Choosing Hiking Shoes
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The Footwear Dilemma

One of the most common questions we get when people get interesting in hiking or backpacking is: what is the best boot or hiking shoe? Our answer is always the same. The one that doesn’t give you blisters. That seems obvious, but you would be surprised at how much that is overlooked. So let’s delve into the debate on which hiking shoe is right for you.

Let’s explore the different types of hiking footwear and then work backwards.

HIKING SHOES:

In general, they offer just as much stiffness and underfoot support as a hiking boot, but without the cumbersome, clunky feel. The generally tough construction—often featuring leather or durable nylon—is built to withstand mile after mile on the trail while offering good protection from obstacles like roots and rocks. Look for generous toe caps, thick outsoles with sharp lugs for traction, and medium-stiff midsoles that keep you isolated from rugged terrain. Hiking shoes, like the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX is a really good choice when looking at a quality Hiking Shoe

TRAIL RUNNERS

First: don’t get pulled into the “trend” of the “Trail Runner”. They are good footwear, but for the right conditions. If you are going with a lightweight footwear, better have a lightweight pack. They’re built to allow light and springy movement, but with the added protection, support, and traction needed for off-road travel. The trend started by Thru-Hikers, ultralight enthusiasts, and everyday trail-goers as a high-performance option for fast-and-light travel. Some shoes in this category are first and foremost running shoes like the ALTRA Lone Peak 4.5 Trail Running Shoe

What to look for: Low weight, heavy cushioning, stiffer midsoles and beefier toe caps than a standard running shoe (but still less than a hiking shoe) They do come in Waterproof styles, but not convinced with the “waterproof” anything.

HIKING BOOTS:

Hiking Boots definetely have a place on the trail. In fact, probably most trails in the US. It just depends on how long you are going to be on the trail in what conditions.

Boots provide more ankle support, stability, and water protection than hiking shoes or trail runners, and they’re the more practical choice for off-trail adventures .They’re usually more durable than other types of footwear. Some boot manufacturers offer waterproof options, and can make hiking in the rain more comfortable, (maybe) but they become heavy and dry slowly, (if ever) when (NOT IF) they do get wet . Boots are also the heaviest hiking footwear choice. But they will last longer than Hiking Shoes or Trail Runners. It’s worth it to splurge on a high-quality, lightweight pair. We like the Vasque Men’s Breeze at Mid GTX Hiking Boots and the Salomon Men’s X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots Both off a great choice for backpacking.

Choosing the right footwear is really working backwards from the moment you decided your trail lifestyle. Will you be hiking alot? Where? In what conditions? What’s the terrain like? How well do your feet hold up to moisture and blisters? All questions to ask before you “buy” into the “best” footwear out there. Happy feet make for Happy Hikers.

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In 2003 I completed a Thru-Hike on the Appalachian Trail. Since then I have over 12,000 miles underfoot and 20 years of backpacking, and camping experience. Certifications include WFA, WFR, LNT Trainer, and belong to AORE. Have been guiding backpacking trips for over 10 years. The outdoors has taught me one thing. Trusting the Trail! really does provide everything a person needs.

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