Buying New Hiking Boots

Buying the right hiking boot depends on the kind of hiking you’ll be doing — the terrain and distance you’ll typically cover and the amount of protection you’ll need. Trail runners are good for just that – running. Trail runners usually place the support in the heals and toes. This does not give as much support as lite hikers/cross trainer boots, which prevent the ankle from rolling on uneven ground. For most light hiking on smooth trails go with lite hikers/cross trainer boot.  For longer trips, uneven trails, or hikes that require you to carry extra weight on your back, you’re better off with a higher, stiffer boot containing a hard plastic or steel shank. Such as a mid or full boot. This keeps the boot from twisting and gives your feet and ankles more stability.  For hiking around Arizona with all the cactus, Cats Claw Acacia and Agave I recommend leather lite hikers. The mesh ones, even though they breathe better, tend to get torn up quickly.

Does it matter what brand or price?

If you’ll be getting your feet wet from time to time, for instance, look for a boot that keeps water out and dries quickly; one made of Gore-Tex is usually the best choice. If you’re going to hike a lot of slick or rocky trails, choose a boot with a stiff sole and a Vibram tread, which grips well on slippery surfaces. Merrell makes a good all terrain boot that sticks well to Arizona rocks and slick surfaces. For canyoneering I recommend  Five Tens. The Stealth soles are amazing on slimy rocks. The boot itself, however is not very durable and wears out quickly when hiking to and from canyons. Remember you get what you pay.


Make sure you don’t buy shoes or boots that are too short, so that your toes run into the front of the boots. This can cause you to loose toenails. If you go too big you may get blisters. Look for a pair that fits snugly but still allows some wiggle room for your toes.

Wear the same socks while trying on shoes or boots that you plan to wear while hiking. I have tried many socks, but have found that for me the Thorlo Light Hiker Mini crew works the best. They are short and have less material for grass spurs and thorns to get embedded in. Socks vary from person to person, experiment to find the right combination of boot and sock.

Put the boot on, but don’t lace it up. Stand up and tap your toe on the ground to slide your toe to the front. See if there is room for your finger down the back of the boot behind your heel. I usually buy a half size bigger boot than my regular shoe.

Lace the boot up and walk around. Stand on the balls of your feet. Make sure your foot doesn’t move around too much and your heel doesn’t slip. If it does, you’re likely to get blisters when you’re out on the trail.

Walk down an incline or kick the ground to make sure your toes don’t jam the front of the boot. If they do, don’t buy it.

If you wear orthotics take them along when you shop. Make sure you can remove the insoles of the boots you choose and replace them with your own.

Once you’ve taken your new boots home, be careful to break them in before heading out on a big hike. Wearing them around for a week or two.

When to replace your boots?

It’s time for new hiking boots or shoes when the sole begins to harden. You will notice that you start to slip more. Arizona’s heat is particularly hard on rubber so do not store boots outside or in the garage.  Another sign that you need to replace your boots is when the seams are coming apart, or the padded lining or insole has worn thin.


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