13 Best Hiking Boots, Shoes, Trail Runners & Sandals

In this guide we’ll take a look at the best hiking boots and shoes.
We’ve compared comfort, support, durability and cost
to give you our top recommendations.

What Are The Best Hiking Boots & Shoes?

More Detailed Hiking Boot & Shoe Reviews

Salomon Men’s Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boots

The best hiking boot for men simply has to be the Salomon Men’s Quest 4D 2 GTX. I don’t have a bad word to say about these boots. They are specifically designed to be lightweight and comfortable but also stable. The boot borrows dynamic cushioning from running shoe technology, 4D stability and all-mountain traction. A total dream for longer hikes.

Made from techno fabric, these boots are both weatherproof and breathable. They perform brilliantly through all seasons and have a protective rubber toe cap, protective heel cap, lace blocker, gusseted tongue, Made from nubuck leather, Salomon ensure protection and comfort all year long.


  • Lightweight, comfortable all rounders. Ideal for all seasons
  • Unique lacing system. Loosen or tighten any of the top three levels to your preferred tightness
  • Waterproof. Can submerge the boot nearly to the top and they will stay dry
  • Excellent ankle support so less risk of rolling your ankle


  • While the laces are easy to tie and the system good, the laces they provide do come loose quite easily

Salomon Women’s Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boots

If the best hiking boot for men is the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX, it’s unsurprising that they’re also top of my list as the best hiking boot for women! These are both lightweight and supportive, with running shoe technology for stability and comfort.

The high top cuff and full waterproof bootie provide year-round protection, and they offer a secure grip on all types of terrain. The advanced 4D Chassis helps you to stay stable no matter what the terrain, and the protective rubber heel and toe caps provide extra protection.

All in all, these Salomon boots are a fantastic all rounder from a reputable and innovative brand. A must-have on long or short hiking trips in which you need a little more support.


  • Salomon is an innovative brand who are passionate about what they do, evident in the quality of these boots
  • Great arch support – ideal if you are flatter footed
  • Lightweight, comfortable all rounders – perform well in all weathers


  • Laces don’t stay tied very easily. May need to buy your own laces

Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe

If you’re after a hiking shoe as opposed to a boot, the Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe should be your go-to. Hiking shoes are often preferred by more casual hikers, as they weigh less, are more breathable yet generally offer a good amount of support.

These hiking shoes are made from performance suede leather with a mesh upper. The closed-cell foam tongue keeps moisture and debris out, while the protective rubber toe cap offers extra protection.

Like hiking shoes should, the Merrell Men’s offer great breathability. The mesh lining keeps your feet cool, and the EVA contoured footbed offers zonal arch and heel support. Finally, the air cushion in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability and comfort.

Perhaps most important, these shoes are lightweight and, arguably not so important, come in a range of sizes and styles.


  • Lightweight and available in a wide range of colors
  • Light and breathable fabric yet still offer good support and stability
  • The wide sizes are perfect for people with wider feet


  • These are not the same as the original Moabs which has caught out some users – the lacing geometry has changed and the heel is deeper. They also have one less lacehole which makes it harder to tighten the shoes adequately
  • Not waterproof but this is standard for hiking shoes

Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe

Next up we’ve got the Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe. These shoes are made from durable leather, have a supportive footbed which supports the arch and Vibram traction – perfect for people who need a more support.

The best thing about these shoes is that they are comfortable straight out of the box. While of course, you need to break them in before you set off on a day-long hike, they are comfy and supportive from the offset.

These shoes are breathable, with a mesh upper to stop your feet getting too hot. While they aren’t waterproof in the sense that you can wade through a creek and stay dry, they do perform well in bad weather.


  • Offer a great amount of arch support – perfect for people with both flat and wide feet
  • Small profile so can take everywhere with you
  • Breathable, comfortable and perform well in bad weather


  • The arch is high and noticeable. Flat footed hikers may find them uncomfortable
  • The heel is a wider fit than the original Moabs which has upset some fans of the originals!

