How to Buy Hiking Boots
Whether you’re walking a local footpath or trekking the Appalachian Trail, you need a hiking boot that delivers a blend of comfort, protection and traction. Learn more about choosing the right hiking boots, materials and features.
TYPES OF HIKING BOOTS
- Light hiking boots are great for novice or intermediate hikers. Think outdoors enthusiasts who go on one- or two-day hikes with a lightweight backpack and only essential supplies. These boots are lightweight and flexible and offer ideal breathability.
- Technical hiking boots are geared towards the more experienced hiker, such as those who journey on multi-day hiking trips. These hikers might venture out on technical terrain with a heavier or frame hiking backpack. These boots are ultra-durable and waterproof with traction-maximizing outsoles.
HIKING BOOT FEATURES
- A full-grain leather upper is supportive, durable and waterproof.
- A suede upper (sometimes combined with mesh fabric) offers more flexibility and breathability, but is not as supportive as full-grain leather, nor does it offer waterproofness.
- A one-piece upper is often more durable than those with multiple seams, but offers less breathability.
- The midsole helps to disperse weight and provide stability. This component can be made of multiple materials.
- Compression EVA midsoles are ultra-lightweight.
- Injection-molded EVA midsoles are made of melted EVA pellets. They have a more consistent density from heel to toe.
- Polyurethane, or PU, midsoles are lightweight with excellent cushion, shock absorption and flexibility.
- TPR (Thermoplastic Rubber, a combination of petroleum-based chemicals) midsoles offer lightweight durability and flexibility.
- Outsoles are generally constructed of rubber and offer traction when hiking over a variety of surfaces.
- Lugs or treads help boost traction, but the deeper they are, the heavier the outsole and overall boot will be.
Extra Boot Features
- GORE-TEX® linings provide waterproofing and breathability.
- Shanks offer stability and support and are generally located in the midsole.
- Gusseted tongues help to keep out water, stones and debris.
- Removable footbeds or insoles help provide comfort, cushioning and additional support.
- Padded collars offer a comfortable, supportive fit.
- Before waterproofing, make sure your hiking boots are clean and free from dirt and debris.
- The best waterproofing substance for leather boots is a water-based or fluoropolymer waterproofing product. This can be used on previously treated leather. It dries quickly and removes stains.
- Make sure to concentrate on seams, which can degrade over time and let water seep in.
- For GORE-TEX® lined boots, it's best to use a silicone-based waterproofing substance to allow for more breathability.
- Waterproofing solutions are available for a number of types of other footwear as well.
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