If you are a walking enthusiast then a good pair of hiking boots are essential to make sure that you can keep walking all day long. There is nothing better than getting out in the countryside and racking up the miles throughout the day. But, this can be very difficult to achieve without the best pair of hiking boots to accomplish the hikes with you!
Hiking boots can make or break the walk that you are undertaking – no matter how big or small it is. A good pair needs to be waterproof, breathable, have good grip and be durable – ideally without breaking the bank. Our buyer’s guide will detail all these key features and more, to help you purchase the best hiking boots available!
Only Got 5 Minutes?
Hiking boots, as a general rule will be more heavy-duty than standard walking shoes, with a better grip and just general build. There are some key things that we would suggest you look out for if you want to buy the best hiking boots for your budget.
First and foremost, it is important to check that your hiking boots are going to be waterproof. This is achieved in various ways with hiking boots, from a large tongue to the different materials that are used and the grip that is on the bottom of the shoe. Make sure that the hiking boots are advertised as being fully waterproof if you are wanting to keep dry whilst out hiking.
The grip on your hiking boots is largely what is going to keep you upright while you are out walking! We don’t need to say much more to stress the importance of this feature! Look out for a thick grip as this will be more durable and able to withstand being prodded and poked by various rocks and stones whilst you are out walking.
It is also important to choose a well designed grip that has considered the surface area of the base of the shoe so that it will be able to stay strong on slippery surfaces. Vibram soles can be found on many hiking boots and are by far the most popular due to their engenius design, but there are other grips that will also be up to the task!
The last thing you need to think about when considering the grip of the shoe is how flexible it will allow you to be whilst you are hiking. The best way to test this is to hold the heel of the shoe in one hand and bend the toe upwards with your other hand. You want to see a reasonable amount of movement in the shoe/grip, as this will be the amount of movement that you can then get from the shoe when you are out walking or climbing up different areas!
Hiking boots will be made out of either synthetic materials or leather, both have their pros and cons so it is important to think about what is going to be right for you.
Leather hiking boots will be hard wearing, fully waterproof and will offer good support for your feet when out walking. But, they do require more maintenance, can be heavier and more expensive.
Synthetic hiking boots will be cheaper than leather makes and will be lighter but as a general rule won’t be as long lasting (however it is important to note that synthetic models have improved dramatically in recent years and now should be expected to last for a good few years, if not longer). Synthetic hiking boots will be harder to clean, but will need less maintenance than leather boots.
The weight of your shoes is crucial – as it is your feet that are going to be carrying them around all day when out hiking! Although you do want your hiking boots to be hardy and firm, the lighter the hiking boot, the easier it will be to walk in, particularly if your hike involves some climbing!
Most walking boots that we found were between 1kg and 1.5kgs, however there are some considerably lighter and heavier models!
Most walking boots have a similar style, however it is worth considering the shape of the top of the boot to consider how much support it is going to offer your ankles when you are out walking. Look for the shape and style – is it cut away around the ankle bones? Does it have a taller top to the boot? Do the laces run right up to the top of the boot? All these things are important to consider as they will affect how much support your boots can provide.
Also consider the colour of the boots – most will be dark colours to stop the dirt and mud from being as obvious, however some do now come with lighter colours to add a bit more style and also make the boots more visible.
Now we have highlighted some of the key features that you need to be considering when purchasing your hiking boots – you need to know about those smaller factors that will come together to make a big difference to your hiking experience.
- Wide box toe – The wider the toe of the shoe the more chance that it will be able to fit most different shapes of feet and allow for more comfort whilst walking. However, if you know that you have very small, thin feet then a smaller box toe might be necessary.
- Gusseted tongue – If the tongue of your hiking boot is attached to either side of the boot then this will help to stop any water falling down into the shoe and more importantly onto your feet!
- Toe and heel protection – If you are planning on doing more strenuous walks, for example tackling fells, dales and mountains, then it is vital to purchase hiking boots with toe and heel protection. This will come in the form of more sturdy material around these areas, so that when you are walking you do not become injured by rocks, stones or other hard, uneven surfaces.
