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Guide to Hiking Boots and Shoes

A good set of boots is probably one of, if not THE, most important things an adventurer and outdoor lover can own. Over the years we’ve seen many new models appear on the shelfs, some genius, some… Not so much. Which boot would you pick to accompany you on many adventures to come?

There is so many option and one boot may suite some better than others. Do you go for a trail running shoe or sturdy hiking boots? Leather? Or lightweight waterproof synthetics? We wouldn’t dare to tell which ones to get! Buying hiking boots is definitely a personal quest full of trial and error. It’s all a matter of walking into a shop and trying on boots until one feels just right (kind of like dating). Because we don’t want to sent you out on your mission completely empty handed, we bring you our Guide to Hiking Boots to get an idea of what’s out there and how to care for your boots once the bond is made.

guide to hiking boots

Where do you stand on the lightweight shoes versus sturdy supportive hiking boots? Any brand or model you would never stray from again? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

23 Comments

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  • Thomas Santoro
    December 5, 2016

    VASQUE hiking boots. Burned twice! I first bought these boots (not cheap) as a way to move into the next (higher) class of boots. Great reviews! Breaking in was an adventure. Must be an adjective to expand on “slippery” but I cannot think a suitable one. Well, I thought it was me. Wrong! I thought, maybe I could use these around, you know, for breaking in. Then the shank broke. Guess what I did? Correct, I brought these back and chose the same brand and on a recommendation went further up the chain. More money, same results except the next time was on the trail. Then they told me (at the store) that these stories were commonplace. Store was great on the returns, not on advice.

    • Merel Lloyd-Parker
      December 5, 2016

      Oh man, what a bummer! Especially when you’re boots give up on you on the trail! Did you have to walk far? It can be so tricky to get good advise in a store, because at the end of the day their main task is to make a sale. Plus, hiking boots are so tricky to recommend in the first place. There’s so many different shapes of feet and types of skin that react differently to each boot. But it always sucks when something breaks over and over again beyond your control. Have you found a pair boots since that you do love?

    • Donna Schakelaar
      March 30, 2017

      I love my Vasque hiking shoes and never had any issues with them and my second pair have been just as good.

      • Merel Lloyd-Parker
        March 30, 2017

        Which model did get? I’ve heard some great things about their Sundowners.

  • February 26, 2017

    Asolo mountaineering boots. Heavy, but SO comfortable, even in warmer climates. Never had a blister, feel like absolute luxury, continuously had them on for 3 years now, & looks like I may get another 3 out of them!
    My ‘best friends’!

    • Merel Lloyd-Parker
      February 26, 2017

      Sounds awesome Sanjra! Thanks for the recommendation. Any particular model you recommend? Or are they all that heavenly?

  • Grandpa cracker
    March 12, 2017

    Agreed, Asolo are top of the line. I have a pair , hiked up and down the Appalachian no issues

    • Merel Lloyd-Parker
      March 14, 2017

      That’s a lot of miles ? Asolo for the win! Would love to try some on now. Thanks for your recommendation!

  • Doris
    June 12, 2017

    I must walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostelle, need good hiking/walking boots/shoes, any recommendations 800km @ 25+/day. So far I have no luck w Timberland and Merrel and realizing I may have been in the wrong quality for the job, my feet r burning, wet and blistered! Help!

