What Type of Hiking Boot Should I Buy?

Few things feels as good as the emotion that hits you while hiking up an intense and beautiful trail on a crisp sunny day!

Few things, however, can ruin that wonderful feeling than the painful realization that you are wearing the wrong boots! The boots that you choose before a hike can, and probably will, greatly influence your experience. In fact, without exaggeration, we can say the one of the greatest factors that determine your enjoyment on a hike is the boots on your feet.

Wearing just the right hiking boots will either make or break your experience.

Have you ever seen someone wearing flip-flops or open toe shoes on a trail? I have, unfortunately many times. It is somewhat amusing, although disheartening, to look at their face, they aren’t usually having that good of a time. Worse still many of them end up injured. It never fails to amaze me how little thought people put into what they put on their feet, especially before a pastime that consists mainly of walking on their feet over rough terrain for a good part of the day. 

If you are a novice hiker, please take the time to understand what type of hiking boot, or shoe, is best for you. The right support not only will enhance your hike, it will keep you safer and help you avoid injury!

When picking out a hiking boot the first step is to decide the category that you need. Hiking boots are generally broken down into three main categories. This article is meant to introduce you to these three main categories of hiking boots/shoes and help you decide which is right for you before you make the costly mistake of buying the wrong boots. 

This will help you pick out the perfect hiking boot and answer the question: What type of hiking boot should I buy?

The Three Main categories of Hiking Boots

The first factor that many people look at when shopping for hiking boots is either the price or looks. These factors should rightly be taken into consideration, however, the main concern should be practicality and comfort, the esthetics  should be considered only after having established these.

The first question you should answer is what kind of hiking you plan on participating in. You will see why when reading about the three main categories of hiking boots: 

Backpacking boots: 

We decided to start off with the high end and work our way down. Backpacking boots are for those who are serious about hiking. They are meant for long hikes over rough terrain carrying a load. 

Backpacking boots usually come in high-cut models in order to offer full ankle support. The soles of the boots are stiffer than lower models, however, this actually makes them more comfortable when caring a load (it also offers better protection from sharp objects on the trail). 

Each category of hiking boots has subcategories of course, these boots come in the subcategories that are generally referred to as: Rough-trail, off-trail, and mountaineering. Mountaineering of course is only for the truly serious ones.

Day Hiking Boots:

Day Hiking Boots are the most mainstream hiking boots out there and what most people purchase. They are perfect for the average day hike, hence the name. 

Most models are either high-cut or mid-cut boots. Day hiking boots are generally more flexible than backpacking boots and quite a bit lighter. Another advantage is that they break-in much quicker than backpacking boots.

The downside is that they don’t offer as much support or protection, which you would need if you are on an extreme trail or carrying a heavy backpack.

Hiking Shoes

I really didn’t want to include these, however, I felt obligated to. Hiking shoes are basically sneakers that are slightly modified in order to make them suitable for light trails. 

Hiking shoes almost always come in low-cut models, which unfortunately makes ankle support non existent. However, if you are on a well groomed path they do have many advantages.

Hiking shoes are great for jogging on wilderness paths or for those who want to walk at a quick pace on a well groomed path. They aren’t however, recommend for hiking mountain trails or going off the beaten path.

So, after this brief introduction to the three main categories of hiking boots you are now better informed and educated to start you quest for the perfect boot, or shoe. These categories apply to mens hiking boots, women’s hiking boots, and children hiking boots alike. As mentioned earlier there are several subcategories pithing each category, however, the main category will always give you a quick idea of what type of boot you are looking at.

Picking out hiking boots can be intimidating, especially online. If you want some help understanding the basic jargon of hiking boots take a look at our article: Understanding Hiking Boot Jargon

We hope you have enjoyed this article and would like to conclude by saying: Go take a hike! 😉