Best Hiking Boots of 2021 – Find the Right Pair for You

Last Updated: January 2021

Quick Recommendations



There are hundreds of different models of hiking boots available on the market at any given time. It can be tricky to know what boots are right for your feet and your individual needs.

So, to help you out, we’ve put together this field-tested review guide to the best hiking boots on the market.

Then give you suggestions for different factors to consider when comparing different models. Finally, we’ll wrap things up with some top tips for buying shoes online and for ensuring the perfect fit. Let’s get started!


Hiking Boot Reviews

Best Hiking Boots for Day Hikes

Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX

The award-winning Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX is a fan-favorite for day hikes because of its great mix of weight savings and wet terrain performance.

Specifications:

  • Category: Mid-top
  • Upper: Leather/Textile
  • Sole: Contagrip Rubber
  • Weight: 1.9lb (895.8g)
  • Waterproof: Yes

Pros:

  • Fully waterproof construction
  • Great high traction outsole
  • Underfoot stabilization system

Cons:

  • Insole is thin and offers minimal support

The award-winning Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX is a fan-favorite for day hikes because of its great mix of weight savings and wet terrain performance.

Featuring a burly Contagrip rubber outsole, these boots are designed for situations where ample traction is of the utmost importance. The thick lugs on this outsole provide excellent grip on wet and muddy terrain. Meanwhile, rubber toe caps offer much-needed protection for your feet against debris on the trail.

For added stability as you hike, Salomon crafted these boots with an advanced chassis system. As a result, they have a thick layer of foam cushioning underfoot to stabilize and cushion your heels.

The mid-top design of the X Ultra 3 Mid GTX means it provides a decent amount of ankle support without the weight. A set of injection-molded EVA midsoles also helps to stabilize the foot on rugged terrain.

When it comes to waterproofing, these boots don't disappoint. They have a full-coverage Gore-Tex waterproof bootie that allows for a good mix of water-resistance and breathability. Additionally, they have a gusseted tongue that helps block out rocks and other debris from entering the boot.

To minimize the chances of sweaty feet on hot days, Salomon also designed these boots with a soft textile lining. This lining wicks away moisture so it can evaporate through the Gore-Tex membrane for added comfort as you hike.

That being said, one area where the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX doesn't quite dazzle is in its somewhat flimsy insole. As a result, it doesn't provide as much arch support as you might expect from a boot of this caliber and price point. However, insoles are easy enough to swap out with a custom orthotic or an aftermarket option.

Ultimately, where this boot shines is its ability to combine stability, traction, and weight savings into one neat package.

Recommended Alternative: La Sportiva TX4 Mid GTX

For a day hiking boot that's just about the same weight but that offers even more traction on tricky terrain, the La Sportiva TX4 Mid GTX is a reliable option.

These boots provide the same waterproofing, durability, and comfort of the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX. However, they are much more flexible and pliable, which makes them ideal for hikers that want a mid-top boot's stability without the stiffness that often comes with it. Learn more about the La Sportiva TX4 in our in-depth review.

Best Hiking Boots for Ankle Support

Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX

Built to last throughout endless adventures in the mountains, the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX is a high top hiking boot that offers exceptional ankle support in nearly any terrain.

Specifications:

  • Category: High top
  • Upper: Suede Leather
  • Sole: Vibram Drumlin Rubber
  • Weight: 2.4lbs (1.1kg)
  • Waterproof: Yes

Pros:

  • Excellent ankle support and stability
  • Extra-rugged design for durability
  • Thick lugged outsole provides quality traction

Cons: 

  • Fairly heavy even for a high top boot

Thanks to their high-top design, the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX boots provide the structure that many hikers need while cruising over challenging trails, especially in the alpine. 

The Zodiac Plus GTX's suede Perwanger leather upper fabric also offers minimal stretch, even after being broken in, so you can get the same excellent ankle support throughout the boot's lifetime.

Their asymmetric lace system also helps tighten the boot around the foot for a more precise fit throughout the day. When combined with Scarpa's proprietary Sock-Fit construction, which cuts down on bulk, this lacing system helps ensure the snug, secure fit necessary for enhanced ankle support.

