There is no “one size fits all” answer for hiking shoes. Different hikers have different needs based on the terrain they plan to cover and their personal preferences.
There are a few key things to look for when choosing shoes for hiking in the mountains.
In this post, we will discuss some of the best options today and what you should consider before making your purchase.
Types of shoes to consider when hiking in the mountains
Are you thinking of hiking in the mountains?
If so, you’ll need to select the right type of shoes.
Here are four types of shoes to consider when hiking in the mountains.
- Hiking Boots: Hiking boots are designed for stability and support, making them ideal for rough terrain. They typically have a higher ankle than other shoes, providing extra protection against injuries. Hiking boots are also mostly waterproof to protect your feet against the elements.
- Hiking Shoes: Hiking shoes can have higher or lower ankle support than hiking boots, depending on your preferences. Most hiking shoes are not waterproof, but they provide the support and stability you need for longer hikes.
- Trail Runners: Trail runners are made for running on trails and offer good traction and durability. They’re lightweight and flexible, making them a good choice for those looking to move quickly. Remember, they’re, in most cases, not waterproof but dry quickly.
- Approach Shoes: Approach shoes are designed specifically for climbing and bouldering; they provide great grip and foot support.
And if you consider hiking in the mountains with your sneakers, you should know the following.
Sneakers are great for short hikes on moderate trails, but not recommended for anything rugged.
These shoes are mainly designed to keep your feet comfortable and dry, but aren’t stable enough for more difficult terrain.
Tip: If you want to learn more about the different hiking boots, then read my other article. There you will find more interesting tips.
How to choose the right hiking shoes for the mountains?
There’s nothing like the feeling of hiking boots on your feet as you conquer a mountain.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced trekker, it’s important to have the right shoes.
Not all hiking shoes are created equal, so it’s important to do your research before purchasing.
Follow these steps to find the right hiking shoes for the mountains:
- Determine the type of hike you’ll be taking. Before heading to the store, think about your most common terrain and where you plan to go hiking. Decide if you’re more of a casual hiker or an avid mountain climber, and choose accordingly.
- Determine what your budget is for your new shoes. Be honest about how much you can afford to spend on hiking boots; there’s no shame in this game. If you can afford to splurge on the best, go for it! But remember: the most expensive shoe isn’t always the best, especially when it comes to hiking shoes.
- Figure out what type of material works best for your feet and activity level. Generally speaking, mesh materials are durable and flexible. At the same time, leather provides breathability and waterproofing (although they tend to be less flexible). Some hikers recommend choosing two different shoes, one for your daily hikes and activities and another pair for more difficult trails.
- Don’t forget to consider the weight of the shoes. If you plan on carrying a heavy pack with you on your hikes, your shoes mustn’t add too much bulk or weight.
Make sure your shoes are comfortable and fit well.
This is especially important if you’re buying online; we recommend ordering a size up and then returning them for the correct size.
If they don’t fit, there’s no point in keeping them!
Make sure your shoes are sturdy and supportive as well as comfortable.
Hiking can be hard on your feet, so it’s important to find shoes that will protect them from injuries such as ankle sprains or blisters.
Consider where you’ll be hiking most. If you plan on sticking to relatively easy trails, a trail runner might do just fine.
However, if the idea is to climb mountains, consider investing in a pair of hiking boots with more support and stability underfoot.
These boots have flexible materials but still provide protection and traction on challenging trails.
How to break in your new hiking shoes
After choosing the right shoes, the next step is figuring out how to break them in.
Here are some tips:
- Break-in boots with moleskin: Moleskin is adhesive padding that can be placed inside boots to reduce friction points (where blisters typically form). Use scissors to cut small strips of moleskin and place them at high-friction areas such as the back of your foot or under your ankles. You can also place moleskin on your socks to prevent friction between your feet and shoes.
- Wear thinner socks: Thinner socks are easier to break in than thicker ones. They provide better ventilation for your feet, which means they can breathe more easily when you wear them. If you have thick hiking socks that you love but are too bulky for your hiking boots, cut out the toes to reduce bulk.
- Fill shoes with socks: Place socks inside your boots to break them in and stretch the leather, suede, or mesh material. Fold each sock until it’s a quarter of its regular size; you can also cut one end off each sock if you want to reduce bulk. Insert each folded pair into booties and tie them up with laces or elastic. Wear the shoes for an hour or two and then remove them; repeat this process until your shoes are stretched out enough to wear comfortably.
