​If the hiking shoe fits…wear it!

There’s still plenty of time to go hiking or backpacking trips with friends or family. Now might even be a good time to find the perfect pair of hiking boots or shoes since many are now on the mid season sale! While it might be tempting to buy the prettiest colored hiking boot (I’ve seen some in lovely burgundy colors), think about the fact that you are going to be spending a lot of time with this essential piece of gear. Your feet will be spending several hours – or days – in them. Like a good friend and confidant, choose your boots wisely.

Buy (or wear) the right shoe for the activity

Flip flops might be comfy but they won’t protect your feet doing chores around the campsite or when doing some backcountry trekking over rocky terrain. Best choice is backpacking boots as they will last longer and have more support – just keep in mind they take longer to break in. If you aren’t in for the long-haul trekking, day hike boots or even trail running shoes will do the trick.

Make sure you have the right size

If you do decide you need a new pair of hiking boots or sturdy trail running shoes, remember that your regular sneakers might be a size 8, but you might require a different size for hiking. The best advice, other than getting assistance from one of the sales experts at your local outfitters store, is to try on a pair at the end of the day when your feet are swollen (like they will be after a 20km hike in the mountains). Have one of the staff measure your foot, try on a few sizing and style options, and wear them around the store to “feel” the level of comfort. Two things to keep in mind as well:

  • Measure BOTH feet and buy the shoes that fit the bigger foot if they are different in size.
  • The boot/shoe should allow room around your toes and grip the heel firmly – but not pinch, slip, rub or press on any part of the foot.

Break them in!

You’re heading into a long-term relationship with these boots – make sure you get to know them first! The last thing you need is to lace them up for the first time you decide to hit the trails. At the point of no return, you may find your feet are blistered and sore – well, they might still be sore after a long hike but they’ll be worse if you are wearing a shoe that was never meant for your feet in the first place.

Shoe – meet socks

Speaking of relationships and perfect pairings, you should also consider wearing proper socks. There’s an adage among we endurance athletes – “cotton is rotten”. While I could write an entire blog on proper socks for hiking, discussing wool, synthetic and different weather conditions, for now, we’ll keep it simple. Synthetic socks dry faster and reduce the chance of blisters. You should also keep in mind the ankle coverage of the sock:

  • The ankle or short run sock is only good for low cut shoes/boots but a good choice for warmer temperatures. The crew height sock is the best for all boot types.
  • Cushioning depends on the weather that you are going to face camping or hiking. Lighter cushioning is good for hotter temps whereas heavier cushioning is the best choice for high altitude hikes and cold weather.

Other features to consider

  • Uppers can be available from full-grain leather to synthetics. Synthetic materials are generally less expensive, lighter and are easier to break in than leather, but they are not as rugged and can wear out faster. Keep in mind that “waterproof” can also mean that they don’t breathe as well for those hot temperatures.
  • The shoe or boot should provide proper foot support. Consider using orthotics or insoles in increase support and comfort.

Time to take the plunge!

Once you have found your perfect match, and have had time to get to know them, you will cherish these hiking boots and enjoy the great outdoors with them. Now all you have to do is pick the date, the location, rally up some like-minded friends and hit the trails!