When it comes to cushioning for your weary feet after a long hiking day, Scarpa designed these boots with a triple-density polyurethane EVA midsole. This midsole offers an excellent compromise between weight optimization and performance. It also provides enough cushion to absorb shock on downhill sections of the trail effectively.

See our full in-depth review.

Although these boots are on the heavy side, this is because of quality materials that are designed to last, rather than an inefficient construction. 

Moreover, they have an extra thick Vibram Drumlin rubber outsole with large lugs for extra traction. These outsoles' stiffness also allows for good edging when scrambling on rocks in the alpine or the desert. Plus, the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX is designed to be resoled repeatedly for long-term use in the outdoors.

Also Check out: La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX (Women's)

When ankle support is your top concern, the La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX will answer the call.

Although technically considered a summerweight mountaineering boot, the Trango Tech's versatility makes it an excellent choice for use even in a hiking context.

While you'll sacrifice a bit of sole flexibility and weight with these boots, they offer unrivaled stability for your feet in the mountains in terms of ankle support.

Best Hiking Boots for Flat Feet

Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX

Hiking long distances with flat feet can be a painful experience. Thankfully, the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX are designed to support your foot throughout your stride, giving you the comfort you need on longer hikes.

Specifications:

  • Category: High top
  • Upper: Nubuck Leather & Textile
  • Sole: Contagrip rubber
  • Weight: 2.8lbs (1.3kg)
  • Waterproof: Yes

Pros:

  • Great ankle support
  • Waterproof and breathable construction
  • Excellent traction and underfoot stability

Cons: 

  • Heavy for a hiking boot

The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX feature dual-density EVA midsoles, which provide plenty of underfoot cushioning with each step. Meanwhile, their 4D Advanced Chassis system offers just enough flexion in the forefoot so your feet can roll more naturally within your stride.

The Quest 4D 3 GTX's nubuck leather and textile uppers offer ankle support and whole-foot stability to support your arches on the trail for folks with flat feet. Plus, the boots' engineered lace system helps ensure a better fit and less foot slippage as you hike.

When it comes to weather protection, the Quest 4D 3 GTX offers some of the best in the business. It has a seam-sealed Gore-Tex membrane liner that keeps water and snow out, while simultaneously allowing sweat to escape.

Plus, the padded, gusseted tongue on these boots provides a contoured instep fit. It will do double duty as the first layer of defense against debris and moisture. Inside the boots, a polyester liner also helps to wick away sweat for reduced friction and happier feet throughout a long hiking day. Check out our in-depth review to learn more

Recommended Alternative: Vasque Breeze III GTX / (Women's)

If you love all the benefits of the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX but not the price tag, the Vasque Breeze III GTX is a reliable alternative.

It features a waterproof Gore-Tex liner for wet environments and similarly durable nubuck leather and textile upper. The sole on these boots are even made with an exclusive Vasque Vibram Contact Grip rubber for improved traction on wet ground.

Best Hiking Boots for Wide Feet

Keen Targhee III WP Mid Hiking Boots

Comfortable and durable, with a wide toe box make the Keen Targhee III Waterproof Mid-top a classic hiking boot choice for those with wide feet.

Specifications:

  • Category: Mid top
  • Upper: Waterproof leather and mesh
  • Sole: Keen All-Terrain Rubber
  • Weight: 2lbs 2.8oz (0.98kg)
  • Waterproof: Yes

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Very Comfortable
  • Excellent durability

Cons: 

  • Not very breathable

Keen designed the Targhee III to be comfortable straight out of the box. With their mesh and leather uppers, the boots won't feel constricting or clunky when you walk.

Moreover, while some mid-top boots squeeze your calves, the Targhee III has ample padding around the ankle for extra comfort.

The Targhee III comes with some high-quality, environmentally friendly leather. Additionally, it has extra-tough mudguards to protect the boots from scratches and scrapes.

While the Targhee III does have quite a lot of mesh and fabric in the upper, it’s durable for a non-full leather boot. The burly outsole on the Targhee III will last for years, too.

