How to Choose the Right Hiking Shoes for Your Next Summer Adventure

Hiking near Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Hiking near Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Are you swapping poolside cocktails for sandy hiking trails this summer? If so, you’re going to need to rethink your footwear, because comfortable sandals aren’t going to cut it.

Hiking shoes and hiking boots aren’t a one-size-fits-all kind of footwear, as the type of hiking shoe you need all depends on what you want it for. It sounds tricky, but as long as you know what you’re looking for you shouldn’t have any trouble finding the perfect boot.

Here are some of the best and most popular types of hiking footwear that would be ideal for an adventurous summer of hiking.

What Kind of Shoe Do I Need?

Hiking shoes: Low-cut hiking shoes with flexible midsoles are perfect for your average day of hiking and backpacking. Backpackers also swear by trail-running shoes for long-distance journeys.

Day hiking boots: Mid- to high-cut models of day hiking boots are ideal for day hikes or short backpacking trips, just as long as your load isn’t too heavy. The best part of day hiking boots is that they’re flexible and don’t need a lot of time or effort to break in. The only downside is that they lack the support and durability of stout backpacking boots, which would be better suited for longer trips or heavier loads.

Backpacking boots: Backpacking boots are perfect for heavier loads, especially if you are embarking on a multi-day adventure deep into the backcountry. You’re likely carrying everything you’ll be wearing and using on your back, so you want to make sure your boots help you handle the extra weight. Most backpacking boots are designed to have a high cut that wraps above the ankles, which provide excellent support for on-or off-trail travels.

How should they fit?

Once you have the right hiking boots, you need to ensure that they fit you like a glove. They’ll likely have a somewhat different fit than your favorite supportive sneakers, but that’s to be expected. You’re using the shoes for very different purposes, after all!

Make sure you try your hiking boots on at the end of a long day (a prime time, as that’s when your feet are more likely to swell) with the exact socks you will be wearing. They should fit like a second skin, while feeling snug but not too tight. The rule is that if you don’t have room to wiggle your toes, then they’re too tight!

Get the right size. Getting the right size is extremely important. We recommend having your foot's length, width, arch length and volume measured by a specialist – preferably by the same people you’re buying the shoes from. You can double-check the fit by pulling the insoles out and standing on them. Ideally, you should have a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and the end of the insole.

Wear appropriate socks. Make sure the thickness of the socks will be exactly the same as the ones you intend to wear on your hike. We suggest taking the exact ones to the shops to avoid any mistakes. As for the type of socks, we recommend synthetic as opposed to slow-drying cotton socks, as the latter are more likely to give you blisters.

Wear them in. Don’t wait for your hike to take them out of the box for the first time. Hiking boots should be properly worn in, so walk in them whenever possible. Try finding an inclined surface and walk up and down on it, or scale your stairs a few times a day. The more surfaces you try, the better!

Know your knots. The way you lace up your boots can affect their fit quite dramatically, so make sure you’re familiar with the different types of knots to guarantee the best fit possible. The surgeon’s knot is great for keeping your heel from slipping, while window lacing can alleviate pressure points on the top of your foot. Toe-relief lacing is a great makeshift remedy to get you back to the trailhead.

Do your homework. Trying on boots from several brands at the store is always a great idea. But if you must shop online, it’s advised that you go with a brand you’ve worn before, as the sizing will generally be consistent. You don’t want to order a pair of boots that don’t fit properly.

Most importantly, have fun! Summer hikes are always a great opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy some peace and quiet. Being comfortable while doing it will just make the experience all the more special.

*This post provided by Taos Footwear.

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