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What you wear when you hike can affect your overall experience of hiking. As such, you need to take some time to find the best hiking boots for your feet. No one wants to end a day of hiking with feet covered in blisters, or bruised toes from shoes that are too small. Finding the best hiking boot may take a little effort to yield the most pleasant hiking results.
Shoes are manufactured based on a last, a mold which forms the basis for sizing each shoe. Manufacturers differ in their last sizing, so one’s foot size may not be the best way to gauge the size of one’s hiking boots. Some brands will probably fit you better than others, and it usually takes a certain amount of trying on to decide which hiking boots are ideal for your foot.
Your brand size may match the size you normally wear, or will be close to it. For those who are size-conscious, try to avoid marrying yourself to a particular size. Comfort matters more than the size number of the boot.
When the shoe is unlaced, you should be able to slide your toes to the toe of the shoe, and have a finger’s width distance between your heel and the shoe’s heel. If the distance is greater, the boot is too large. Conversely, if you cannot get your finger into the shoe, or you don’t have to slide the foot down to touch the tip of the shoe, the shoes are too small.
In selecting different types of hiking boots, you also should consider how much hiking you plan to do. For day hikes, small, light styles called day-trippers or featherweights are probably the best choice. However, if you plan to spend several days hiking, you should select a sturdier shoe.
Trail hikers or middle weights are suitable for negotiating muddy paths, inclines and longer distances. These hiking boots have a slightly higher ankle support to protect you from banging your ankles into jutting rocks. They are an excellent choice for hikes lasting longer than a couple of days.
If you are an experienced hiker who plans to include some mountain climbing, you will need to find the stiffest hiking boots possible. These are often called stompers. These will allow you to attach crampons if needed. They also provide better stability when hiking in snow or through icy portions of your trail. Stompers are also best for long backpacking trips where you are carrying a heavy load. They will provide you with the best grip and steadiness when you are under the weight of a stuffed backpack.
When trying on hiking boots, be sure to wear the same socks you intend to wear hiking. Natural fiber socks are more likely to cause blistering. Shoes should be tried on toward the end of the day, since feet tend to expand slightly as the day progresses. If you plan to use orthotics in your hiking boots, don’t forget to bring these with you to try on as well.
Most find that leather uppers in hiking boots provide the best fit, as they will naturally conform to your foot the more you use them. If you will be wading through creeks or ponds, consider gore-tex lining inside the shoe, as these will keep your feet dry. In general, if you are backpacking, you should purchase a heavier shoe. Backpacking requires greater balance. A general rule is that the greater the load you carry, the heavier your hiking boots should be.
Finally, take your hiking boots on some trial hikes to break in the shoe. This is particularly important when considering hiking trips of several days. Even the best-fitting hiking boots will probably cause some blisters the first few days of use. Broken in hiking boots translate to a more pleasurable hiking experience.
I made the mistake of purchasing hiking boots and then going on a 16 hour hike without trying them out of the store. Luckily, they turned out o.k. It was the socks that I had a problem with, though. They were too tight and were restricting circulation.
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