Targhee III's durability may win points with its thick, high-quality leather uppers. But, they’re also responsible for the boot’s lack of breathability.

Although these boots are going to last you, they can feel a bit warm in the summer months. This is partly because the boots use KEEN.DRY as their waterproof liner.

By using KEEN.DRY instead of Gore-Tex this saves both Keen and consumers some money. But, KEEN.DRY isn’t as breathable as Gore-Tex. So, while the Targhee III is quite waterproof, it’s not the most breathable boot out there.

Keen shoes are very wide. This is because Keen chooses to build a very wide toe box into their boots.  While this is great for some people with wide feet, it can be problematic for people with narrow feet. To learn more, check out our in-depth review.

Best Budget Hiking Boots

Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof

The Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP is a highly popular, affordable, mid-top hiking boot, loved by hiking enthusiasts all over the world for decades.

Specifications:

  • Category: Mid top
  • Upper: Suede leather and mesh
  • Sole: Vibram TC5+
  • Weight: 2lbs 4oz (1.02kg)
  • Waterproof: Yes

Pros:

  • Highly breathable
  • Very Comfortable
  • Outsole provides great traction

Cons: 

  • Not very waterproof

The Merrell Moab 2 didn’t become one of the most popular hiking boots in the world by being uncomfortable. As far as comfort goes, the Moab 2 often makes it feel like you’re walking on a pillow, even at the end of a long hiking day.

Of course, your feet will still hurt once in a while. But these boots have a lot of underfoot padding, which is helpful on long downhill sections of the trail.

The best part? The Moab 2 doesn't need weeks-long break-in time. They are comfortable right out of the box.

Since the Moab 2 has an upper with large mesh panels, they’re highly breathable. Even after long days of hiking in the summer heat, they keep your feet happy and well ventilated.

But, since these boots have a waterproof breathable membrane, it won’t be as breathable as a non-waterproof model.

So, if breathability is your top concern, we’d recommend the Moab 2 Ventilator Mid boot instead.

The Moab 2 has large 5mm lug soles and Vibram TC5+ rubber. In particular, the lug soles offer fantastic traction on slippery terrain. They can provide a great grip on mud and wet rock. 

Even though they have a mid-top design, the Moab 2 doesn't offer a lot of ankle support. Of course, you can’t expect a mid-top boot to have as much support as a high-top model. But, even then, they don't do much for ankle stability.

The Moab 2 WP comes with a waterproof breathable liner. Yet, it provides surprisingly little water-resistance. Sure, if you step into a small puddle, your feet will likely stay dry. 

But, if it starts to rain heavily, you’ll find that you have wet feet after an hour or so. Since they are a mid-top boot, water tends to pour in around the ankle. However, this is true of any mid-top boot, and not a fault against the Moab.

To learn more, check out our in-depth review.

Best for Trail Running

Salomon S Lab Ultra 2

Sleek and durable, the Salomon S Lab Ultra 2 is a trail running shoe designed to go the extra mile in terms of comfort in the mountains.

Specifications:

  • Category: Trail runner
  • Upper: Mesh
  • Sole: Contagrip MA rubber
  • Weight: 10oz (283.5g)
  • Waterproof: No

Pros:

  • Very lightweight
  • Great cushioning underfoot
  • Quick lace system for convenience

Cons: 

  • Not waterproof

Sleek and durable, the Salomon S Lab Ultra 2 is a trail running shoe designed to go the extra mile in terms of comfort in the mountains.

Developed initially with legendary ultrarunner François D'Haene at the helm of the design efforts, this shoe was crafted to provide long-distance runners with the comfort they need. It has an 8mm drop, which is perfect for runners with a heel strike that needs extra support on the trail.

The upper of the S Lab Ultra 2 is made with a sturdy mesh fabric that boasts SensiFit technology. SensiFit provides a comfortable cradle around the foot for added support and reduced fatigue on long runs. Additionally, these shoes have an EndoFit internal sleeve, which helps ensure a snug fit for added security in tricky terrain.