- Use a blow dryer: Place thin socks on your feet before slipping them into your boots. Turn on a blow dryer (the hottest setting) and hold it 1-2 inches away from the surface of your boots. Keep the blow dryer moving as you move it around the surface of your boots. Hold the blow dryer in one spot for too long, and you might end up with a melted pair of shoes!
- Vaseline: Rub Vaseline (petroleum jelly) on high-friction areas. This will soften the outsides of your boots and reduce friction, blisters, and other irritation.
If you have two pairs of hiking shoes, alternate between them to speed up the break-in process.
Wear one pair for an hour or two at home; then slip on the other pair and go out for a short hike.
If you don’t have two pairs of shoes, try using your hiking boots around town for errands to break them in faster.
Tipp: Roll up your pant legs: Wearing too long pants can cause them to rub against the backs of your calves. Roll up the hem once or twice before putting them on; this will shorten the length of each pant leg and decrease friction as well.
How to select the right socks for the mountains?
Socks are an often overlooked but critically important component of your hiking outfit.
They should be comfortable enough to wear every day (no one wants a blister from their first hike) and tough enough to hold up under some serious conditions.
There’s no way to predict how wet your feet will get, but make sure that the pair you choose is made of breathable fabrics that won’t retain moisture for too long.
Most mountaineers swear by wool socks, which are still the best for cold weather because they’re warm even when wet.
They’re also great in the rain because wool fibers don’t absorb water and stay lightweight and dry quickly.
Fleece-lined socks are also recommended for cooler conditions because of their insulating properties.
Look for ones that cover your ankle to reduce heat loss through your legs.
If you’re hiking in the summer, choose a pair made with synthetics like CoolMax or nylon.
They’ll wick moisture away from your skin and reduce chafing. Lightweight cotton socks are also a great option for warmer weather.
Tip: Learn how to dress properly for a hike in my other blog article. Follow the link to read the article.
Take care of your mountain hiking shoes so they last longer
Like most hikers, you take great pride in your gear.
You spend a lot of time and money acquiring the perfect set of boots, clothes, and backpacks to make your hike safe and enjoyable.
One gear that is often overlooked, though, is your mountain hiking shoes.
Your shoes take a beating on the trail, so it’s important to take good care of them to last longer.
Here are a few tips to help you do just that:
- Remove the laces: Wipe your shoes off with a damp rag to remove any mud, dirt, or debris. Remove the laces and throw them in the washer along with the rest of your hiking clothes. Choose a mild detergent without bleach or brighteners because they can damage rubber-soled shoes; if your shoes don’t have laces, just spot clean them with a damp cloth or sponge. Let your shoe air dry overnight when you get home from the hike.
- Dry before replacing laces: Remove your shoes from the line when they’re still slightly damp, so they don’t crack when they completely dry. Don’t lace up your shoes until they’ve dried out. Air dry only; heat from a clothes dryer can melt rubber soles.
- Polish your leather shoes: Apply a coat of mink oil or saddle soap to the surface of your leather shoes to moisturize them and protect them while keeping them flexible. Let this soak in for 10 minutes before wiping off any excess with a clean cloth. This will make it too slick for debris to stick, so if you go on another hike, there’s less chance that dirt or rocks will damage the finish on your shoe.
Tip: More tips on cleaning and care of the hiking shoe you will find in my detailed blog article. Follow the link.
Tips for staying safe while hiking in the mountains
As beautiful as hiking in the mountains can be, it can also be dangerous.
If you’re not prepared for the conditions, you could find yourself in trouble.
Here are a few tips to help make your hike safe and enjoyable.
- If you’re new to hiking, start out by taking shorter hikes on easier terrain. As you gain experience, you can venture out onto more challenging trails.
- Always take plenty of water and snacks, and dress appropriately for the weather conditions.
- Wear sturdy shoes to protect your feet from sharp rocks and other hazards.
- If possible, never hike alone – always go with someone else who can help if something goes wrong.
- Carry a first aid kit with you, keeping it in your backpack to have everything right at hand.
- Most importantly, be aware of the weather conditions before hiking – if there are forecasts of heavy rains or thunderstorms, stay away from the mountains that day.
- You may also want to take along a cell phone in case of an emergency, but keep in mind that they don’t always work where you’re hiking.
Follow these simple tips, and you’ll be able to enjoy safely trekking through the mountains.
Check out our website for more information on mountain safety and other great articles.