Salomon Men’s Speedcross 4 Trail Running Shoes

The best trail running shoe and in fact, one of my favourite shoes of all time, is the Salomon Men’s Speedcross 4. As Salomon say themselves, this is more than a running shoe.

These Salomon shoes have a minimalistic and strong lace for one-pull tightening. They are easy to take on and off, and there’s no danger of your lace coming undone mid-run!

The Sensifit technology cradles the foot to provide a secure, snug and customized fit all around, while the techno fabric makes the shoe both weatherproof and breathable – head out for a run rain or shine!

With aggressive grip and extremely lightweight feel, these shoes are perfect for seasoned trail runners. Plus, their exceptional quality means you can head out for run after run without them falling apart.


  • Exceptional grip so perfect for trail running
  • Sensifit technology cradles the foot for a secure and snug fit
  • Breathable fabric and weatherproof – can run no matter what the season


  • Do not dry as quickly as some other trail running shoes but this is minor!

Salomon Women’s Speedcross 4 Trail Running Shoes

The Women’s Speedcross 4 should be top of any trail runner’s list. Like the men’s Salomon shoes, these offer exceptional grip with precise foothold, making them safe and sturdy – perfect for soft trail conditions.

It’s not just the grip that put these shoes top of the running (sorry!), these shoes are lightweight and use Sensifit technology to cradle the entire foot. The result is a snug and secure fit for stability over more difficult terrain.

Finally, these shoes are quicklace with a protective mud-guard. The fabric is breathable making them ideal for all weathers, and you can use them for hiking if you’re not ready to pick up the pace just yet!

Overall, a fantastic shoe that does everything it says on the tin – plus more.


  • Exceptional grip – ideal for tough terrain
  • Water resistant and breathable so great in all weather (although not waterproof)
  • Very comfortable
  • Available in a range of great colors


  • Slightly narrower than the Speedcross 3s – but could seem more snug and comfortable

KEEN – Men’s Durand Waterproof Mid Hiking Boot

A good pair of waterproof hiking boots are something of a rarity, but the KEEN Men’s Durand Waterproof Mid Hiking Boots have got both you, and your feet covered. 100% leather with a synthetic sole, these are built for comfort, with a contoured heel and a PU heel cushion for maximum support.

Comfort aside, these boots are ideal for wet weather. They have a proprietary waterproof, breathable membrane which lets moisture out without letting water in. The breathable mesh means that your feet will stay cool and comfortable all day long.

Finally, these shoes provide excellent arch support; perfect if you’re flat footed.


  • Good arch support so comfortable and supportive if you have flatter feet
  • Very high quality and durable
  • Fully waterproof which is hard to find in a hiking boot!
  • Available in regular and wide


  • Good arch support but not as much support for the ankles. Slightly softer and thinner than others on the market

Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Waterproof Hiking Boot

The Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Hiking Boots are one of the best waterproof boots out there, and are available in a range of colors.

These boots are made from waterproof full-grain leather and suede, with a durable mesh tongue for breathability and comfort. They’re perfect for all weather hiking, not just those rainy days!

Waterproofing aside, it’s the extra features that really make these boots stand out. The Techlite lightweight midsole provides long lasting comfort, superior cushioning and high energy return. The Omni-Grip advanced traction rubber sole offers slip free movement.

Other features include the lace-up closure, and they are both water and stain repellent. Columbia offer a full footwear fit guide to help find your perfect size.


  • Fully waterproof unless totally submerged
  • True to size if you wear with hiking socks
  • Lightweight, with excellent support around the foot and ankle


  • Wear tall hiking socks as these boots may rub your ankle
  • Breaking in needed so not ideal as a last minute shoe before a long hike!

Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent Mid Hiking Boot

Available in a choice of 3 designs, the Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent Mid Hiking Boot is one of the best lightweight boots on the market.

Made from 100% suede leather and mesh, these are built to last and have great breathability. The mesh lining allows air to flow, and the protective rubber toe cap will keep your toes snug and protected.

These shoes offer excellent ankle support, with the Merrell air cushion working its magic to absorb shock and provide extra stability.

