If the hiking boots don’t fit you won’t enjoy the hiking, no matter how beautiful the trail is! Choosing the right hiking boots is not that easy with the huge selection of manufacturers and models nowadays. What do I have to pay attention to when choosing my hiking boots and what actually makes a good hiking boot?
We’ll tell you our best tips on how to find the right hiking boots for you so that you can plunge into your next hiking adventure comfortably and without blisters. And because that’s not all, there are also tips on how to properly care for your hiking boots. So, let’s find the right hiking boots for your next adventure on foot!
Why hiking boots are more than just shoes
Many wonder whether they really need hiking shoes or whether it is not enough to wear normal sneakers when hiking. For a leisurely stroll over field and forest paths, sneakers may be sufficient. However, even in this case you will walk more comfortably in hiking boots.
As soon as the wagon becomes a little more demanding, however, it’s no longer just about comfort when hiking. It’s also about your safety. Hiking shoes support your feet, protect your ankles and provide more support. This minimizes the risk of slipping or twisting, and the risk of injury when hiking thanks to your hiking boots.
Materials & processing
In addition, hiking boots are made from functional materials. These ensure that your feet sweat less and stay dry even when it rains or on a wet surface. Good hiking shoes are made from breathable, water-repellent and at the same time light materials.
But the shape and workmanship also play an important role. For example, hiking boots offer high-quality padding and a particularly non-slip and robust profile. This not only makes walking in hiking boots more comfortable over long distances, but also ensures that the hiking boots themselves last longer.
Most sneakers typically only last a few hikes. You will certainly not survive a mountain climb. On the other hand, good hiking boots can withstand countless hiking adventures or mountain climbs. Investing in a good pair of hiking shoes will still pay off after years. Of course, you do need to take good care of your hiking boots. More on this at the end of the article.
How to find the right hiking shoes for you!
Not all hiking boots are created equal. There are a variety of different hiking boots and models. With the huge selection, it is easy to lose track of things. Before you start looking for hiking boots for yourself, you should first orient yourself to two questions:
Two important questions when choosing the right hiking boots: What kind of hikes do I need my hiking boots for? And What material should my hiking boots be made of?
With the help of these two questions in mind, you can start looking for the right hiking boots. To make it easier for you to choose, here are our best tips on choosing the right hiking boots for you!
Orient yourself to the shoe categories
Hiking boots can be divided into 6 categories that will help you find the right hiking boots for your hiking adventure. Today, it is used as standard by most manufacturers and thus ensures more transparency.
An overview of the different hiking shoe categories:
This category includes multifunctional shoes (hiking shoes) with a flexible sole and little cushioning. They are suitable for shorter hikes on flat, well-paved paths and with light luggage.
Category A / B
These are lightweight hiking shoes with a little more height (mid cuts), but without solid ankle protection. They are equipped with a twistable, but relatively stiff and thick sole. These hiking shoes are suitable for longer day tours or multi-day tours. With medium-heavy luggage, where you run over largely paved paths in slightly hilly terrain.
Category B hiking boots are classic hiking boots with high lacing, a sturdy shaft and a firmer sole. They are often made of leather and are suitable for multi-day hikes with a large backpack. With these hiking shoes you can hike through mountainous and sometimes impassable terrain. They can also be used with half crampons or light crampons
Hard core hiking boots: Category B / C
These are trekking boots with very high lacing. They also offer good ankle protection and a firm sole construction with a deep profile. These models are usually made of sturdy leather and are suitable for hiking in rough and steep terrain. Can of course also be worn for shorter winter hikes.
Category C includes real mountain boots with a very deep profile. These hiking shoes are heavy and made of very robust materials. You can wear these in alpine terrain. They have a very high shaft and are often additionally insulated. They also offer extra reinforcements and protective edges. You can also use semi-automatic crampons with these models. With these hiking boots you can go on longer trekking tours with heavy luggage, or winter hikes. However, the sole is very firm and hardly allows it to roll off.
