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What to Look for in Hiking Boots

When selecting a pair of hiking boots, there are several factors to consider. The type of hiking conditions in which they are worn is important. Some hiking boots are made for occasional hikes on well-maintained trails others, while others are built for rugged, long-distance hikes across natural terrain. Boot features are a consideration as well. The upper, outsole and midsole construction affects the fit and comfort of the boot. Armed with some basic facts and some helpful tips, it is easy to find a great pair of hiking boots.

Low-cut, mid-cut or high-cut boots

Choose low-cut hiking shoes for simple hiking needs on well-maintained trails. These are lightweight and flexible with the uppers generally constructed of a leather and mesh combination. Mid-cut boots offer protection from dirt and debris and wrap around the ankles for limited support. These work well for short trips. High-cut boots are recommended for experienced hikers. These boots provide ankle support and better balance on rough ground. Usually, they have waterproof leather uppers. The right hiking boot is the one that fits the demands of the hiker.

Boot construction features

Various features in the boot's construction affect the durability and comfort. Some boot uppers are constructed of leather. These uppers offer support and are waterproof and long-lasting. Suede uppers are among other options. These are more breathable and flexible than leather but are not waterproof. The midsoles of hiking boots provide stability, disperse weight and cushion feet from impact. The stiffness of a boot is based largely on the midsole. The outsoles of hiking boots are made of rubber, and they provide traction across the various terrains. Deeper treads, or lugs, mean better traction but heavier boots. Heel brakes are the prominent part of the heel, separate from the rest of the outsole. They reduce the likelihood of slipping on sharp ascents and descents. Quality boot construction is important to the overall performance of the boot.


There is a belief among many that a pound on the foot equals five pounds on the back. Although the scientific validity of this is unconfirmed, selecting a lighter boot is a smart choice. Hiking boot outsoles are usually bonded to the midsole and upper using a bonding agent. This is cheaper than stitching the pieces together, and it holds together strongly. High heat damages the adhesive properties of the glue causing it to delaminate. If hiking boots are cared for properly, they last a long time.

Knowing what to look for in a pair of hiking boots ensures that the boots you select fit well and are appropriate for the hiking you intend to do. Different boots suit different hiking situations, so learning about the various types and features makes finding the right pair much easier.