Available in Medium, Wide and Extra Wide, these hiking boots are perfect no matter what size or shape your foot. And, thanks to their lightness, you’ll be able to keep going all day!


  • Extremely light but still supportive
  • Great range of sizes, available in Medium, Wide and Extra Wide to suit your foot shape
  • Good arch support
  • Don’t require a break-in period (although I would always recommend one!)


  • The lacing system could do with some work. May want to use your own laces
  • Made wider than the previous Moabs. If you used to wear an Extra Wide, opt for a Wide

KEEN Men’s Targhee II Mid Wide Hiking Shoe

Ideal for those with wider feet, the Targhee II Hiking Shoe is comfortable, supportive and snug. Made from a waterproof nubuck leather which works alongside a hydrophobic mesh lining, these are perfect all rounders – great in wet weather but also breathable when the temperature gets warmer.

Hailed as a ‘four wheel drive performance for your feet’, these boots have unrivaled grip, while the mid-cut height provides ample support for the ankles.

The Wide version of these shoes are seriously wide. They provide ample room in the upper so your feet won’t be crammed in. However, they are still snug and supportive enough to keep you stable and safe on more difficult terrains.


  • Great support around the ankle making them ideal for trickier terrain
  • The Wide versions are very wide


  • Those with only moderately wide feet who purchase the Wide size will need to tie their laces up tight to get the right fit

KEEN Men’s Rialto H2 Hiking Sandal

The Men’s Rialto H2 Hiking Sandal is the perfect lightweight sandal for adventuring. These are made from water-resistant synthetic leather and have a hydrophobic mesh lining. This makes them ideal rain or shine, as they promote air flow and provide great resistance to water.

With a direct-attach PU midsole and removable, molded PU foam footbed, these sandals will cushion and support your feet brilliantly.

Last, and perhaps most impressively, these sandals boast Cleansport NXT for natural odor control. Overall, a fantastic hiking sandal that will keep your feet cool, comfortable and plodding on for longer.


  • Very durable sandals, made in the USA from excellent quality materials sourced from all around the world
  • PU foam footbed is very comfortable and supportive
  • Easy to adjust fit thanks to back velcro strap
  • Need no breaking in, although I would always recommend doing this


  • A small complaint, but the label inside is slightly uncomfortable! Cut this out before you head off
  • The grip is slightly lacking so not perfect on more difficult terrains

Women’s Keen Whisper Hiking Sandal

For a water-friendly sandal that’s comfortable and supportive, look no further than the Women’s KEEN Whisper hiking sandals. Available in 9 colors, these shoes are a fashion statement as well as a practical and comfortable shoe.

Featuring a washable polyester webbing with a quick draw elastic lacing system, these shoes are perfect for taking on the go. They can be easily carried in your car or bag for spontaneous adventures!

The metatomical EVA footbed molds to your foot’s shape for personalized comfort, and the toe protection means no nasty stubbed toes on rocks! The rubber outsole offers steady grip and stability, and these also have anti-odor protection.

Whether you’re heading out to wade through rivers in the pouring rain, or a Sunday morning hike in the sunshine, these sandals will be there for your comfort every step of the way.


  • Great price and easy to clean polyester webbing upper
  • Lace capture system gives you a secure and customizable fit, as well as easy on and off
  • Range of colors make notoriously unfashionable hiking sandals a lot more attractive


  • These are slightly on the wide size so if you have especially narrow feet you may want to look elsewhere. However, they will fit the majority of people

Zhuanglin Men’s Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes

Soggy shoes is something I’m a firm believer that no one should have to put up with, and the Zhuanglin Men’s Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes ensure this doesn’t happen too often.

Quick drying shoes keep you dry and blister-free on shorter hikes and trails, and these shoes are the best around. They have a rubber soul, and a breathable and durable air mesh upper. This allows the foot to breathe and the water to evaporate.

The solyte midsole is lightweight and has great bounce back. It doesn’t change shape over time, keeping your foot comfortable and supported. The ComforDry sockliner gives you some extra cushioning and a healthier shoe environment.

