You’re all ready for a weekend in the great outdoors, but your boots are looking a little tattered. Your money should be spent on ensuring that you have the best walking boots, no matter what you’re using them for.
This can quickly become overwhelming as you are bombarded with facts such as weight, shock absorption, tread, height of boot, et cetera. Many different components go into making a quality boot and the combination needs to be just right. So how do you go about finding what is most suitable for your needs?
Components of A High Quality Hiking Boot
Finding the best walking boots don’t have to take you a very long time, now that you have this article to help you with the ropes. It may take a bit more time to find what you’re looking for, but you’ll be thankful that you invested time and energy into finding a well-fitted, durable pair of walking boots that will last you a lifetime.
Here are just a few of the considerations you should take into account while you’re comparison shopping.
Every hiking boot is made differently. Companies use materials that range from full-grain leather to plastic.
However, if you want boots that aren’t going to fall apart after your first journey, then you’re going to have to look at high-quality materials that are designed to take a lot of punishment.
- Leather: comes in a wide variety and is one of the more common materials that walking boots are made from. It comes in full-grain leather (weather-resistant but not breathable) and split-grain (breathable).
Leather overall, however, is not very waterproof and special care has to be exercise when drying leather to ensure that it lasts longer. Otherwise, leather is extremely easy to keep clean.
- Nubuck: this is very similar to suede, but it does require more time to break in. However, this is because the material is extremely rugged so you know that it’s designed to withstand the elements and whatever else Mother Nature has to throw at you.
- Fabric: fabric walking boots are extremely lightweight, as they’re made from synthetic materials. This can make it easier for you to go further, as you wont have the weight of your boots slowing you down.
Walking boots made from fabric are also cheaper and have more breathability, and you don’t have to wear them in for them to be comfortable. However, they do need regular cleaning, and aren’t waterproof at all. This requires the application of waterproofing sprays or coatings in order to make these boots effective in all kinds of weather.
Even the best cushioned walking shoes aren’t going to be capable of handling everything if you’re not aware of what you should be looking for.
For example, a one-season boot isn’t going to do you any good if you’re hiking during the winter. So here’s a look at the various season boots that are available:
- One-Season: these have mobility in mind so that you can get where you need to go without expending too much energy. They are lightweight and extremely flexible, but don’t have a lot of ankle support.
They work best on flat and easy trails during the summer months, not multi-day hikes or traveling over rough terrain. One-season boots aren’t likely to be waterproof, so you may have to apply a weatherproofing gel or spray. They cannot be used with crampons.
- Two-Season: these boots are a bit stiffer and can handle more varied terrains. There’s more ankle support to reduce spraining or twisting, and provides more heel and toe protection.
Two-Season boots are made to be a bit more durable as they use a more varied combination of materials, including synthetic. Depending on the manufacturer, some of these may be waterproof, but you’ll likely pay a bit more.
They work well in firm and varied terrain, but nothing that’s too steep, and won’t provide a lot of support for hikes that take several days. They cannot be used with crampons.
- Three-Season: this is considered the most versatile style of walking boot, as you can wear them on a wider variety of terrain. They do require some breaking in before they’re comfortable to use, so it would be a good idea to do this before you take them on your hiking trip.
Leather, suede, and mesh are amongst the popular materials used in the construction of these kinds of boots, and are suitable for use throughout the year.
A majority of products are waterproof, and can be worn up to the snowline, but not in deep snow. They can be used with flexible crampons, if they are crampon-compatible, but are not suitable for extended use with crampons in extreme weather conditions of ice and snow.
- Four-Season: also known as mountain boots. These are extremely specialized and are meant for tough conditions that would normally tear up even the best boots. Four-season boots are extremely stiff and have a very durable body withstand all of nature’s harsh elements.
These boots will also be quite thick in order to help insulate your feet and prevent hypothermia, so you may want to look for boots that are a half-size larger so that your toes don’t feel cramped.
They work well in most conditions, but their use should be limited because of the overall stiffness throughout the body of the shoes.