These are expedition boots that are extremely stable and absolutely crampon-proof. They are extremely robust and durable and offer a solid, kink-proof shaft. Such expedition boots are especially intended for high mountain tours and extreme mountaineering, where you cross glaciers or even ice climb. The sole of these hiking boots is so stiff that no rolling movement is possible.
If you don’t just want to stroll comfortably through forests and meadows and, on the other hand, are not a serious mountaineer, you are usually well equipped for your hiking adventures with category B hiking boots. They offer good stability, are nevertheless light and are also suitable for multi-day hikes with heavy luggage!
If, on the other hand, you want to be out in the mountains more and especially for longer and want to hike around the Annapurna Mountains or even to Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal, you should opt for the more stable hiking boots of category B / C. However, these are not suitable for everyday hikes because they are too hard.
Rely on the right material for your hiking boots
To find the right hiking boots for you, you should take a closer look at the different materials. The upper material and the inner lining of your hiking boots are important. Different materials are used here. In addition to leather, synthetic materials and Gore-Tex membranes are used.
High demands on the material
Even today, the majority of hiking boots are made of leather. In particular, nubuck leather and suede are used. Suede is very stable and durable and is therefore often used for alpine mountain boots.
At the same time, suede hiking boots are significantly heavier, not quite as breathable and offer little flexibility. In comparison, nubuck leather is more flexible, lighter and more breathable, but is also suitable for demanding hikes. The advantage of hiking shoes made of pure leather is that they offer your feet a particularly pleasant climate.
The disadvantage, however, is that hiking boots made of leather have to be cared for intensively in order to be permanently waterproof. In addition, leather hiking boots dry more slowly and more slowly. This can quickly become problematic on a hike to a hut for several days in wet weather.
Synthetic materials & Gore Tex membranes
It is clear that synthetic materials are easier to care for and cheaper. Nylon fibers such as mesh or Cordura are often used here. The advantage of these materials is that they are very flexible, breathable, light and water-repellent. The disadvantage, however, is that hiking boots made of synthetic materials wear out faster and offer less stability.
In addition, many manufacturers rely on Gore-Tex membranes . These are incorporated between the upper material and the inner lining and ensure that neither wind nor water can penetrate the shoes. Especially when hiking in wet terrain or in the snow, hiking boots with Gore-Tex are of course worth their weight in gold! The problem with Gore-Tex, however, is that it is harder for your own body heat to escape and you therefore sweat more in your hiking boots.
Use a combination of different materials
The upper material and the inner lining should together ensure that your hiking shoes are robust and water-repellent on the one hand, and are breathable, flexible and light on the other. That’s a lot of demands at once!
Hiking shoes made of leather and nylon are therefore suitable for easier hikes, but for alpine mountain hikes you should use a combination of leather and Gore-Tex membranes.
Pay attention to the sole of your hiking boots
When it comes to hiking boots, a distinction is made between the midsole and the outsole. The midsole is responsible for cushioning the shoe. These make it easier for you to walk. The outsole provides support, protection and slip resistance and thus more safety when hiking.
The midsole provides cushioning
Either polyurethane (PU) or ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) is used for the midsole. PU provides greater cushioning, but is not quite as durable due to the use of plasticizers and is more likely to be used for category A or B hiking boots. EVA, on the other hand, is more robust and is used in hiking boots of higher categories, but not quite as cushioning.
The outsole provides support and slip resistance
Outer soles usually consist of a rubber and carbon mixture. The more rubber is worked into the sole, the more slip-resistant and grippy the sole is. Carbon, on the other hand, makes the sole more robust and abrasion-resistant, but also more slippery. In addition, the temperature is decisive. The soles become softer in the heat and harder in the cold.
The right profile for your hikes
You should not only take a closer look at the material of the sole, but also the profile. As a rule, the more difficult the terrain, the deeper the profile should be. On the other hand, alpine hiking boots often offer less profile in the toe area, but special, more grippy climbing zones and hardened edge stability.
The soles of hiking boots are basically designed in such a way that dirt is automatically pushed out when running with the help of the foot flexion movement!
Rely on a high-quality design
In addition to the materials, the processing also plays an important role: hiking boots are either sewn or glued . The design describes the way in which the sole is connected to the shoe upper .