    • Merel Lloyd-Parker
      June 16, 2017

      Hey Doris,
      Sounds to me like your boots are too small and too heavy for the job. I love a good sturdy waterproof boot, but if you are hiking in hot weather they could be working against you. I’ve never hiked the Camino, but as far as I know the tracks are mostly well formed, so you might not need all that much support (depending on your ankle strength). If I were you, I would stay away from leather and waterproof boots. Spain is so hot this time of year, a breathable shoe will dry out in no time and a waterproof boot will actually keep the moisture in and make every step a lot heavier.
      The heat will also make your feet swell like crazy (mine do anyway). So buying new boots or shoes at the end of the day (after a lot of walking around) is crucial. If you are already on the way and dependent on ordering online, go up half a size (or even a full one) than you normally wear.
      Breathable shoes and boots have a lot shorter lifespan than leather boots, so you might even need to replace them halfway through your 800km. But you’ll be a lot more comfortable. I’ve heard great things about the Ahnu Sugarpine (comes in a shoe for an ultra lightweight feeling and in a boot if you need a little ankle support).
      Last summer, I pretty much destroyed my HOKA One One shoes in the mountains. They didn’t last, but were soooo comfortable. HOKA now has a mountain range which I’m thinking of trying out next summer. Fair warning: they look ridiculous, but feel like clouds if you like some extra cushioning. I hope this helps. Feel free to leave any more questions and good luck on your epic thru-hike.
      ✌️Merel

  • Dart Anderson
    August 13, 2017

    Zamberlan’s. Outstanding –

  • August 30, 2017

    Extremely well explained. Covers almost all aspects of how to pick and care for a hiking boot. Would love to see something like this for other types of footwear.

    • Merel Lloyd-Parker
      October 11, 2017

      Thanks!

  • Douglas Burnside
    September 1, 2017

    I hike in rough terrain, and the light weight fabric-rubber-glue construction boots proved to be too expensive, lasting about eight months before becoming tattered wrecks. So, in a moment of temporary insanity, I spent over $500 on a pair of Zamberlan 1030 hiking boots. I have had them re-soled twice now (I told you, I hike in rough terrain!) and have over 500 hours of hard use in them, and they are holding up just fine. They are NOT lightweight boots (they weigh over a kilogram EACH!) but the rock-solid security they give is beyond price. My feet are held absolutely immobile within the boot, and the nine-inch height gives total ankle support. They are 100% waterproof in eight inches of rushing water. The first of the four pairs of lace hooks are “lockers” enabling me to adjust tightness of lowers and uppers independently. The boot is three layers: a heavy leather outer layer, a Gore-Tex middle layer, and a glove-soft inner layer for comfort. I thought I was crazy spending over $500 on a pair of boots. Turned out to be just about the best $500 I ever spent.

    • Merel Lloyd-Parker
      October 11, 2017

      Thanks for your comment Douglas. They sound like awesome boots. I totally agree that spending a lot more can sometimes really save you a lot in the end. Plus it saves the landfills from more materials that just didn’t hold up, but take forever to actually decompose. Did you get your boots resoled at a cobbler? Or with Zamberlan themselves?

  • Angie
    September 18, 2017

    Heels … not heals.

    • Merel Lloyd-Parker
      October 11, 2017

      Whoops, my bad! Don’t know what came over me. I wrote it correctly in other places. Ah well…

  • October 22, 2017

    […] via Guide to Hiking Boots and Shoes • For the Love of Outdoors […]

  • October 30, 2017

    Very good guide. Just recently learnt about barefoot hiking shoes. I recently put up a post about hiking shoes for women that look stylish as well. It seems it has not been easy for companies to come up with comfortable hiking boots that look fashionable as well. But there is hope.

  • December 20, 2017

    This is the best guide for the adventure and gears. i have learnt many things about the hiking boots that is such a beautifully written by all of you guys. i really appreciate to all of you for sharing this knowledge.

  • May 21, 2018

    it’s too flexible and won’t give you enough support. It might feel comfortable when you step in, because it’s “squishy,” but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for you,

  • Rayna
    May 31, 2018

    OBOZ for the win! I have a pair of Oboz hiking boots that I wear every time I backpack and camp plus walking college campus. They fit my narow feet, took little to no breaking in before my first backpacking trip with them, and I’ve been using them for 3-4 years now and the only thing that needs replaced so far are the laces. I got the recommendation for oboz from an outdoor store backpacker and I’ve loved these boots ever since.

  • July 8, 2018

    This was very helpful. Thanks for sharing!