It’s not a good idea to wear them during light walks during the summer because their weight will tire you out very quickly.
If you’re a light hiker who isn’t interested in winter camping, then a one- or two-season boot would probably be best, while three- and four-season boots are more suitable for those who are avid about hiking in all kinds of conditions and getting around comfortably.
The bottom part of your boot is a complex place. Made up of three key parts, the outsole, internal support and the midsole, there is a lot of technology that goes into them. The combination needs to be just right – too stiff and the boot won’t let your feet naturally flex or bend, too soft and your foot will slide around.
The combination of these three components will dictate how the hiking boot feels. The alignment of your whole body is determined according to the outsole, internal support, and midsole. This is what each of these aspects are:
- The outsole: the bottom part of the shoe. Usually made of rubber, the tread provides much desired traction while walking. Referred to as the lug pattern the bumps on the bottom are key.
The depth, spacing and weight will determine the quality of performance of the boot. A heel brake, the part just after the arch, could be the difference between standing and sliding. For even more traction in the winter, look for boots that are compatible with crampons.
These are essentially big spikes that attach to your boot that help in snowy and icy conditions. It shouldn’t make or break your decision on buying boots unless you are buying them for winter use, but should definitely be seen as an added bonus.
- Internal support: cradles your feet and support your arches. Made up of rubber, shanks and plates this is an integral part of the hiking boot. Shans are usually 3 – 5 millimeters (0.1 – 0.2 inches) pieces of rigid material.
They provide support and make the boot stiff, while being comfortable. Depending on the boot, they can cover the entire arch, or just part of it. Another component to the internal support is something called plates.
They are pieces of material below the shank, along the bottom of the boot, that provide protection from rocks and other hard material you will be walking on. These two aspects make the hike comfortable while providing support and protection.
- The midsole: a portion of the boot that provides cushion and comfort. Being in contact with your foot means that it needs to be comfortable while offering support. Materials used to make this part of the boot include EVA and Polyurethane.
Ethylene Vinyl Acetate, or EVA, is the cheaper version providing firmer support – depending on the density. Polyurethane, or PU lasts longer and is used in higher quality boots. This is the material you should look for when buying your hiking boots.
There are many things you should think about when considering what size to get. For example, you should know your size, and if you don’t, you should get your feet sized. Take note of how your foot fits in them and bring your orthotics if you use them. Whenever possible, try using a ramp to experience what it will be like walking downhill.
Do your feet slide forward? Is the ankle support firm enough? These are all important considerations. You should keep in mind that if you are hiking in a colder climate you will be layering with thicker socks, so either bring them or think about getting a half size bigger.
Different brands size differently and companies will often tell you if the boot fits large, or small. Also, almost all boots require you to break them in.
It is recommended to wear your newly purchased shoe around the house for a bit before you embark on your hike. This will reduce pressure points and let you get a feel for them.
Keeping all this in mind, we have done the research for you and compiled a list of the best walking boots for men and women.
Top Products of 2017
Salomon Elios Mid GTX 3
Weight: 2 lbs
Best Use: Hiking, all-weather trails, long distance
Description: Boots are supposed to be able to support your ambitions of climbing any mountain you want, and these boots let you do just that. Salomon Elios Mid GTX 3 are made with quality, waterproof nubuck leather these hikers will stand the test of time.
Foam has been added to the heel for added padding and comfort. Gore-Tex technology provides a coating that keeps your feet dry and lets them breath. Toe caps provide added protection from the pesky roots and rocks that are hidden on every trail.
A recessed tongue will keep dirt out of your boot which is handy for those exceptionally dirty trails. Hikers report these boots are comfortable, breathable, and durable, an excellent combination. Dare we even say the best shoes for long distance walking.
Merrell Moab Mid GORE-TEX XCR
Weight: 2 lbs
Best Use: Day trips, hiking, trails
Description: This Merrell Moab Mid GORE-TEX XCR is designed to keep your feet dry and is a great buy for wetter climates. The mesh lining is a key factor. It reduces contact points which cause discomfort and blisters while wicking the moisture away.