These shoes come in 12 great colors and designs, and are great as day-to-day sneakers. They are fashionable, practical and exceptionally comfortable. I’d buy one of each design if I could!


  • Lacing mechanism makes them easy to tighten and lace
  • Comfortable insole which can be removed to help them dry
  • Very comfortable, quick drying shoes which are perfect for shorter hikes where your feet might get wet
  • Also fantastic as a day-to-day shoe thanks to comfortable fit and trendy design


  • Not much arch support so will need to purchase separate insoles if you are flatter footed

Hiking Footwear Buyer’s Guide

A good pair of hiking shoes are worth their weight in gold, and buying the wrong shoes can result in a whole range of problems – something you don’t need as you’re scaling Kilimanjaro or trekking the 800 mile trails of Yosemite!

There’s more to the perfect pair of hiking shoes than just a comfortable fit; this is where many go wrong. The weather, terrain, temperature and the amount of support you need all play a big role, and of course, these factors vary from person to person.

There is ‘no one size fits all’ approach to be taken with hiking footwear. Figuring out what you need for your hike is the first step to finding that perfect pair.

Types of Hiking Footwear

With so many different styles and materials to choose from, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all the options on the market for outdoors footwear. So let’s go over the basic types of outdoors boots and shoes.

Backpacking Boots

Backpacking boots

At the heavy end of the spectrum, there are true backpacking boots. These boots lace all the way up your ankles and provide serious support and rigidity while traversing awful terrain. These boots are meant to take a beating and are built to last.

Most backpacking boots will be waterproof and quite heavy. These boots can do just about anything, but you pay a steep price in terms of weight and stiffness. These boots can often have longer break in periods and are generally less comfortable than are other boots.

If you’re going off deep into the wilderness for a longer expedition, more sturdy backpacking or hiking boots fit the bill well. This is for terrain that will put your feet to the test. Solid, heavy boots will protect you very well in rough terrain and dense brush.

Also, for any trip in cold weather conditions, these more serious boots are best. They keep snow and ice out of the boot and many of them come insulated as well. For any trip on ice, where crampons are needed, heavy backpacking or even dedicated mountaineering boots do best. Nothing protects your feet like full on backpacking boots do.

Hiking Boots

Hiking Boots

Next we have standard hiking boots. While there is a gray zone between hiking and backpacking boots, hiking boots are normally lighter and lower. They offer less ankle support and foot protection. Hiking boots come in both waterproof and non-waterproof variations, though the waterproof boots are more common.

Hiking boots often come in the same format as backpacking boots, making the overall fitment similar. These mid-range boots are a fantastic do-it-all pick and can normally withstand any abuse and wear in the wilderness.

Standard mid-height hiking boots stand out as a solid choice for just about any hiking conditions. Going for a brief day hike in the Appalachians or Cascades? Most hiking boots will offer more than enough protection for your feet, and without the weight of full on backpacking boots.

Hiking boots also serve well on longer trips, provided they fit your feet well. A typical hiking boot is durable and strong, so it should take a beating in awful terrain without showing any real damage.

Hiking Shoes

Hiking Shoes

Third, there are hiking shoes. These are lighter and more agile than the others, but also offer the wearer much less protection. Cut low around the ankle, hiking shoes don’t come with much ankle support at all, so use caution if wearing these low cut shoes off trail.

Also, with that low cut, it’s easier for debris to enter the shoe in rough terrain. However, hiking shoes are often quite light, which makes it much easier to move over long distances on the trail. And with their less rigid construction, hiking shoes tend to be way more comfortable than any boots.

For people who still want protection but want a lighter shoe, hiking shoes fit the bill. A good hiking shoe doesn’t do too much to give ankle support, but it absolutely protects the bottom of your foot from rocks and other impacts.

Trail Runners

Trial Runners

Fourth, there are trail runners. These are just a step up from normal tennis shoes. Trail runners are light and quick, but offer very little protection. Trail runners differ from standard tennis shoes in that they are somewhat stiffer and will have provisions for wearing gaiters.

