Hiking boots

Your feet have a lot to carry when they take you hiking — and if they're not comfortable, you sure won't be.

Nothing can cut a hiking excursion short faster than a blister, ankle injury or uncomfortable shoes. Novice hikers may not think twice about footwear before hitting the trails, but a good pair of hiking shoes or boots can make all the difference between an enjoyable experience or one cut short by pain or discomfort.

The following shopping tips can help hikers narrow down the dizzying array of hiking footwear options.

Sizing

Each manufacturer sizes shoes differently. Therefore, if you normally wear a size 10, you may need to go up or down a size or half a size to get the right fit. Be sure to check the specific sizing chart offered by the manufacturer for the shoes you plan to buy. Go larger if you are between sizes.

Feet tend to swell throughout the course of the day. Therefore, shop for hikers at the end of the day when feet are at their largest. This will also help simulate how much your feet may swell after a hike.

Wear the socks you will use while hiking to try on trail shoes or boots. Take a walk in the shoes and put them to the test in various scenarios. Try to find an incline and walk up and down to determine if your toes will feel cramped. Walk up and down stairs to see how heavy the shoes are. Also, test them out on various surfaces to verify if they have enough grip.

Low cut or boot

Hiking experts note that hikers who carry a daypack or a load of 30 pounds or less can comfortably wear low-cut hiking shoes. Backpackers carrying heavy loads will need a full boot. But comfort also merits consideration. Boots can be heavier than shorter shoes, and that may contribute to fatigue. However, mid-size shoes or boots will offer more ankle support, which can prevent rolled ankles or more serious injuries.

Waterproof or not

If you frequently trek across streams or through muddy, damp or rainy conditions, then waterproof or water-resistant hikers may be ideal. Just keep in mind that a waterproof membrane on a shoe can trap air and moisture inside of the footwear, which may cause blisters and skin to break down more readily. Waterproof shoes also may cause you to feel hot in warm conditions.

Uppers and insoles

Upper material will affect breathability, durability and more. Leather, synthetics, insulation, and waterproof membranes are incorporated into uppers.

Insoles and midsoles provide cushioning and buffer feet from shock, says REI. Speak with a footwear professional to find the right fit and comfort level.

It pays to spend more time and money finding the right hiking footwear. The reward will be more time enjoying the great outdoors.

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