Picking shoes or boots for hiking is one of the most important decision you will make before heading out on the trail. You can read reviews for hours but the most important thing is finding a pair that are right for you. In order to do that, you need to know and do a few things to fit the perfect fit for you. Here are my five tips when looking for new hiking shoes or boots.
What type of hiking are you doing?
Now, if you are new to hiking, do not let this freak you out. There are technically different shoes for different types of hiking. You probably don't need a backpacking style boot if you plan on doing light day hikes that are five miles and a hiking shoe might not be enough for you if you plan on doing 10-15 mile hikes. If you are just starting out, you may not even need a boot, a hiking shoe might be good enough for what you plan on doing. For more information on the types of boots out there, I suggest you take a look here to help you narrow down what will work best for you and the type of hiking you want to do.
Not only do socks matter on the trail but they matter when you go to the store and try on the shoes. If you are at an outdoor gear store, like REI, the try-on socks they give you will typically be the appropriate style and weight of sock for hiking, but if you try on your boots with a thin pair of socks from Target, you wont fit the shoe right to your foot. I am a huge fan of Smart Wool socks and typically wear their medium weight hiking socks* and bring a pair of their PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Crew socks* in case my feet swell too much.
Walk around in them as much as you can.
If you go to an outdoor recreation store, such as REI, they will often encourage you to walk around the store as much as possible to help you decide. The REI near me (and all I have been to) also have a little fake set of rocks to walk over and around. This is useful because you get to see how the shoes fit when walking down an incline. If your toes are rubbing the front of your boots here, imagine how they will feel after several miles on the trail heading downhill. For more information on how they should fit, I suggest this site here.
Read the return policy.
Hiking boots can be a huge investment and you really wont know 100% if they are right until you get them on the trail and try them out. Some places are willing to return or exchange hiking boots or shoes you have worn on the trail but you need to make sure you know all the details before you depend on that.
About a year ago I got an awesome highly rated pair of boots made for men. They fit well, they were high quality, but they were really heavy. I got them at an outlet sale so luckily, they were extremely discounted in price. I wore them on one three mile hike and have not worn them for hiking since. The fit was fine but the weight of the boots was too much for me. Remember, on most hikes you will be carrying weight of some kind, you also need to consider the weight of your boots. You are carrying yourself up elevations and the more weight on your feet, the harder this will be for you.
The most important thing, is finding a pair that fits and is comfortable for you. There are more resources on finding the right boot here and here but you have to remember that everyone is different in what they need, what fits well, and what is comfortable. My boots you see pictured above are the KEEN Women's Targhee II*. I love them but I tried on 8 pair of boots before I found that these were the perfect ones for me.
Now, go out and get outdoors!
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