Here is an overview of the styles of hiking boots:
An invisible stitching seam connects the upper with the insole, while a leather strip also called frame, is sewn onto the outside at the same time. This leather frame is then connected to the midsole with a visible double seam. The advantage of this design is that the insole is not pierced and therefore no water can penetrate the inside of your hiking shoe.
Real double-stitched design
With this traditional and very high-quality design, a second seam, the so-called double seam, is set in addition to the first, so-called one-way seam. Depending on the model, this connects the upper leather with the frame and the midsole. This ensures special stability and weather resistance, which is particularly advantageous for alpine mountaineering boots. You can recognize this design by the fact that the upper leather is visible on the edge of the sole.
“Wrong” Double-stitched design
This design is similar to the real double-stitched design, but all protrusions are removed and the double- stitched seam is only drawn between the frame and the midsole. The upper leather is therefore not sewn in a second time.
Trigen seam design
In the case of very heavy mountain boots, an additional seam is worked in and this is why we speak of the tri-stitched design, the remaining steps are identical to the double-stitched design.
The pinched design is also one of the finer craftsmanship designs and is the most demanding. The upper leather is attached to the insole with small nails or with glue pinches. The big advantage of this design is that you can have your hiking boots re-soled. In addition, the shoes are not only durable, but also offer very good shape retention. You can recognize this design by the visible nails in the inner shoe.
This design is a mix of sewing and gluing. The insole is first sewn onto the upper with the so-called Strobel seam, while the sole is then injected or glued on. Since less manual dexterity is required, this design is significantly cheaper. The advantage of this design is that it provides more flexibility in the shoe. On the other hand, the shoe is also less stable and solid, which is why the strobeled design is only recommended for light hiking shoes, but not for real hiking or even trekking and mountain shoes.
You can recognize this design by removing the insole of your shoe and you will see the strobel seam running from the insole to the shaft.
Here the sole is injected directly onto the shaft, nothing is glued or sewn – this makes the production process extremely fast. However, your hiking shoe has so little stability and lifespan, because directly injected soles can neither be repaired nor re-soled. Hiking boots made with this method are therefore not recommended.
There are only a few companies that rely on the high-quality, double-stitched design.
Make sure that you have the right size and fit
It is not for nothing that a distinction is made between women’s and men’s models: hiking shoes for men are usually wider, while women’s models are slimmer. As a man, you shouldn’t accidentally buy hiking boots for women – and vice versa either.
In most cases it also makes sense to buy hiking boots one size larger. Here is an example: If you normally wear size 39, try size 40. Many manufacturers also offer half sizes: Instead of size 39, size 39.5 could fit perfectly!
Test your hiking boots extensively before buying them
It is best to always buy hiking boots in a shop and test your hiking boots extensively before buying them. Every foot is different and every shoe fits differently, so it’s best to try out several shoe models.
Even if you think that the first hiking shoe you try fits perfectly, you should try on other models. This is the only way you can have a comparison and really make the right decision.
In addition, it is best to try on your hiking boots in the afternoon. Then your feet are usually a bit swollen from the day and look more like their shape when hiking. You should also put on hiking socks when you try them on, and not thin stockings. For this you can get sample socks in many outdoor shops. After all, the idea is to try on the hiking situation as best you can.
It is also important that you tie your hiking boots tightly, but not too tightly. You should pay attention to this when trying on your hiking boots When trying on your hiking boots, make sure that they fit your foot well and give your feet support and stability. They shouldn’t feel too stiff and still offer you the flexibility you need.
Of course, your hiking boots should be comfortable and shouldn’t chafe your heel, front, or sides when you run. When walking downhill, you should not put your toes against the front of the shoe. When walking uphill, your foot should have a firm hold on the heel and not slide up and down with every step.
Break in your hiking boots!
Before you embark on a larger hiking adventure with your new hiking boots, you should first break them in. Wear them a lot in everyday life and also take them on a small first hike.
