate terrain.
3. heavy hikers – there are a range of styles for these boots, but they all provide good ankle support, have a heavy-duty tread on the sole and are used for backpacking trips. Depending on what type of heavy hiker you buy, these boots can be stiff to start. It may take a few shorter trips to break them in and help make them more comfortable to wear.
Two tips to hiking boot happiness:
1. Try several different types of boots and know what works for you – some makes are wider in width, others have more arch support…
2. Once you’ve made the purchase, try them out at home – indoors – for a couple of hours before you head outside. If they pinch or pull or cause any discomfort, take them back before the trail dust negates the option to do so.