First off, it's important you know that I am the first person to ever turn this song into a completely unrelated title regarding boots. Don't anyone else tell you otherwise. I'm a genius. Second, this blog is all about finding the right hiking footwear for you!
There are essentially three types of footwear you can use when hiking. Which one you choose all depends on what kind of hiking you are planning on doing and what kind of experience you have. Do you plan on only doing the occasional short day hike? Or are you more of the multi-day backpacking type? In order to decide what footwear is best for you, let's break down each type of footwear:
First up, you have the hiking shoe. Compared to boots, these shoes are lighter and more flexible, and they offer less support. These shoes are your best bet if you plan on sticking to well-defined trails and shorter hikes. They're also good for hikers who don't plan on carrying a very heavy load. If you are a more seasoned hiker and you already have strength in your feet, ankles, knees and calves then this could also be a good option. The hiking shoe doesn't provide a lot of support but it is lightweight and thus makes hiking more of a breeze.
Price: A good hiking shoe usually ranges from $100-150. Hiking shoes tend to be the least expensive choice of the three. Just as long as the shoe has a good tread on it, you should be good to go!
The second and most popular option is the hiking boot. While they aren't as lightweight as hiking shoes, they are far more supportive and protective of your joints and muscles. A hiking boot can range from anything to a higher-cut version of a hiking shoe all the way to a stiffer construction that allows for much better support. Hiking boots come in all sorts of shapes and sizes which is why they are so popular. If you plan on heading out on longer hikes (you can even use these for backpacking if you're only going for a few days) or rougher terrain, carrying a heavier load or are just a beginner hiker who needs more support to help out with muscles or weak ankles/knees, this boot is definitely the best choice for you. Though not as important in hiking shoes, with a hiking boot, you want to make sure the boot itself isn't flimsy. Test this by trying to bend the shoe and see how easy to is to fold. The more rigid it feels, the more support it's going to provide.
Price: Decent hiking boots tend to range from $175-300. Though they are usually more expensive than a hiking shoe they are definitely worth the investment if you plan on going on more challenging hikes.
The last option is the backpacking boot. This boot is made with long, multi-day treks in mind. They're also useful if you are carrying a heavier load or you have to cope with difficult terrain. A backpacking boot is built for endurance which means they're a bit heavier than a normal hiking boot. They’re also taller and stiffer and they have thicker more aggressive outsoles. While a lot of people think that a backpacking boot is only for serious trekkers, it definitely doesn't mean they can't be worn in any situation. If you have eventual plans to get into bigger hikes, there’s no harm in going with a backpacking boot you can grow into. Just don't forget that the heavier weight might slow you down at first.
Price: Purchasing a long lasting backpacking boot will probably set you back about $250-400. While this boot is the most expensive option, it's also the most durable option. Like any purchase, you need to weigh the options and decide what works best for you. These are definitely worth the price if you plan on doing multi-day treks.
Once you've decided which type of hiking footwear to go with, the next thing you should be aware of is it's waterproof capability. Is it made with Gore-Tex? Gore-Tex is made out of material that is both waterproof and breathable. Outdry and eVent are other well-known waterproof breathable alternatives. The waterproof material helps keep your boots dry in almost any situation and it's incredibly useful, especially when going on multi-day trips (though even if you're only planning on going for shorter hikes, I still think it's worth the venture). Boots with Gore-Tex (or any other alternative) tend to last longer and are more durable as well.
Lastly, you need to make sure the boot fits correctly. Most outdoor stores have a ramp you can use to test this. When your shoes are laced up, your foot shouldn't slide around and it definitely shouldn't be sliding forward so that it touches the front of the boot. This is important because if your foot does slide around, it will increase the risk of blisters and injury. At the same time, it shouldn't feel so snug that it cuts off circulation. You want to make sure the boot is loose enough that your toes have wiggle room. Additionally, you should not feel squished on the sides of your forefoot.
So, you've purchased your brand new hiking boots and you're ready to hit the trails? Not so fast! There is one last thing you need to do in order to ensure a comfortable hike. I cannot stress enough how important it is to break in your boots before you take them out. Depending on the boots stiffness, some footwear needs more time to be broken in than others. When it comes to a hiking shoe, a few days of walking around the house with them on (making sure you're wearing the same type of socks you would while hiking) should suffice. But a backpacking boot is a bit different. If you want to make sure you don't get blisters while out in the backcountry, you're going to want to give yourself about two weeks of walking around in your boots before you use them for real. As for a regular hiking boot, I would give them about one week to let them get the chance to shape properly to your foot.
A neat trick I've used in the past is using a blow-dryer to quicken the process. All you have to do is put on two pairs of socks, slip on your boots and then point a blow-dryer at each boot for about ten minutes. This doesn't mean you shouldn't still walk around in them to break them in, but it definitely helps the sole shape to your foot faster.