Under no circumstances should you put on your new hiking boots unworn on a hike lasting several days or even several weeks. No matter how well they fit when trying on them or whether they are specially adapted hiking boots, as a rule, each hiking boot has to be worn in first.
Invest in seamless hiking socks
Not only the right hiking shoes, but also the socks make a big difference when hiking. Therefore, always invest in one, or even better, several pairs of good hiking socks!
Compared to normal socks, hiking socks are extra padded and balance out warmth, cold and moisture particularly well. They provide additional support for your feet and cushion the impact of your foot.
In addition, hiking socks prevent friction and thus avoid skin irritation or even blisters on your feet. Most hiking socks are therefore processed seamlessly. When buying your hiking socks, make sure that they are wrinkle-free on your feet.
Hiking socks are either made of new wool (merino wool) or synthetic fibers, or a combination of both materials. While elastane ensures a perfect fit and more dimensional stability. Some hiking socks are also specially treated, for example with polygons, to prevent the smell of sweat.
There are thinner hiking socks for hiking in spring or summer, and thicker ones for autumn or winter hiking. A good pair of hiking socks costs around 20 euros, but is worth every penny and thanks to the good workmanship, you can take part in countless hiking adventures!
Get a good pair of hiking sticks!
You now have hiking shoes and hiking socks, and hiking sticks can also take the strain off your feet enormously. Make sure you invest in a good pair of hiking sticks ! They not only relieve your joints and muscles. They also ensure an upright posture when walking and more stability and safety when hiking. With hiking sticks you walk much more relaxed and your feet will be very grateful to you!
Take care of your leather hiking boots
Really good and well-made hiking shoes have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years. But only if you take good care of them! Hiking shoes made of leather in particular need regular care, and that too, so that they remain waterproof.
The best thing to do is to give your hiking boots a small maintenance program after each hike. At the latest after a long hut or trekking tour, and at the very latest at the end of the hiking season.
The best thing to do is to remove the laces from your shoes, this makes cleaning and caring for your hiking boots much easier. Now you can clean your hiking boots with a brush and brush away the coarse dirt on the outside and in the profile. Then you can wipe off dust or even salt residues from coastal hikes with a damp cloth.
Now you have to let your hiking boots dry and it is best to put them in a corner in the living room or bedroom for a few days. It is important that you do not place them near or on top of the heater. Leather is very sensitive to heat and dries out. It becomes brittle and fragile, so that you won’t have any of your hiking boots for long.
Coat & maintain
In most cases, your hiking boots need to be completely dry before they can be waterproofed. For this you use special wax that you rub into your leather shoes with a cloth. Most of these waxes also contain care products, so that you are doing something good for your hiking boots at the same time.
In addition to wax, you can also use waterproofing sprays. This also applies in particular to hiking boots made from synthetic materials. These do not penetrate as deeply into the leather, but they do ensure more breathability.
There are also water-based care products. These penetrate even faster if the surface of your hiking boots is damp and are also more environmentally friendly. Water-based care products are of course very practical, especially on longer tours!
You often read of the fact that you should grease your hiking boots for care. While the coating makes the leather waterproof, care products should make it soft. The problem with fat, however, is that it makes your leather hiking boots spongy and loses stability. Therefore it is better to refrain from greasing!
As soon as you have taken care of your hiking boots, it is important to store them properly until the next hike or over the winter. The best way to do this is to use a cedar shoe tree so that your hiking boots remain dimensionally stable. The storage location should be dry and airy, because if the humidity is high, your hiking boots will quickly go moldy!
Hiking is one of the most beautiful ways to discover our earth. You can walk to places that you would not otherwise be able to reach. So that your hikes are remembered because of the many goose bumps and not because of aching feet and blisters, you should invest in a good pair of hiking shoes.
In addition, hiking boots should feel slightly tight, but not uncomfortable or even painful. The best thing to do here is to get help from one of the salespeople in the store.
When choosing the right hiking shoes, the most important thing is what kind of hiking adventure you are planning. If you prefer to be in the mountains and like to hike longer, hiking boots of category B and B / C are just right for you. Also, get good hiking socks and sticks, and your feet will carry you everywhere!