Choosing hiking boots
Buying a pair of boots may be one of the most critical preparations you make for a backpacking or hiking vacation - if your feet are happy and healthy throughout the trip, chances are much better that you will be too! And if you buy well, you will have this pair of boots for many years.
Here are some tips to help you in the process:
1) Go to a reputable retail store where they have a boot department and people who know their boots and how to fit the right boot to the right foot. You may end up paying more than you would on the internet, but boot fitting by someone who knows what they are doing is worth the cost.
2) Try on a variety of boots and walk around the store in them. Every one of us has a differently shaped foot and ankle. And every manufacturer makes their boots a slightly different shape (odd but true). We never recommend specific brands because we know that what works for one of us may not be the boot that fits you. If that store doesn't have what you need, go to another store and see what brands they have
3) Choose a store with a good return policy. Some stores will only take your boots back if they haven't been worn outdoors. You can get a decent sense of their comfort that way, but ultimately you need to field test them.
4) Buy a boot that will match your activity needs. Backpacking boots differ from lighter hiking boots; rocky steep terrain requires a different boot than flat or rolling hills. Again, the salesperson at a reputable store should ask you this question.
5) Sizing: Typically you want a boot a half size bigger than your shoe size. This accounts for sock variations, as well as the natural swelling of our feet. However, that does not mean you want the boot to fit loosely! If your foot is slipping around in your boot, you are likely to get blisters.
6) Socks/insoles: Try the boots on with a sock combination you know works for you. Bring your own. Or if you wear orthotics, bring those. The insoles of even expensive boots are often quite cheap and flimsy, and many women find that Superfeet or other comparable insoles will make boots much more comfortable.
7) Break them in: Buy your boots early enough before your trip (usually 2+ months) to break them in. If they are all leather they will take longer to break in than the cordura/nylon/part leather ones. If they are uncomfortable after a couple times of wearing them, take them back. Yes, your friend may tell you that she pulled her new hiking boots out of the box, wore them on the trip, and never got blisters. Great, but don't count on it for you and your boots.
8) Cost of boots: A hiking boot can range anywhere from $90 to $300 depending on the features, the style, the name brand. While a higher cost boot is not necessarily any better than a lower cost boot, don't just buy the least expensive boot in the store; get the one that fits best.
On a hiking trip, your feet are your best friends. Buy a pair of boots that fit, that are comfortable, and take time to break them in. It will make the hiking experience - and your feet - so much more joyful.
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