There’s more to choosing the right hiking shoe than just what looks good. You want a shoe that can support your weight, your arch, your ankles, and is sturdy enough to withstand whatever terrain you’re travelling through.
Not all hiking shoes are made the same.
Here are some tips to help choose the perfect pair of hiking shoes for your new adventure. If you’re new to hiking altogether, check out some hiking tips online before you embark on your outdoor trip.
Different Types of Hiking Shoes
There are several different categories of hiking shoes depending on what kind of adventure you’re going on! If you’re a first-timer, you’ll want to decide on the type of adventure you’re taking first before buying the shoes. That way, you know you have the right kind of footwear for whatever you’re doing. It’s smart to go with a more versatile pair that will work for different types of adventures.
Don’t plan to bring along your tennis shoes; otherwise, it’s possible to return home with blisters, twisted ankles, and even fractures.
The major options here are:
- Regular hiking shoes
- Hiking boots
- Trail running shoes
- Approach shoes
Within these categories are dozens of brands and styles you can choose from. Here’s some more information on each type of shoe.
Hiking shoes are like a mix of trail running shoes and boots. They are not super lightweight, but not super heavy either. They have a low ankle, so they won’t offer much ankle support. Their thicker soles offer more protection against rougher terrain, and toe protection as well. You can find waterproof and non-waterproof models depending on where you think you’ll spend most of your time.
Hiking shoes are best suited for day trips, and lightweight adventures (i.e., nothing more than 20-30lbs). They are not meant for very long distances with heavy packs.
Hiking boots are a sturdier version of hiking shoes. These boots offer rigid ankle support, hefty sole support, and durable outer materials. Today’s brands of hiking boots are relatively lightweight, clocking in at 2-3 pounds a pair. The ankle support is the real differentiating factor from other types of hiking shoes.
The ankle support allows for more protection across rougher off-trail terrain, and for heavier packs that are more than 30 pounds. These are also best for trips that last more than one day, whereas hiking shoes are best for a day or two. If you opt for a full-leather pair, you’ll need to break them in before embarking on your adventure, or else your feet will be covered in painful blisters and other nasty foot problems, check out this guide on how boots should fit.
These shoes are best for rock climbers and rocky terrain. The approach shoe is similar to the trail runner and hiking shoe, except for the sole. It features a gripping rubber sole to give more traction on rocky surfaces.
These shoes are great for people who are avid rock climbers and need a little extra grip onto the rock. If you’re not planning on traversing a lot of rocky terrains, these shoes probably aren’t for you.
Considering Your Adventures
There are so many different types of adventures you can go on in the realm of hiking! You can hike mountains and go off-trail into the wilderness, or you can keep to a manicured trail and just take a casual stroll.
You’ll want to choose your shoe based on the most aggressive terrain you plan to encounter. So, if that’s off-trail riverbeds, you’ll want waterproof hiking boots!
Consider the type of land you’ll be travelling on. Wet, muddy, or slick land will mandate a good waterproof shoe that is sturdy in case you slip. If you’re somewhere down south that’s hot and dry, you may want to consider a shoe that is more breathable. The more aggressive your terrain of choice is, the sturdier your shoe should be.
Definitely try on your shoe of choice before buying! Fit is incredibly important as your feet will be moving around in these shoes a lot. If you buy online, make sure you allow ample time to try them on and break them in a little at least a month or two before your trip, so you can take them back and find other ones if they don’t work out.
Finding the perfect pair of hiking shoes doesn’t have to be a hassle! Once you narrow down where you want to start your adventure the rest is much easier. While there are dozens of different brands out there clogging your mind, it’s important to note that these shoes will help you make the most of your trip! That being said, you may want to invest a little more into them than you would an average pair of shoes.