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If you’re brand new to hiking and backpacking, picking the perfect hiking boots or shoes can be an intimidating and time-consuming process.
There are so many brands, styles, pros, cons, and price ranges out there it can be extremely difficult to narrow down the best ones, let alone figure out which one will actually make your feet happy!
I see a lot of new hikers ask Facebook or other online forums what the best hiking boots are.
BUT other hikers or online stores will not be able to tell you what shoe is best for you and your feet.
Every pair of feet is different! One hiker may loooove their Keens and tell you to go get Keens, but your feet might not like Keens so much, and that’s ok.
Follow these 7 steps to find the perfect hiking shoe:
- Get off the internet, and get inside an outfitter or outdoor specialty store.
- Get your feet measured on a Brannock device, you know that metal thing in all shoe stores that hardly anyone uses anymore? The Brannock device is pretty amazing and can tell you a lot about your feet. This will tell you what size you are, in both US and Euro sizes, which is important because quite a few brands use Euro sizes and this is more accurate than geusstimating your Euro size based on your US size.
- The Brannock will also show the longest, and widest points of your foot, which varies for everyone. Each shoe brand has a slightly different shape. For example, Vasque has a pretty narrow, pointed toe box, and narrow build in general, while Keen has a wide toe box, and has a little wider build. The retail staff at the store should be able to measure your foot, then recommend which brands or styles would be best for you. If they don’t know, ask if someone else who is more familiar with the department is available, or go to another store.
- Once you have a couple different shoes to try on, have at it. Try them on with the socks you will be hiking in. Make sure to go through the motions of going up and down a steep decline, and notice how your toes and heels interact with the shoe. Your toes should not be jammed up against the front end of the boot on downhills, and the heel of the shoe should not slide up and down on the uphills.
- If you currently wear special insoles, make sure to take them with you and try them on with the shoe.
- If you don’t currently wear special insoles, invest in some! The insoles that come inside the shoe from the manufacturer are not made to withstand the high level of impact of backpacking or running and will become flattened and lack support very quickly. I love Superfeet! There are different styles of insoles made to match your arch in your foot, so have a staff member in a shoe department size up your feet and tell you which style or brand is best. Insoles like SuperFeet support your foot, arch, and heel so that it not only protects the bottom of your feet from pain, but also keeps the heel, ankle, and knee in alignment preventing over or under pronation. This is crucial when you are walking 10-25± miles a day…. with a full pack on.
- Know the different soles – EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) is a foam midsole that is relatively light, and flexible, therefore, not very supportive and will wear down quickly under the pressure of long distance backpacking. These boots will start to leave your feet sore at the end of the day and will need to be replaced more frequently than PU (polyurethane) midsoles. PU midsoles are also a type of foam, but are much more dense, stronger, and more supportive over time than EVA midsoles; the PU midsoles will get you through more miles before needing to be replaced.
Wearing the correct shoes for your feet will make worlds of difference on the trail in terms of comfort and ultimately how many miles you can power through in a day.
Now get out there, get after it, and good luck finding your next pair of favorite hiking boots!
For more info about hiking boots – check out 3 ways to narrow down your options and hone in on the perfect boot for you.
If you any questions about boots (or anything else!) leave them in the comments below.
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