Trail runners are often the most comfortable shoe to keep on your feet for longer trips, but you need to be careful with shoes that do so little to support your ankles.

For the ultra light hikers of the world, the answer to your prayers is a good set of trail runners. These shoes offer little support or protection when compared to boots, but their light weight makes them a perfect go-to for through hikers and other distance oriented people.

Trail running shoes are, as the name suggests, meant primarily as running shoes for rough terrain. What this means is that they have good grip, a strong sole, and durable construction when compared to tennis shoes. What you lose in ankle support you gain in mobility.

Regarding ankle support, if you hike in low cut shoes, your ankles will grow stronger over time, reducing risk of ankle injury. If you have a predisposition to roll your ankles, low cut footwear may not be for you, but if possible, try lower shoes to reduce weight and strengthen your ankles.

That’s not to say you can’t backpack in trail running shoes. You absolutely can. Trail running shoes are a favorite of people who hike the long trails like the Pacific Crest Trail or the Continental Divide Trail.

Hiking Sandals

Hiking Sandals

Finally, there are hiking sandals. This ultra light options gives you maximum breathability at the cost of minimum protection. A hiking sandal, as opposed to a normal sandal, has a tough sole to protect the bottoms of your feet, but obviously lacks to body of a boot or shoe. Because sandals doesn’t have a top, they dry very quickly.

And there you have the full spectrum of outdoors footwear, from the heaviest of boots to simple sneakers. Each one has their place, as dictated by circumstances.

And finally, what about hiking in sandals? Since they offer little to no protection for your feet, sandals don’t do so well in rough terrain, but on a maintained trail they excel. They’re super light and comfortable, and if it’s cooler outside you can pair them with socks.

Being so light, ultralight through hikers often go with sandals to keep weight off their feet.

If you expect to hike through lots of water, sandals also do quite well, since they dry almost instantly. A good pair of sandals also makes a great set of camp shoes for when you pitch your tent in the evening. So if you want comfort and aren’t dealing with very rough terrain, give sandals a shot.

How to Choose The Right Pair of Hiking Boots or Shoes

Comfort and Fit

First up and perhaps most important is that your hiking footwear fits properly. If you’re a seasoned hiker, you’ll know the fine line between too small, just right, and too large.

Hiking shoes that are either too small or too large will at best cause blisters and at worse, cause you to compensate elsewhere in your stride which can do long term damage.

Remember that the perfect shoe looks different on everyone. The right shoes for your hiking partner may be completely different to yours. You might need more support, while they prefer a lightweight or barefoot feel. Find out what works for you, and not other people.

The right pair of hiking shoes should fit snug everywhere. They shouldn’t be tight or rub, and should have enough room for you to wiggle your toes. Try them on with thick socks (or whatever socks you will be wearing on your hike) at the end of the day when your feet are swollen and not cold. They should fit evenly all around your foot, with no noticeable pressure points.


While the general consensus is that lightweight is better, this is not always the case. Lighter boots are great for day-long hikes on easy to moderate terrain as they allow you to move at a quicker pace and be more nimble on your feet. They are cooler and less likely to cause blisters.

The trade off is for a lighter shoe is less support around the ankles. If you’ve got lots of gear and need more support, opt for something heavier.

Heavier boots are great for more difficult terrain. They are supportive, sturdy and have better traction. If you have weak ankles, heavy and supportive hiking boots are a lifesaver.

However, they may slow down your pace, making you heavier and less nimble on your feet. They will take a lot more breaking in than lightweight boots. Ensure you have enough time to properly break in your boots before your long hikes.


Once you’ve checked the fit of your shoes, it’s time to test them out. Walk up and down stairs, around the house and carrying a bag – while wearing the socks you will be using for hiking.

Try to keep them on for a good few hours. If they don’t get any more comfortable or worse, start to get uncomfortable, try a different pair.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming your boots or shoes just need to be broken in. While yes, the leather will soften, your boots should be comfortable from the get go with enough space around your feet and no pressure points. The leather may feel stiff but that should be the maximum discomfort you feel.


