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How to: A Guide to Picking Hiking Boots

Flickr/M Hillier

Hiking boots should fit perfectly to give you endless hiking pleasure, but before choosing a pair of boots there are a few things to consider.

Our feet are a complex part of our body that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Considering that we spend a lot of time on them during the day it makes sense to invest in the right pair of hiking boots that fit. When it comes to picking the correct hiking boots, you should think about what it is you want. You will want a pair that is light and comfortable that will keep your feet warm, dry and protected and that match your hiking goals.

If you don’t have boots that fit properly, your feet and ankles won’t receive the support they need and you’ll be prone to chafing, blisters and other food problems such as pressure on your Achilles. When trying on hiking boots you want to make sure that you don’t have too much room or your feet will simply move up and down. If there is not enough room your feet will be too squashed damaging your toenails – and no one wants their toenails to fall off.

Foot Size

The best time to try on a pair of hiking boots is usually during the afternoon when your feet are slightly swollen. As most people tend to have one foot a slightly different size than the other it is best to try both boots on, and to always go for the boot that fits your largest foot.


If you can it’s best to try your hiking boots on with the socks you intend to wear when hiking. Pick the socks you are most comfortable wearing which should be of good quality and fit you well. If you prefer to wear thick socks you may need to size up, but the main thing is to make sure that you’re comfortable in the socks you choose to wear.

flickr/Misty Fire Rose
Flickr/Misty Fire Rose


Before purchasing a pair of hiking boots you should determine the type of terrain you think you will encounter the most. Unless you decide to buy a number of hiking boots for a variety of terrain, it is a good idea to buy one pair that is versatile enough for all the hiking you intend to do. Will you be doing day hiking? Backpacking? Or both? What type of terrain will you be walking on? Will it be easy? Moderate? Or strenuous?

If you are only day hiking on terrain that is easy, such as lowland tracks and trails or long-distance flat walks, then you require a lightweight shoe with minimal support. But if you are venturing into more boggy or hilly terrain then it is wise to pick a hiking boot that is durable, provides maximum support and is waterproof with good traction.

flickr/Sujay Sarkhel
Flickr/Sujay Sarkhel

Water Resistance

With the array of hiking boots available it is quite easy to find a pair of waterproof ones for your hiking needs. Gore-Tex is probably the most common breathable and waterproof material available that can be found in most outdoor equipment and footwear. Opting for waterproof hiking boots means that your feet are protected from the rain and snow while still maintaining their breathability. However, if your boots become submerged in water, one way to speed up the process of drying them out is to fill both boots with newspaper for the water to soak in.

flickr/Donald Palansky Photography
Flickr/Donald Palansky Photography

Seasonal Boots

During the spring and summer your feet tend to be bigger due to the warmer months swelling your feet. Of course, unless you want to buy multiple boots for different times of the year, you need to choose a pair that will be ideal for all year use. The best way to achieve this is to buy hiking boots that have a bit of extra room for spring and summer. Half a size bigger should be ideal. You don’t want to go too big as you’ll need them for the winter months and you don’t want your feet moving around too much. To remedy the extra space during the winter you can simply wear a thick pair of socks.

flickr/Troy Mason
Flickr/Troy Mason

Are They Big Enough?

To test if you have picked the correct boots, you should push your toes to the front of the boot and put your index finger down the back of the boot. If you are able to do this, then you’ve probably got enough room for your toes to move about, but not so much that your feet will constantly be slipping around.

Breaking Them In

Make sure, though, that when you buy your hiking boots you buy them well in advance of your trip or activity, so that you can break them in beforehand. This will allow you to soften the fabric and mould the inside of the boot to your foot. It also provides enough time to deal with any issues that you may not be able to deal with when you’re wearing them during your hike such as any rubbing on your Achilles.

Remember these tips when you go out to buy your next pair of hiking boots for whatever your outdoor activity. It will pay off in the long run!

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How to: A Guide to Picking Hiking Boots