Underfoot, Salomon built the S Lab Ultra 2 with a set of Energy Cell+ midsoles. These molded midsoles allow for high energy return on every strike to increase efficiency in your stride. Moreover, the midsole's Energy Save PU foam offers even more cushioning on those long-distance runs.

When cruising through exposed terrain, these shoes also provide an enviable amount of traction, thanks to their Contagrip MA outsoles. Salomon included their trademark chevron-style lug pattern, which allows for excellent grip on nearly any surface, whether dry, wet, firm or loose.

Finally, the Salomon S Lab Ultra 2's QuickLace closure system makes tying your shoes a no-brainer. This advanced lacing system also helps to pull the shoes' uppers tightly around your foot for a superior fit with minimal effort.

While these shoes come with a high price tag, they're genuinely in a league of their own for high-end performance on extended trail runs.

Recommended Alternative: Salomon Speedcross 5

For a more affordable option that takes the word "traction" to the next level, the Salomon Speedcross 5 is a great alternative. These award-winning shoes feature one of the burliest outsoles ever crafted for trail running shoes, thanks to their extra-large lugs and streamlined geometry. Plus, the Speedcross 5 cradles the heel's back, helping to ensure a better stride with less ankle rolling on the trail.

Famed gear manufacturer Arc'teryx really brought their A-game with the Aerios FL. This high-end performance-driven hiking shoe has a minimalist flair, making it perfect for outdoor enthusiasts that prioritize quality in their gear.

Specifications:

  • Category: Shoe
  • Upper: Cordura mesh
  • Sole: Vibram MegaGrip rubber
  • Weight: 1.5lbs (690g)
  • Waterproof: Yes

Pros:

  • Very lightweight
  • Highly breathable and fully waterproof
  • Superior traction and grip

Cons: 

  • Minimal cushioning underfoot

Boasting a minuscule weight of just 1.5lbs (690g), the Aerios FL is a lightweight option for quick jaunts in the mountains and long-distance thru-hikes alike. 

Its upper fabric is a Cordura mesh, which provides ample breathability on hot days. Meanwhile, Cordura is one of the burliest fabrics around, so these shoes are also strong enough to withstand frequent use in rugged terrain.

To help increase stability underfoot, Arc'teryx built these shoes with an integrated TPU shank. This offers a much-needed structure to the shoes for performance in steep terrain without adding weight or bulk.

While the compressed EVA foam midsole in the Aerios FL leaves a little to be desired in terms of underfoot cushioning, the 4mm thick OrthoLite 3D molded insert helps pick up some of the slack.

Additionally, the Aerios FL has an extra grippy Vibram Megagrip outsole with large lugs underfoot. This allows the shoes to get superior traction on wet ground without compromising their ability on bare rock.

Plus, unlike many other low-top hiking shoes, the Aerios FL features a full-coverage Gore-Tex liner. As a result, they offer excellent waterproofing in small streams and puddles that you might have to cross on the trail.

Finally, like all Arc'teryx gear, the company didn't compromise on style with the Aerios FL. When it comes to combining lightweight, maximum traction, breathability, durability, and style that works just as well on the trail as it does in town, the Aerios FL is hard to beat. However, that does mean you'll have to pay a bit of a premium for these shoes. 

Recommended Alternative: La Sportiva Spire GTX (Women's)

Suppose you're on the lookout for a pair of hiking shoes that are slightly lighter than the Arc'teryx Aerios FL but that offer more in terms of underfoot cushioning. In that case, the La Sportiva Spire GTX is a sure bet.

They have a thick molded EVA midsole and a 5mm thick Ortholite insole for added cushioning. While they are a bit more expensive, the Spire GTX is also slightly better for very muddy conditions. This is thanks to its dual-rubber outsole and Impact Brake System.

a pair of hiking boots laying on a rock ledge

Hiking Boots Buying Guide


What to Consider When Selecting Hiking Boots

You will wear your hiking boots on your feet for hours and hours on end, over countless miles, and endless mountain passes. You'll want to be sure that you’re picking the right model for your needs.

