How to Choose Hiking Shoes (Helpful Buying Guide)

Want to go hiking but don’t know what shoes to wear?

Hiking can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to wear the right shoes. If you don’t wear the right shoes, you can get blisters or worse.

In this guide, I’ll look at some of the best options for beginners, and I’ll show you what to look for when buying your new hiking shoes.

How do I find the perfect hiking boot for my outdoor activities?

It can be difficult to find the perfect hiking shoe.

How are you supposed to know which pair is right for you with all the different brands and types?

This is not an unimportant question, as many beginners, in particular, are overwhelmed with the wide selection. Sellers know how to exploit this and sell beginners an expensive hiking shoe that would not always be necessary.

One thing is most important for hiking boots: They have to fit!

Too big shoes cause you to slip away, losing your grip constantly. In the worst case, this leads to chafing and pressure points that promote the formation of blisters.

But shoes that are too small also hurt and prevent a precise gait on uneven terrain, which can spoil your hike.

Only with the right fit can you fully concentrate on your hike. A pair in the wrong size is the worst thing that can happen to you, but if the hiking shoe fits well, almost everything else is secondary.

Hiking boot fit isn’t just about finding a shoe you feel comfortable in at first glance. More importantly, find a shoe where you can move your toes and still provide adequate stability.

Now that we have clarified the general, we can focus on concrete features and questions that will help you find the right hiking shoe.

These are the functions a hiking boot should perform

  • Solid support for the foot to minimize the risk of injury.
  • Supportive for the leg muscles so that you can walk long distances.
  • Optimal power transfer from the foot to the ground, even on difficult terrain.
  • Protects the entire foot, from the sole to the toes, from impacts, and ideally the ankles.

Now you know what to look for in a hiking boot.

In the next step, we ask ourselves three questions to help you find suitable shoes.

Questions to ask yourself before buying new hiking boots

  1. How sure-footed are you in the terrain, and do you have trouble with balance?
  2. Are your foot and calf muscles well developed, or do you need supportive footwear?
  3. Do you know roughly the terrain you will be walking in?

Thanks to this information and the question asked you will be able to find new hiking shoes yourself.

Tip: Try hiking shoes in the afternoon in the store when your feet are a bit swollen. Wear the socks that you want to wear for hiking. Do the same with shoes you bought online before you decide to keep or return them.

Which hiking shoes are right for me and my needs?

Hiking shoes are perfect for hiking. They are comfortable and provide a good grip, so you don’t slip on dusty, wet, or icy surfaces.

But there are many different factors to consider regarding hiking boots. You need something comfortable and sturdy while also appropriate for the terrain you’ll be hiking in.

What types of hiking boots are there, and what are the differences?

The classic hiking boot

classic hiking boot

We’ll first look at the classic hiking boot – one of the most popular outdoor shoes.

The hiking boot extends over the ankles, and you can’t go wrong with this one.

Advantages of the classic hiking boot are, in addition to the high stability, that these are relatively comfortable and protect the entire foot to the ankle. This is helpful, especially in the mountains, where you can quickly slip or bump.

The disadvantage of this type of shoe is that the higher you get, the more difficult it becomes to move in these shoes.

The disadvantages are also the high weight, which affects fast walking.

The classic hiking boot will always be a good choice for long treks where you have to walk for a long time, but it is often too soft and impractical for alpine hiking.

Tip: In my other blog article, I explained what kind of hiking boots would be suitable for winter.

Light hiking shoes are always a good choice

Light hiking shoes

If you are looking for a good pair of shoes for your outdoor adventures, simple hiking shoes are ideal.

These are perfect for hiking and provide adequate comfort while exploring the great outdoors.

The difference with the classic hiking boot is the depth and the lightweight. Also, the sole is softer and less profiled, which makes you more light-footed.

Strong leg muscles are important here to cope with demanding tours and a lot of luggage.

You should also have a certain amount of tread strength for alpine hikes so that your foot doesn’t twist.

For people with a high dead weight, slimmed down hiking boots might not be recommended. A solid trekking boot offers more strength for this.

Use trail running shoes as hiking boots

Use trail running shoes as hiking boots

I see more and more people using trail running shoes as hiking shoes.

I tried it myself with a pair from Salomon and was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable my day hike was over 12 hours.

The feet were light, and even the high weight in my backpack (10 kg) I could easily carry on the hike to Engeratsgundsee.

Advantageous of trail running shoes is that they are much more slip-resistant than normal hiking shoes. However, I must mention that a little more balance is necessary on rocks because of the rubber lugs.

For beginners, trail running shoes may not be recommended for difficult hikes. However, these are certainly a better choice than simple athletic shoes, which unfortunately are often seen on amateurs.

Tip: I often use the trail running shoes as cycling shoes in addition to my hikes because these are non-slip on the pedals due to the sole.

Semi-high approach shoes for your hikes

Semi-high approach shoes for your hikes

Half-height approach shoes are a great way to get around rough terrain. These combine a classic hiking boot and hiking shoes that reach below the ankle.

The shoes have a non-slip sole and good cushioning properties. So you can find a stable footing even in snow and on slippery grass.

