During the past decade, the number and variety of hiking and backpacking boots have increased. Boot designs are becoming increasingly specialized to provide the right support and stability for crossing different terrains. This number of choices is good, but it can make it difficult to choose the right type of shoe for your particular hike. Some people find a good hiking boot and then stay with that boot or shoe year after year. With so many improvements and new offerings among men’s and women’s hiking boots, it may be time to choose a new hiking boot for yourself.
The first step is to choose between a hiking shoe, hiking boot, or backpacking boot. The right boot for you is determined by the type of hiking you plan to do.
Hiking shoes are more flexible and lighter than hiking boots. These shoes offer less support and are much lighter than hiking boots. Choose a hiking shoe if you know you will be hiking well-defined trails and doing shorter hikes. These shoes are not designed to carry a lot of weight, although if you are a seasoned hiker, you can probably use hiking shoes and still carry additional weight. If you are planning on using hiking shoes, you should have already built up considerable strength in your ankles, feet, legs, and calves.
Hiking boots are constructed to be more protective and more supportive than hiking shoes and are a good choice when hiking steeper trails or backcountry areas. These hiking boots may be higher-cut than hiking shoes and may also offer stiffer construction. Both of these features will offer more support to you as you hike. Hiking boots are also heavier than hiking shoes, so this must also be considered. Select hiking boots if you are carrying a heavier load or if you are planning to hike for a longer distance or over rougher terrain. Hiking boots are also a good choice if you are an occasional or beginning hiker and need support as you build your hiking muscles. They are also a good choice if you are prone to tweaked knees or rolled ankles. If boot weight is an issue for you, here’s a selection of the best lightweight hiking boots. Or if you prefer to find recommendations for the top ladies’ boots, check out Hikingladyboots.com and their best women’s hiking boots page that they’ve recently launched. They have a host of boot models reviewed, as well as contests between brands.
Another option for men’s and women’s hiking boots is the backpacking boot. These boots are very good for long, multi-day treks, especially if you are carrying a heavy load. These boots are very durable and allow the hiker to cope with any type of weather condition or terrain. These boots are higher and stiffer than hiking shoes or boots providing surer footing and more support. They also have more aggressive and thicker outsoles and provide much more all-around protection. These boots may also allow snowshoes or crampons to be attached.
Try and find a good pair of boots, at least, two weeks before setting out on a difficult hike. This provides time for you to break in the boots before you begin the difficult hike. Depending upon the type of hiking you are planning, you may want to consider purchasing a technical sandal as well as men’s or women’s hiking boots.
Other equipment you’ll need:
- a good backpack or daypack
- pack cover
- trekking poles
- tent, tarp or bivy sack
- sleeping bag
- compression bag
- sleeping pad
- multifunction watch with barometer, altimeter and compass (I always have my G-Shock handy. Check out my G-Shock page for reference)
See you on the trip!