- Lace systems – All hiking boots will have similar lace systems but there will be differences that are worth looking out for. Some will have “pulley” systems using metal hooks, whereas others will be built into the material of the shoe. Make sure the lace systems look hard wearing, as on cheaper hiking boots we have seen some of these systems pulling away from the fabric under the pressure of the tight laces!
- Cushioned midsole – Look out for models with a cushioned midsole as this will provide extra protection from any stones underfoot and will dramatically reduce fatigue when out walking.
How to Make Sure Your Hiking Boots Fit
It can be difficult to ensure that you are buying the right size of hiking boots, as if you have ever had a full day out walking then you will know the effect that this can have on your feet – making them swell and heat up to almost a full size bigger than your actual foot size! Not only this, but it is rare that you will be wearing “normal” socks when out hiking, so this is another key factor to consider.
It is important to make sure that your hiking boots are a snug fit if you are wanting them to offer you adequate support when out walking, however too tight and you could find them rubbing or causing discomfort once you have been walking for a while. We would recommend:
- Checking that you can wiggle your toes inside the boots to check that your foot will have enough flexibility to tackle more difficult terrain.
- Try them on at the end of the day when your foot is at its most swollen.
- Consider what socks you are going to be wearing the most when out walking and wear these when you are trying on your boots.
- Know your actual shoe size – there are many people that don’t actually know their foot measurements and proper shoe size, they just go for whatever feels right in the shop. You can get away with this for most normal shoes, but for hiking shoes they NEED to be the right fit!
There are some key ways that you can know if your boots are the right fit:
- When stood on the insole from the shoe you should have a thumb’s width of space by your big toe and the end of your foot.
- When the laces are done up tightly you should not be able to feel a space between the top of your foot and the shoe.
- You should be able to walk on different surfaces and inclines without the shoe moving too considerably (practice walking up and down steps and on different surfaces if you have them available to you).
Looking After Your Hiking Boots
The best hiking boots will be long lasting and able to cope with any conditions that you send their way; they will be your lifeline for many hiking conditions and quite possibly one of the main reasons that you manage to get from A to B. But, they will only be able to do all of this if you look after them! Follow our simple tips on how to maintain your hiking boots so that you can get the most for your money!
- Pack your hiking boots away in a bag after use – not only will this protect your car on the way home but it will keep your boots safe and secure.
- Make sure to remove dirt or debris from your boots as soon after the walk as possible – this will help to avoid any wear to your boots caused from hardened dirt.
- Once boots have dried, make sure to use a hard brush to remove any residual dirt.
- Occasionally treat your hiking boots to a conditioning treatment specifically designed for hiking boots. There are treatments for both leather and synthetic hiking boots to get them looking like new.
- Make sure that your laces don’t have any wear and tear – as last thing you need is a snapped lace part way through a full day’s walk!
- Make sure to not dry your boots too close to a heater or radiator as this could cause them to crack (if they are leather). Simply fill them with newspaper if they have become wet on the inside.
- Sprays and cleaners can be purchased for the inside of your hiking boot, which are invaluable as boots can easily become rather smelly after a good day’s walking!
Frequently Asked Questions
Should hiking boots be a size bigger?
This really depends on the type of socks that you are going to be wearing in your hiking boots! It is crucial that your hiking boots are a close fit, to ensure security and support when out walking. If you are going to be wearing particularly thick socks when out walking then a half size bigger may be necessary, but otherwise you should be able to purchase your normal foot size.
How can I break in my hiking boots?
Most hiking boots will need “breaking in” before they can be worn on an all-day hiking trip. This is because the materials (particularly if you opt for leather hiking boots) will need time to mould and adapt to your foot. Make sure to wear your hiking boots around the house, or just on short trips, such as to the shops, for a couple of weeks before setting off out with your boots. Otherwise, you could find yourself with rather sore feet by the time you get home from your hike!
Can I put my hiking boots in the washing machine?
We would never recommend putting your hiking boots in the washing machine as this can damage both the boots and the washing machine! Instead, simply wash your boots with water and washing up liquid, using a brush and sponge. If you want them to look like new you can even use a toothbrush to get into those hard to reach places!