Here are some of the top factors to consider when selecting your next pair of hiking boots:

Purpose

Before you jump too far down the rabbit hole in the world of hiking boots, First, ask yourself: What exactly do I plan to use my hiking boots for? Are you more of a weekend warrior that prefers day hikes, or do you enjoy longer multi-night trips?

Ultimately, the kind of hiking boots you need will dictate by the type of hiking you like to do. For an ultralight backpacker, most prefer lightweight hiking shoes or trail runners. While more traditional hikers might consider a sturdy pair of backpacking boots. They are better suited for their adventures.

Likely Terrain

It’s important to consider the terrain you’re likely to find yourself in when you’re outside. Your needs living in the desert Southwest will be different than elsewhere. Compare this to someone living in the temperate rainforest of the Pacific Northwest.

While shopping, you need to consider whether you’ll be spending a lot of time at lower elevations or in the alpine. For instance, you think you'll find yourself more up in the mountains. This means you'll want boots sturdy enough for hiking through summertime snowpack.

Unless your local mountains are home to large boulder fields or lots of desert slickrock, for this, you may want hiking boots that are great for climbing and scrambling.   For example, the La Sportiva TX4 Mid GTX hiking boots. Check out our in-depth review for more information.

Finally, you need to think about whether you spend most of your time hiking on-trail or off-trail. Factoring that off-trail travel tends to be more laborious. You may want higher-top boots that are a bit more robust than someone who hikes on maintained trails.

Comfort

Comfort is key when it comes to hiking boots. It's expected that you’ll have unhappy feet at some point during your hiking career.

The goal is to buy the most comfortable boots you can find so that most of your hiking days are in bliss. There’s not much we can tell you about what kinds of hiking boots are going to be the most comfortable for you.

Comfort is unique to each individual. So what’s important is finding the boot that feels best on your foot (don’t worry - we’ll give you more tips on that later). Remember, a pair of boots may tick the boxes for the features you need. If they don’t feel comfortable on your feet, they’re not right for you.

Water-Resistance

Almost all modern hiking boots boast some level of water-resistance. They contain what’s known as a waterproof breathable membrane. This is a liner fabric that helps your feet breathe while preventing them from getting wet in the rain.

That said, even if a boot has the label “waterproof,” it doesn’t mean your feet will stay bone-dry on your hikes. Especially if you do a lot of off-trail hiking.

Your feet are likely to get wet when you do river crossings or spend a lot of time in the snow. There’s not much you can do about it if water goes over the top of your boots.

Having a waterproof breathable membrane won't be as breathable as a non-waterproof. Thus, a non-waterproof model is more suitable if you spend a lot of time hiking in dry, desert environments.

hiking boots standing on rocks in a river

Weight

It's easy to see why weight is important in hiking boots. It's the fact that you lift your boots off of the ground with every step you take.

These days people are looking to cut more weight in their hiking gear. Thus, lightweight boots are becoming more and more popular. Remember that lightweight boots offer less ankle support. This means less stability, especially when compared to heavier, traditional backpacking models.

Plus, lightweight boots tend to use less durable materials. As a result, you'll replace them more often.

Price

While we all wish that we had unlimited resources to spend on hiking gear, most of us are on a budget. The good news is that price doesn’t always correlate with quality when it comes to hiking boots.

It’s possible to get a good pair of boots without spending your life’s savings. For example, check out the well-priced Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof.  Check out our in-depth review for more information.

In reality, it’s more important that you find a pair of boots that are comfortable and that fit you well.

hiking boots and hiking sticks

Types of Hiking Boots

There are many different types of hiking boots out there - each with their specific purpose. Here are some of the most common types:

Backpacking Boots

Backpacking boots are high-top, ultra-supportive boots. They are for trips where you’re carrying a lot of weight on your back.

They're made of very durable leather, including a burly outsole that provides more support than any other option. In our expert opinion, the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX is the best backpacking boot currently on the market.  Learn more in our in-depth review.

Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are generally mid-top footwear. They are for on- and off-trail travel in backcountry terrain.