While most boots and shoes are designed to be water resistant, fully-waterproof shoes are another story.

Waterproof shoes have a protective barrier which repels water. As long as the water doesn’t get in over the top of your boot, you should happily be able to wade through streams and rivers keeping your feet and toes dry. However, this waterproof barrier may not be breathable, leaving your feet damp and hot.

Consider the terrain of your hike. If you know you will be wading through streams then waterproof shoes are a must. If you’re expecting the odd light rain shower, then waterproof spray will be just fine.


Hiking Footwear

Breathable boots will keep your feet cool and comfortable in warmer temperatures and prevent blisters. As blisters thrive in hot, moist environments, a breathable pair of boots are essential – keeping your feet healthy and pain-free.

Contrary to belief, it is possible to find breathable but sturdy and supportive hiking boots. Look out for a mesh upper and remember that if breathability is a priority, waterproof may have to take a backseat.

If you decide breathability is more important than waterproofing, invest in something quick drying and light, like trail runners.


If your hiking boots are falling apart mid-hike, you’re not going to have a great day. Hiking boots designed to tackle hundreds or even thousands of miles are more expensive but worth it.

If you’re only heading out for a short time or every once in a while, get yourself a pair of trail runners. These are comfortable and lightweight, but not particularly durable.

The importance of durability depends on the duration of your hike and the terrain.

Ankle Support

Another bone of contention amongst hikers is ankle support.

While it’s widely believed that the more ankle support you have, the better (as you’re less likely to roll over onto your ankle).

Boots that climb too high above the ankle can restrict your movement and stop your ankles from strengthening. To build muscle and strengthen tendons, the ankles need to move naturally.

It depends on the severity of the terrain you are going to be hiking on, as well as your own personal preference. If you need extra support in the ankles, prioritize this in your shoes. If you’re going to be hiking on loose or uneven rocks, ankle support is a must.


Hiking boots

The soles of hiking boots are almost always made from thick, bouncy rubber. Vibram is the most popular manufacturer of soles, producing soles from a mix of rubber, carbon and silicon.

The terrain will determine the sole type you need. Thick soles with sharp angles in the grooves are good for mud, while smoother soles have more surface area contact with the ground – ideal for slabs of rock.

The insole is something that needs attention. If your feet are flat, or your arches very pronounced, opt for a hiking boot with a removable insole. This way, you can fit your own insole to suit the shape of your foot. Insoles are usually bouncy and supportive.

Heel-To-Toe Drop

The heel-to-toe drop is the difference in height between the heel and toe. Most shoes are designed with a slightly raised heel, encouraging you to strike the ground in the middle of your foot.

Shoes with a high heel-toe-drop will encourage you to strike the ground heel first. Any shoes with a ‘zero drop’ will encourage you to walk with more of a barefoot strike.

While there’s evidence to suggest that zero drop shoes are better for long walks and hikes, it depends on your own individual gait.

While heel striking has been said to contribute to knee injuries, a zero drop also has drawbacks. If you suffer from pain in the forefoot, a lower drop shoe will be more suitable. Those with pain in the achilles or heel will fare better with a traditional heel-toe-drop.

Lacing your Boots

You may not have given your laces much thought since you learned to tie them back in school, but your laces can make or break your trip. There’s a few different ways of lacing and tying your boots – each with different effects.

Surgeon’s knot

This can stop your heel from slipping. These knots hold fast and are created by winding your laces round each other twice, before wrapping them around the hook. Do this for the top two sets of hooks only, and your ankles and heels should feel extra snug.

Window lacing

Ideal if your boots create pressure points at the top of your foot. Also called Box lacing, Window lacing alleviates pressure and helps give the top of your feet some room.

Unlace the boots down to the hook below the pressure point, go straight up to the next hook before crossing the laces over and continuing to lace as normal. This will create a ‘window’ in your boot.