Gore-Tex material also helps to keep the river out of your boot. This membrane is specially designed to be breathable yet waterproof.
The sole has lugs – a special type of tread – that has been tested to give optimal grip. Feet flex and bend and this boots’ sole improves grip, which allows your feet to naturally flex.
BRASHER Hillwalker GTX
Weight: 2.3 lbs
Best Use: Hiking, trails, backpacking
Description: These premium BRASHER Hillwalker GTX are made from leather. This means they are waterproof while being exceptionally durable. Just like other boots on this list, the Brasher’s come with a Gore-Tex membrane, making them waterproof.
Hillwalkers sport a polyurethane midsole which means they come with shock absorbers. These boots will make your hike easier and more comfortable no matter the mountain you decide to climb.
Hanwag Tatra Wide GTX
Weight: 3.2 lbs
Best Use: Backpacking, long distance, hiking
Description: These mean looking Hanwag Tatra Wide GTX will have you looking the part as you ascend the trail. The rubber toe and heel caps make these boots durable and stylish.
Arguably the best cushioned walking shoes, the boot is lined with memory foam, meaning your boots will remember your foot and provide the support it needs. This reduces pressure points making you focus less on your feet and more on the trails.
Berghaus Mens Explorer Trek Plus GTX
Weight: 2.5 lbs
Best Use: Hiking, trail, backpacking
Description: Berghaus has created a comfortable, durable boot by using premium materials and top notch research.
A mixture of high quality suede, high strength mesh, and Gore-Tex membrane is their winning combination.
Keeping your feet dry and comfortable is their main goal and Berghaus Mens Explorer Trek Plus GTX achieve just that. Be sure to keep these quality walkers in mind when you are in need of new shoes.
HI-TEC Men’s Altitude Ox
Weight: 2.8 lbs
Best Use: All-weather, trail, backpacking
Description: Stylish, durable, comfortable are just a few words that describe these HI-TEC boots.
The rubber arch support allows your foot to be supported more naturally. Rubber toe caps and tread make each step a solid one.
Providing extreme support, no rock will get in your way with these boots. Any avid hiker should have these in their arsenal.
HI-TEC Eurotrek II WP
Weight: 2.4 lbs
Best Use: Walking, Hiking
Description: HI-TEC EUROTREK II WP is a high quality boot. Made from materials ranging from waterproof leather to rustproof brass, these boots are very durable and stylish. The chassis consists of a rubber sole for optimal grip.
A tread that has been rigorously tested allows your feet to stay where you put them. The removable, waterproof sock liner will always keep your feet dry and comfortable.
Being lightweight, they won’t slow you down or make you tired – you’ll be able to walk all day. These boots are so comfortable, you will want to wear them on and off the trail.
Salomon Women’s X Ultra Mid 2 GTX
Weight: 3 lbs
Best Use: Running, off-trail hiking
Description: Gore-Tex material mixed with a sophisticated lacing system will ensure your feet stay dry and have zero pressure points. A rubber toe cap with a patented tread pattern ensure your boots will be durable while keeping your footing steady even on rugged and loose terrain.
A recessed tongue means no unwanted rocks or dirt will get in your boot while you walk. It’s sole technology includes a lug pattern that maximizes grip and traction while being lightweight. This trusted brand has created another stellar boot called Salomon Women’s X Ultra Mid 2 GTX.
If you are an avid hiker or just going out for a stroll, having the correct hiking boot is critical. Not only will a good fit keep you warm and dry but will also reduce soreness and leave you feeling great.
Boot technology has advanced in the last few years and now is your chance to take advantage. The right combination of technology will dictate how the boot feels on the trail.
Even though there are a lot of technical terms and features with each company having their own terminology, we hope this guide will help you in your search for the best walking shoe.
Have any of these boots, or would recommend others? Shoot us a comment below. We love hearing from our readers and use your recommendations frequently.