Durable Hiking Footwear:
How to choose the right
hiking shoes for you!
Durable hiking footwear is a topic that I am asked about a lot. It is important to keep your feet comfortable, dry and protected from the elements that you hike in. If you don’t have durable hiking footwear, you will likely have a bad experience.
I don’t want to write an article trying to sell you a certain brand of shoes, but I do want to help you decide your best options for durable hiking footwear that is going to be right for you. The main thing is that you need to ask yourself how rugged your activity is and make sure you’re willing to spend enough on yourself because you will get what you pay for in the end.
Durable Hiking Footwear in 3 Different Forms
When it comes to comfortable and durable hiking footwear, I have 3 different types of hiking shoes that I go with. I have my waterproof hiking boot, regular hiking shoe and hiking sandal:
- I wear my boots when its cold, wet or for longer and more rugged hikes.
- I wear my shoes when the hikes are not as rugged and not as wet.
- I wear my sandals on easy trails and when I ride my mountain bike on bike-specific trails.
This article is about tips on getting right durable hiking footwear rather than which brands to go with, so I don’t really plan to get into the brands. However, I will say that I have tried many different popular brands of waterproof boots and the brand that I have had the best of luck with is Oboz. While I enjoy the Oboz brand, not everyone else does – keep that in mind.
But I will say this, if you go for the cheaper footwear, don’t expect it to have the features that expensive footwear offers. You will always get what you pay for when it comes to the hiking footwear topic.
Durable Hiking Footwear Should Fit Properly
One of the most important factors of buying the right durable hiking footwear is proper fit. The boot, shoe or sandal should fit properly. This is when it is really important to be able to try something on in person before you buy. I know that can be difficult right now with the pandemic in place, but improper fit can do a lot of harm. If you cannot visit a store physical, make sure you can return the shoe if it doesn’t fit if ordering online.
Two important factors I look for in properly fitting and durable hiking footwear is use with heavier winter socks and how tight the shoe will form when tied tightly. A proper fitting shoe or book should never fit loose anywhere within the construction of the footwear. Looser fitting shoes and boots will often result in chaffing which commonly leads to blistering. And keep winter in mind! As it gets colder, your shoe will need to fit with a thicker sock. If anything, when you try them on, you should be wearing a thick winter sock to ensure a proper fit.
Lastly, when trying on the footwear, tie it tight and move around in them ruggedly. Test them out by rapidly moving your foot and walking fast and stuff like that. The idea is to judge if the tied tightness factor gets loose or not as you use them. You want footwear with enough durable construction and features that it will remain tightly secured to your foot. A tight hiking boot or shoe will help prevent injuries that are commonly gained while hiking. Loose is bad, tight is good as long as its comfortable and not so restrictive that your feet can’t “breathe”. You will know your own comfort level!
Durable Hiking Footwear Should Have a Strong Grip
Grip is an important factor when it comes to choosing durable hiking footwear. When trying on the footwear, try to walk around on non-carpeted surfaces like tile or wood. That can help you determine the grip factor of the shoe or boot. Look at the bottom and its features. Does it look like it has a good grip? Many shoe places seem to always use carpet. So, you might need to use the side of a shelf or even rub the bottom of the shoe or boot on your hand to tell the grip factor.
One of the most common causes of fatal and life-threatening injuries in the area I hike in are falls. A lot of the falls happen on slick and wet rocky surfaces. While hikers should always assume, they may slip on these surfaces – using durable hiking footwear with a solid grip can help prevent (not eliminate though!) slipping on these surfaces. It is important to go with durable hiking footwear that is also safe hiking footwear and you might need to try different ones to find the perfect one which leads me to my next tip…
Try Different Types of Hiking Shoes and Boots
I went through about 3 or 4 pairs of different waterproof boot brands until I found the perfect one. I ended up finding these at a local outdoor supplies’ outfitter. If you’re local to southern Illinois, the shop I trust for durable hiking footwear is Shawnee Trails Outfitter in Carbondale next to Quatros! Get some great shoes and some great deep-dish pizza – two birds, one stone!! But the lesson here is that you might have to rely on trial and error in order to find the right footwear for you!
I will say this though. Your feet are your biggest asset and piece of gear for hiking (in most cases). It is important to make sure your feet get the best. This means that you shouldn’t go cheap on protecting your feet. If you go cheap, you risk injury and a bad experience. Hiking is hard on shoes and boots, a lot harder than your regular walking activities. A cheap option is like a choosing a cheap tire when you plan to drive on the most rugged terrain. It will not last long and you’ll spend more money having to buy cheap stuff over and over again verses something that lasts a long time.
Durable Hiking Footwear Includes Durable Hiking Socks
Socks are included as part of your durable hiking footwear. You need to make sure you are choosing socks made for rugged hiking terrains. A regular pair of general use socks may work for some types of hiking but probably not the most rugged forms. Hiking-specific socks are a really good investment to consider. These socks are made with tougher and thicker materials that help pad and protect your feet. These socks also tend to fit better in a tightly tied well-constructed shoe or boot. Regular socks are generally not made for the “abuse” that your feet will go through during a rugged hike on the trail.
And another thing with choosing the right socks is during colder months. When my feet get cold, my whole body is cold. Cold and wet feet during colder months will make my hike a miserable hike. I learned my lesson on this after a snow hike gone wrong. Nowadays, I go with appropriate winter-styled hiking socks when its cold. Everyone has their preference, but I love socks made with merino wool or alpaca fur and I usually go with a thicker and longer sock as my taller boots are my usual winter hiking choice.
So, in the end when it comes to durable hiking footwear, my main suggestions are to treat your feet like they are the most important asset of your hike. If they get injured or hurt, your hike will be a negative experience. Durability includes proper fit, element features and excellent grip. Make sure you pair your footwear with proper fitting hiking socks to increase your comfort and experience. And remember, as it stands with most hiking gear – you will always get what you pay for.
Thanks for reading my article about choosing the right durable footwear. Comment down below with the footwear that you have found to be the best and any additional tips that you feel are important to note. Consider supporting my efforts to bring you these tips by sharing this article with others, especially on your favorite social media pages. You can also support me by becoming a Patreon and buy purchasing official Hiking with Shawn Merch from my online store.
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Thanks again for reading this article and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!
Shawn J. Gossman
Shawn is the founder and host of the YouTube Channel, Hiking with Shawn as well as Hiking with Shawn LLC. Shawn hikes, backpacks and visits various forested areas in the Shawnee National Forest, local state parks and other areas promoting outdoor recreational activities to obtain video to show to locals and non-locals alike. Please support Shawn’s efforts by sharing this post and leaving a comment below.