They are usually lighter and more breathable than backpacking boots. But offer less support for your ankles as you hike, so they’re not ideal for carrying very heavy packs. The Opt Outdoor team swear by the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid for day hikes.

blue and gray hiking shoes

Hiking Shoes

Hiking shoes are a type of low-top hiking footwear. They resemble a standard walking shoe.  Check out our best pick - Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX Shoe, to see what we mean.

They often have a burly outsole like what you find on a hiking boot. The downside to hiking shoes is that they offer minimal if any, ankle support.

Trail Runners

Trail running shoes, or trail runners, are a type of running shoe. They are for use on non-paved surfaces. They generally have outsoles that have lots of traction on the trail but don’t provide any ankle support. 

Trail runners are very popular in the ultralight backpacking community. They're very lightweight and give ample comfort. For a good quality, durable, supportive trail running boot, check out the Salomon S Lab Ultra 2.

close up of salomon trail runners

Hiking Boots vs. Hiking Shoes

Okay, first things first, what’s the difference between hiking boots and hiking shoes? It might seem like this is some sort of marketing gimmick. It turns out that there are real, tangible differences between the two.

The main difference is that a hiking boot is generally going to be a high- or mid-top shoe. This means it extends at least past the ankle and as high as 1/3 the way up your calf. Hiking shoes are a kind of low-cut footwear that doesn’t extend past the ankle.

This difference might not appear to be a big deal. But having a high- or mid-top shoe means you’re going to get a lot more ankle support on rocky, uneven terrain. Yet, hiking shoes tend to be lighter and more comfortable than hiking boots. So they’re becoming more and more popular each year.

Hiking Boot Components

A hiking boot might seem like a fancy shoe. But, there are a lot of different components that go into making the boots we wear in the mountains.

Here’s how each component of a hiking boot affects your experience outdoors:

Outsole

The outsole of a shoe is the rubber part at the bottom. It provides traction on muddy and rocky terrain.

Hiking boots tend to have more robust outsoles than other kinds of footwear, due to the demands of mountain environments.

More often than not, you’ll find that Vibram makes the rubber on your boots. They're the industry leader in outsoles for outdoor pursuits, like climbing and hiking.

Midsole

The midsole of a shoe is the foam that’s located between the outsole and the “upper” part of the boot. It is designed to provide cushioning for your feet, ankles, and knees.

A quality midsole is of the utmost importance in a hiking boot. Backpacking boots often have stiff midsoles to provide more stability underfoot.

Whereas, hiking shoes and trail runners have midsoles made of very pliable foam.

a close up of a pair of hiking boot's sole vibram

Insole

Located inside the actual boot is the insole or footbed. It is the removable liner you find under your foot.

Most insoles included with shoes are flimsy pieces of foam. The best insoles on the market provide support for your feet, especially around the arch.

You can also buy special insoles to help keep your feet warm in the colder months.

Upper

The “upper” of a shoe is the fabric or leather part that wraps around your foot.

The primary purpose of the upper is to keep your foot attached to the midsole and outsole of the shoe. While also protecting your foot from rocks, twigs, and other debris on the trail.

Leather is the most durable material used to make shoe uppers. It tends to be heavier, less comfortable, and less breathable than fabric alternatives.

Waterproof Liner

The waterproof liner in a hiking boot is a thin waterproof breathable membrane. They help keep water out of your shoe.

These high-tech liners allow water vapor to pass through their barrier while stopping larger water droplets from getting in.

Gore-Tex, eVent, and BDry are the most popular waterproof liners,alhough there are some generic brands available, too.

A waterproof liner is generally embedded within the many fabric layers in a shoe’s upper.

close up of a dirty pair of hiking boots

Rand

The rand of a shoe is the rubber cap that’s found at the toe. The main purpose of a rand is to provide some protection for your feet against rocks on the trail.

A quality rand can even enhance the traction you get from your hiking boots. This helps you when scrambling through rocky, bouldery terrain.

Laces and Grommets

Laces might seem like a minor aspect of a pair of hiking boots. A bad pair of laces will continue to come untied throughout a hiking day. This leads to unnecessary annoyance.