Nevertheless, this type of hiking shoe requires above-average leg muscles and more balance when walking.

Tip: Choose a shoe with good breathability and Gore-Tex technology.

Rugged trekking boots for long day hikes

Rugged trekking boots for long day hikes

If you want to spend a long day in nature, you need comfortable trekking boots.

These boots are sturdy and keep your feet warm and dry because water protection is often better.

There are many different trekking boots on the market, so it can be difficult to find the right model for your feet.

A good model will provide thermal and moisture insulation and keep your feet warm. However, the weight is significantly higher than the normal hiking boot.

I wouldn’t buy boots that are too soft in category A if you want to do mountain hikes or ridge crossings with them. For this purpose, it’s best to go for category B (mountain) or C (high mountain) boots, which are more exposed to wear and tear.

However, you should know that the harder the boot gets, the more uncomfortable it can become if the fit is not optimal.

In addition, trekking boots also cost more but last longer in use.

Outdoor barefoot shoes for hiking

Outdoor barefoot shoes for hiking

Love being out in nature? Do you feel most comfortable outside, breathing the fresh air and your feet feel the ground?

Then outdoor barefoot shoes are just what you need.

You can easily go hiking or do other outdoor activities with these shoes.

On top of that, walking barefoot is a great way to keep your body fit.

I would not recommend this type of shoes for beginners because, with stony ground, a certain hardening is necessary.

Tip: If you want to wear such barefoot shoes for hiking, try it first on flat trails in the forest before you undertake challenging hikes with them.

What material should the hiking shoe have?

Choosing the right material is crucial when it comes to hiking shoes.

The three most important materials in outdoor footwear are:

  • Leather
  • Synthetic material

Leather is the oldest material used in footwear. It is sturdy and durable, but a bit heavy.

As you know, leather has limited breathability and takes longer to dry than synthetic footwear.

Also, leather boots are relatively expensive.

Synthetic shoes are lightweight but not as durable as leather models.

They are quick to dry and offer good breathability.

This makes them ideal for hiking in the summer, but they are less suitable for hiking in rough terrain.

What material should your hiking boot be made of, synthetic or leather?

Both materials have their advantages and disadvantages. Everyone has to decide for themselves which material is best for their needs.

Tip: Be sure to check out my article on what clothes to wear when hiking. Follow the link to read the article.

Should I buy shoes with or without Gore-Tex?

Many outdoor activists, avid hikers, and athletes wonder if they should buy shoes with Gore-Tex.

The answer is not always easy, because there are many factors to consider: personal taste, preferences in sports and, of course, weather conditions.

Water protection in hiking boots is important because I’m out and about in all weather and want to have dry feet.

If you also want to avoid wet and cold feet in a surprise rain, you should buy Gore-Tex shoes.

If you hike only in the summer and the weather is good, it is unnecessary to wear waterproof shoes.

Then you can wear shoes without Gore-Tex, which means that they are not more breathable and that the moisture is better wicked away.

What shoes should I wear when hiking to avoid blisters?

Blisters on foot occur when hiking because there is a lot of friction between the foot and the shoe. This is often the case when your feet get wet.

A snug-fitting and waterproof hiking boot are important to avoid blisters while hiking. Still, the choice of socks also plays a crucial role.

The best way to prevent blisters is to wear socks made of moisture-wicking material.

The socks should be thin and made of synthetic material.

Make sure the socks are not too tight, as this can cause friction and blisters.

My tip: Don’t let your indecision about footwear stop you from enjoying the best hiking trails in the area.

A simple pair of hiking boots or trail running shoes might be all you need.

Suppose you’re covering extreme distances day after day. You might want to opt for hiking boots, especially if you have skinny legs.

But if you need extra support or are looking for really solid protection, then your search for trekking boots should be a top priority to take your hobby to the next level.

Tip: You can effectively avoid blisters with proper binding techniques for hiking boots. Check out my other blog article on this.

What to consider when caring for hiking boots?

When caring for hiking boots, it is particularly important to pay attention to details. The shoes will only retain their functionality for a long time and look beautiful.

What care does a hiking shoe need so that it still looks and functions well after many kilometers?

The surface of the hiking shoe must be cleaned, polished, and maintained.

Regular care ensures that the material does not crack and remains durable.

  • If you use your shoes often, they will get scratches. The dirt can be removed with a soft brush with natural bristles or a toothbrush.
  • After each hike, you should put your shoes out to dry because sweat and other moisture will cause unpleasant odors.
  • A thin layer of leather cream is ideal for nourishing the shoes. It is best to apply the cream to the shoes after each hike so that it penetrates deep into the leather and the shoe remains supple.
  • If the shoe smells too strong, then hand washing is recommended.

Have more questions about choosing your hiking shoes?

Contact me on Twitter. I’ll be happy to help you with your questions.

Have fun on your hike!

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Hi, I'm Dave. I'm an avid outdoors and sports enthusiast who loves to share my passion with others. I publish the experiences I've gained over the years on Outdoormeta to give beginners helpful tips and bring people closer to the outdoors.

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