Toe-relief lacing:

Toe-relief lacing which perfect if your toes are claustrophobic or shoes a little tight. Totally unlace your boot and, when you lace it back up, leave out the first set of hooks. This will take some pressure off your toes and make you more comfortable.

Picking the Right Socks

The right socks are almost as important as the right shoes, although they’re not quite as heavy if you want to carry a spare pair!

Hiking socks can be complex. Buying socks too thick in hot temperatures will result in sweaty feet and, you guessed it, blisters! Socks too thin in too cold a temperature will result in chilly toes and perhaps even frostbite.

The amount of cushioning you have on your socks is important. The perfect amount of cushioning can prevent blisters, and make your shoes more comfortable. Socks made from merino are a very popular choice. These absorb moisture and keep you warm, perfect for multiple days’ hiking in colder temperatures.When it’s warmer, lighter cushioned socks are best. Ensure your socks are longer than your hiking shoes to prevent the sides of your shoes rubbing and your sock slipping down into your shoe.

Breaking in your Boots

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Footwear 2

While some brands will claim their shoes don’t need breaking in, I always recommend breaking in your shoes. Softening the leather before you head out on a hike will only do your feet good. You may come to regret it if, 10 miles in, you feel as if you are wearing planks of wood around your feet!

To break in your shoes, wear them casually around the house. Begin by walking around while you drink your morning coffee or vacuum the living room, and build up to shorter walks. Your boots will be stiff initially and this is normal. Wear the same socks you will be wearing on your hike.

After a few small hikes, increase your distance to full day. They should feel comfortable by this point with the leather fully softened.

While boots can be broken in fast, don’t do this at the expense of your feet. I recommend giving yourself enough time to break in your boots properly so you’re ready to conquer your long hikes with no worries of sore feet.

Care and Maintenance

Your hiking boots will be exposed to bad weather, dirt and water, so it’s essential to take care of them. They need to be regularly cleaned, and waterproofed before first use. Leather conditioner will prevent your boots from cracking and soften them.

After use, take out the laces of your boots and brush off any dirt with a hard bristle brush. There’s a range of shoe cleaners on the market, but a damp paper towel and dish soap should do the trick!

Before first use, spray your boots with a waterproof spray – a variety of which can be found online. Waterproof spray is effective on both leather and fabric boots and, while it won’t totally waterproof your boots, it will stop rain from damaging the leather. Follow the instructions for maximum effect.

Blister Prevention

Blisters can go from a minor annoyance to full blown agony in a matter of minutes. While the right fitting shoes will stop you from getting blisters, sometimes you need a little extra help.

Blisters are formed by friction and moisture. Minimizing both of these will prevent blisters and make your hike a hell of a lot more comfortable.

As with anything, preparation is key. Break your boots in properly to sufficiently soften the leather before you go.

Well-designed hiking socks will protect your feet by wicking moisture and drying quickly, alongside hidden seams. They will also have added cushioning in places where blisters usually form.

Finally, blister bandaids are a miracle. Carry some blister bandaids with you and make sure you use them on the areas you feel ‘hotspots’ starting to appear. These will pad up the area and stop blisters forming as you walk.

Other options to prevent blisters include powders to dry your feet, or gels which provide a protective barrier against friction.

Final Thoughts

Whatever you choose you wear on your feet for your next hike, remember that your footwear is one of your most important pieces of gear. Pick something comfortable and reasonably light. One of the most vital things is to test out your footwear before actually going into the field for real.

The exact style of footwear you choose, boot or shoe, waterproof or breathable, really isn’t as important as how well the thing fits your foot. A poorly fitted boot leads to pain and even injuries. So take some time and care when picking exactly what you buy.

My personal recommendation is to go for the lightest footwear you can manage without losing functionality. Weight on your feet has more impact on your body than does weight in your backpack. That’s not to say we all need to be minimalists backpacking in trail runners, but wearing backpacking boots on a light day hike is pointless.

Whatever footwear you end up buying, make sure to get out there and put some miles on it! We learn our best lessons by actually hiking. Only by spending time in the field will you discover the footwear solution that truly works best for you.

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