Great hiking boots lead to a great hiking experience! Since hiking boots are such an essential piece of hiking gear, it’s important to learn the basics of how to fit hiking boots.
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Choosing the right kind of hiking boots to use can be a daunting task. However, we’ve saved you some headache and created this comprehensive guide on how to fit the perfect pair of hiking boots for your next outdoor hiking adventure.
Why Should You Buy Hiking Boots?
Perhaps you think it isn’t necessary to get “hiking boots” and prefer to just wear your sneakers.
Here are a few reasons why we believe choosing an excellent hiking boot, no matter what your skill level, is essential to enjoying your hike.
- Hiking boots provide additional stability and support
- Hiking boots allow you to hike in any weather condition, even snow or mud.
- Hiking boots help to ensure you don’t slip on the steep and rocky paths
- Hiking boots will help prevent injury to ankles should you slip
- Hiking boots assist you in carrying heavy backpacks
- Hiking boots protect you from injuring your foot should you step on something sharp or rugged
What Features Matter When Fitting Your Hiking Boots?
In choosing the right kind of hiking boots there are certain factors that you should consider. Knowing these factors will guide you in making a wise decision on which pair of hiking boots to get for your hiking trip.
- Weight of the boot: You might not realize this, but the weight of the boots can make a huge difference especially when you’re already carrying loads in your backpack. Heavier boots mean slower hikes and greater energy exertion.
- Waterproof: Water inside your shoes is uncomfortable and having to bear it throughout the hike is stressful. That’s why you should look for waterproof features when fitting your new hiking boots.
- Protection: Hiking requires you and your foot to be in perfect shape. Protecting your feet with quality hiking boots will prevent you from injury.
- Grip: Slipping is a major cause of foot injury. It is important to fit hiking boots that have good quality materials intended to prevent accidents.
- Breathability: In order to ensure your feet stay dry and comfortable, choose boots with good ventilation features. Wet feet and wet shoes are an uncomfortable combination that will ruin your hike.
- Cushioning: The shock absorption capability of a hiking boot also contributes to protecting your feet from injury. Your hiking boot should have adequate cushioning to ensure they absorb shock efficiently.
Related Reading: Best Wide Toe Box Hiking Boots On The Market
What Are The Parts of Hiking Boots?
Understanding the components of hiking boots will help you get the perfect fit.
Hiking Boot Uppers
The kind of material used for the upper part of your hiking boots will have an impact on its breathability, durability, and water resistance.
- Full-grain leather: Perfect for longer and rougher hikes due to its excellent durability, great abrasion, and water-resistant characteristics.
- Split-grain leather: Mixed with nylon mesh that offers better breathability and lightweight compared to boots made with full-grain leather.
- Nubuck leather: It’s basic leather that is buffed to have a suede-like surface. Resistant to water and abrasion and is very durable.
- Synthetics: Includes synthetic leather, nylon, and polyester, and is lighter compared to the other materials. Cheaper than real leather but more susceptible to wear and tear.
- Waterproof membranes: Newer material that uses waterproof/breathable membranes such as Gore-Tex® or eVent®.
- Vegan: Completely free from animal products and animal byproducts.
The lining is found inside of your hiking boots and is in contact with your sock-clad foot.
It is important that the materials used in the lining are breathable and can transfer moisture from the sock to the outside of your shoes. Without these features your foot will stay wet and get cold while you hike, it will also be prone to blisters with increased friction between your skin and socks.
Tongue and Lacing
This is the part where you get to adjust the fit of your hiking boots.
The tongue is usually made of breathable materials like nylon mesh and prevents dirt from entering the boot.
Good quality lacing is important. You don’t want your foot to come out of your hiking boots. Materials such as Kevlar fibers are also used to increase durability and strength.
Hiking Boot Midsoles
The Midsole is an essential part of hiking boots because it provides cushioning, support, rigidity, and stability. The fit of the hiking boot will vary depending upon the material used in the midsole.
- EVA or Ethylene Vinyl Acetate: It is Lighter, cushier, and flexible than PU. Cheaper compared to PU but less durable.
- PU or Polyurethane: Firmer and more durable, but more expensive option.
Hiking Boot Outsoles
All hiking boot outsoles are made of RUBBER, providing durability and traction on different terrains.
In cases of mountaineering/backpacking boots, additives like carbon are added to increase outsole hardness.
- Lug pattern: Bumps on the outsole that increases traction on soft surfaces (gravel, grass, sand, etc)
- Heel brake: Helpful on steep descents as it slows you down and prevents you from sliding.
What Are The Various Types of Hiking boots?
Different kinds of terrain require different kinds of hiking boots. Don’t be overwhelmed, we are going to break it down for you so you can choose and fit your hiking boots like a pro!
The Day Hiking Boot
- Ideal for hiking on less demanding terrains
- Backpackers with lighter loads usually have these kinds of boots.
- Commonly weighs less than 3.5 pounds a pair.
- Mid-cut or Hi-cut models
The Hiking Shoe
- Best for short hikes and on flatter or even terrains
- Perfect for ultralight backpackers
- Low- cut models
The Backpacking boots
- Also called the “Frankenstein of Boots”
- Best for longer, challenging/uneven terrains
- Designed to carry heavier loads
- Thicker and stiffer soles for high-impact hiking
- High-cut models providing maximum support to the ankles
How To Fit Hiking Boots
Now that you have a better understanding of hiking boots in general, it’s now time to learn how to fit the perfect hiking boot for you.
Here are some tips that you could use to find that perfect match:
- It’s advisable to try on boots at the end of the day. Your feet tend to be a bit larger after the day’s activities. Doing so prevents you from buying smaller-sized boots.
- If you wear orthotics, you may wish to have them with you.
- Trying on the boots with your actual hiking sock will give you an idea of how they should fit when you’re wearing them for hiking.
- Slip your finger between the heel of the boot and the back of your foot. If it fits through then you’re on the right track.
- Your toes should not touch the front of the boot, much like your heel should not be rubbing against the back end of the boot.
- If you’re lacing it up, your foot should start moving backward.
- Choose a boot that best suits your foot shape. If you have a wide toe box, be sure to check out our post on Wide Toe Box Hiking Shoes.
- Breaking in your new hiking boots slowly is essential.
Taking care of your boots
- Use wax or silicone treatment to maintain your boots’ water-resistant capacity. This will soften the leather making it more comfortable to wear on your next hike.
- Avoid saltwater as the eyelets of your boots will rust.
- Your hiking boots will continue to fit perfectly and last a long time if you keep them clean and dry after every hike.
Now, It’s Time To Go On a Hike!
You finally made it!
It’s not as confusing as it seemed right?
Fitting your hiking boots is easy when you understand the basics of hiking boot construction and how to choose the right pair for your style of hiking.
Now that you are armed with all this knowledge, go out there and take in an amazing view with your perfectly fitting new pair of hiking boots.
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