The type of trail you’ll be on, the elements you expect (and those that weren’t planned for), and the type of support you need will determine the best shoe for your adventure. Comfortable, secure footwear is important and is one of the best investments you can make when planning ahead for a hike, says Meaghan Praznik, head of communications at AllTrails.
How to choose the best hiking boots
Before you step foot on a trail, Praznik says one of the best things you can do is plan ahead and research the trail you’ll be on with AllTrails. You’ll be able to read user-submitted reviews and even see images of the trail in advance, in addition to other details like the level of difficulty and the elevation gain. “It’s then after you fully understand the nuances of the trail that you can start your boot search,” she says. A few things to remember:
1. Comfort is key
The last thing you want is to be uncomfortable as you hike, which is why Praznik says to think about comfort first. “In fact, there is no reason your boot shouldn’t feel comfortable from the moment you try it on.” You’ll still need to break in your boots, but if you feel the slightest amount of discomfort, it’s not for you.
2. Look for support
In addition to comfort, Praznik says it’s important to consider how long you’re going to be on your feet, walking on uneven ground, whether you’ll be going uphill or downhill, and the pack you’ll be carrying. You want support all around—from the ankle to the arch to cushion. “If you’re going on a day hike on a well-maintained trail, it’s probably safe to purchase a more lightweight and low-cut boot,” she says. If your hike will be more intense and rugged, she recommends investing in a boot with a higher cut for extra protection.
3. Don’t forget the fit
When trying on boots, you want to avoid anything that cuts off your circulation, says Praznik. Pro tip: Your boot should feel secure—”slightly tighter than a running shoe, but less tight than a ski boot.” You want your foot to feel snug and cradled by the boot, but you should still be able to comfortably wiggle your toes in them.
Praznik also recommends trying on boots at the end of the day if possible because this is when your feet are the most swollen and you’ll have a better idea as to how comfortable your boots will truly be. You should also try on the boots in the same socks and gear you plan on wearing on the day of your hike to get a true idea as to how things are going to feel, she says.
4. Think about the material
Now on to the material of your boot. “If you’re hitting a trail that isn’t too treacherous, has fairly even terrain, and you’re not going to be carrying a heavy pack, chances are a more lightweight and breathable option is your best bet.” If your hike is going to be more intense, Praznik says to opt for a shoe that’s heavy-duty and protective. You should also consider the tread of your shoe and the elements and terrain you may encounter such as rocks and rain.
How to break in your hiking boots
Once you’ve decided on a boot, it’s time to break them in. Praznik recommends wearing them around your home as you do your day-to-day activities with the same socks, insoles, braces, and such that you plan on wearing while hiking. If you purchase a lightweight shoe, you’ll need little to no breaking in, says Praznik, as opposed to something sturdier, like an all-leather boot.
For sturdier shoes, “start small, breaking it in on trails that will mimic the terrain you’re going to be hiking,” she recommends. Once again, wear all the same gear you plan on wearing on your hike, and try to find elevated areas to walk up and down, because the boot fits differently when walking up and downhill carrying a pack, “so breaking it in, in all different positions, is essential,” she explains.
Ahead, we’ve rounded up the best hiking boots for women; so whether you’re on an afternoon hike or multi-day trek, you’re bound to be the most comfortable person on the trails—without sacrificing on looks.
Shop the best hiking boots for women
The North Face Women’s Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight — $169.00
If you aren’t quite sure what type of trail you want to hike, or you want to do it all, Praznik says this is the shoe for you, calling it “the best all-around hiking boot.” According to her, it’s comfortable and sturdy, waterproof and durable, and protective and breathable. “If you’re looking to invest in your first pair, with no specific kind of trail you’re after, the Vectiv is a good place to start.”
Salomon Speedcross 5 — $130.00
“In the event that you’re feeling extra speedy and wanting to really zoom down those switchbacks, there is none better than the Salomon Speedcross,” says Praznik. “The tread is perfect for rugged terrain, and the mid-high rise will keep you protected if you want to pick up the pace.”
Salomon Vaya Mid Gore-Tex — $160.00
Whether you’re always on a hiking trip or it’s something you do every once in a while, you’ve got to have a quality pair of shoes to support you and prevent injury. The Salomon Vaya Mid Gore-Tex boot is snug but is supposed to adapt to your feet due to the Sensiflex technology. It also has high ankle support, a sturdy outsole, and is waterproof to provide you with the ultimate grip and protection.
On Cloudridge — $210.00
On is known for exceptional running shoes, and its hiking boots don’t disappoint, either. The lining and tongue of the shoe are made with 3D mesh so when things start to get intense, your feet will be cool and comfortable. This boot also provides stable support and is best for hiking in warm weather because of the breathability the mesh provides.
Teva Ridgeview Mid — $150.00
Going on a multi-day trek? You’re going to need some good shoes. This bootie is breathable and waterproof and will keep your feet dry in every element from rain to snow. The lace-up entry provides 100-percent customizable control of the fit, and the responsive footbed cushions your foot while also providing you with a slight spring for the moments when your legs start to fatigue.
Shop the best hiking shoes for a day hike and water activities
Chaco Z/2 Classic Sandal — $95.00
If you’re going on a day hike and plan on getting in the water, Praznik recommends hiking sandals over boots. “Chacos are light, easy, breezy, and have just the right amount of tread to safely get you over well-maintained trails,” she says. Praznik also recommends them for tracking through rivers or for putting on after an afternoon dip.
Improve your foot mobility ahead of your next hike with this simple routine:
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