As far as priorities go, since you can always change the laces on your boots, a bad pair of laces isn’t a deal-breaker.

An often-overlooked component of boots is the grommet. A grommet is the hole or hook that your laces go through so you can tie your boots.

Many budget and lightweight hiking boots have fabric grommets. These are more likely to fall apart and render your boots useless.

Many other backpacking boots come with the heavier metal grommets. They tend to last longer.


How a Hiking Boot Should Fit

As we’ve mentioned, a good, comfortable fit is critical in a pair of hiking boots. So, coming up, we’ll walk you through the basics of finding the right fit in your boots.

First, how should a hiking boot fit? There are a lot of myths out there about needing to size your hiking boots up by one or more sizes.

The fact of the matter is that the most important thing is that a pair of hiking boots feel comfortable. So there’s no single rule that you should follow when buying them.

The ideal fit for a hiking boot is snug, but not tight around the toes. You should be able to wiggle your toes. Though, you shouldn’t have so much room that your foot slides forward or from side to side with the boot.

When you lace up your hiking boots, your foot should more or less stay put as you walk around. Any movement in your heel is sure to lead to blisters down the road.

Finally, you shouldn’t feel any uncomfortable tightness along the top of your foot. If you do, this could be a sign that there isn’t enough volume within the boot for your foot.


How to Use Sizing Guides if Buying Hiking Boots Online

The vast majority of us buy our gear online nowadays. So buying a pair of boots in-store is the best way to find the right fit the first time around.

You can almost always return a pair of boots, the trick is knowing how to buy a pair of boots online. This way, you can get right out onto the trail without delay.

Using a manufacturer’s shoe size guide is generally the best way to figure out what size you should buy. This only works if you already know your general shoe size.

To do this, you should go to a local shoe store and ask to have your feet professionally measured. They’ll most likely use a Brannock Device, which gives a pretty accurate measure of your foot size.

Every company has a different standard they use for shoe sizing. A size 7 in one company might be a 9 in another, so using your regular shoe as a guide can be wrong. After getting a measurement from a Brannock Device, you can order your boots online.

The only time you need to use a manufacturer’s shoe size guide is if you need to convert sizes from the US to Euro. Or if the manufacturer you’re buying from is a European company, like Scarpa and La Sportiva.

These companies do their sizing in Euro sizes. If you don’t already know your Euro size, you’ll want to convert using their guidelines.

Other than that, it’s important to accept that you will not always get the right size the first time around. It is normal to return boots when buying online. Often, people would order many pairs to try different sizes unless they’re buying from a manufacturer they’ve used before.


Tips for Testing Hiking Boots

The most important step in the entire boot-buying process is the testing phase. This is the time when you decide if a pair of boots are right for you before you head out onto the trail.

Test your pair of boots at home. If they're not comfortable then, they won't be any more comfortable after 12 hours of hiking.

To test out your boots, you’ll want to lace them up and walk around. Check to see how they feel when you walk up and down a set of stairs or if you try to balance on an object. Think about how your foot feels inside the shoe.

Pay particular attention to any places where you feel rubbing on your foot.
If something seems a bit off, try adjusting the laces. Ensure that the tongue of the boot is lying flat on the top of your foot.

Also, make sure you tightened each lace properly. Sit with the boots for a while and wear them as you do your daily tasks around the home. If, after an hour or two, they feel comfortable, they’re keepers.

Oh, don’t forget to stay inside when you test your boots. If you wear them outside, you may not be able to return them if they’re the wrong size!

hiking shoes on big boulders

Now that you know what to look for in hiking boots, check out our other backpacking how-to guides:


Key Takeaways

Your hiking boots are one of the most important pieces of gear you’ll buy.

Hiking boots are your companion on the trail every step of the way. So when you’re shopping for that next pair, it’s critical to know what to look for.

The most important part of choosing a pair of hiking boots is the testing process. Keep in mind that if boots don’t feel right when you try them on, they won’t feel any better after a long day of hiking.

Choose comfort and fit over everything else when buying hiking boots - your feet will thank you later!

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