You don’t just buy the first hiking shoes you see online and in a traditional store. Camping shoes need to be in sync with where and how you will hike. When choosing, you have to focus on three essential factors.
- Types – there are lots of options available for you, from very light trail shoes to high-end mountaineering boots.
- Components – some knowledge of different parts of the hiking shoe can make a difference. Some of the vital parts are midsoles, outsoles, lowers, uppers, and other components that can help you to find the right camping footwear.
- Fit – would you wear shoes that do not fit you well? How can you enjoy your camping adventure if you have blisters? Fit is more vital than appearance.
Let’s help you find the best hiking boots that are perfect for your feet. Read our guide below:
TYPES OF HIKING SHOES
This type of hiking shoe is low-cut with flexible midsoles that are ideal for day hiking. For long-distance journeys, light backpackers can choose trail-running shoes.
Day Hiking Boots
This type of camping footwear have mid- to high-cut models and are usually best for short backpacking or day hiking trips with light loads. You can easily flex this type of shoe, and it requires less break-in time, but they lack durability and the support of sturdy backpacking shoes.
If you need to carry heavy loads during multiday trips in the backcountry, you need this type of boot. This footwear has a high-cut design that wraps above the ankles for better support. It provides the support it needs and is very durable. The midsoles are stiff compared to lighter footwear; they are perfect for on or off-trail travel.
HIKING BOOT COMPONENTS
Hiking Boot Uppers
Materials can affect the boot’s weight, durability, water resistance, and breathability.
This upper provides excellent durability and excellent water and abrasion resistance. It is usually used in backpacking footwear designed for extended trips, rugged terrain, and heavy loads. Compared to nylon/split-grain leather, full-grain leather is not as breathable and light. Enough break-in time is also needed before starting a long trip.
This type of leather is mostly paired with nylon mesh or nylon to produce lightweight boots that provide the best when it comes to breathability. The split-grain leather divides the coarser inner region of the cowhide from the smooth exterior. It is more affordable, but it is less resistant to abrasion and water.
This type of leather is a full-grain leather buffed to look like suede. It resists water and abrasion and is very durable. Nubuck leather is relatively flexible. It requires enough time to break-in before a long hike.
Nylon, polyester and synthetic leather are present in modern boots. Synthetics are lighter compared to leather, dry faster, break-in more quickly and the best thing is that it costs less. The only drawback is that it may show wear more quickly because of the stitches outside of the boot.
Those shoes and boots labeled as waterproof are designed with breathable/waterproof membranes to keep feet dry during wet conditions. The drawback is the reduced breathability due to a layer and may make the feet sweaty during summer days.
The vegan-friendly hiking shoes and boots do not contain any animal ingredients or by-products.
Some mountaineering footwear have synthetic insulation to keep the users warm when camping on glaciers and snow.
HIKING BOOT MIDSOLES
The midsoles cushioning will protect your feet from shock and can determine the boot’s stiffness. Having stiff shoes is not a good thing, but they could mean better comfort and stability for extended hikes on uneven and rocky terrain.
A stiff boot will keep your feet protected from wrapping in a tree root or on every rock you step on. The most popular midsole materials are EVA or Ethylene Vinyl Acetate and polyurethane. EVA is less expensive, cushier, and lighter. The midsoles use different densities of EVA to provide better support as needed. Polyurethane is most of the time more durable and firmer. Most mountaineering and long backpack boots are made of these materials.
HIKING BOOT INTERNAL SUPPORT
Internal support is also essential when it comes to camping boots. It will keep your feet healthy, fresh, and reduce stress.
The shanks are inserts positioned between the boot’s outsole and midsole to provide stability on your torsion. In other backpacking shoes, you may find the shanks inside the midsole. The shank in hiking boots is made of a composite material or steel. Lightweight trail shoes do not include a shank.
The plates are slim inserts usually found between the outsole and midsole, and underneath the shank. It is designed to provide better protection and support from roots and rocks.
HIKING BOOT OUTSOLES
All camping footwear have rubber outsoles. Carbon is an additive added to mountaineering or backpacking boots to increased hardness. The hardness makes it very durable, but you might feel slick if you go off-trail.
This pattern is traction, providing bumps on the camping boot outsole. Thicker and deeper lugs are utilized on mountaineering and backpacking boots to enhance grip. Those with widely spaced lugs have better traction and shed dirt fast.
The heel brake pertains to the well-defined heel zone, which is unique from the arch and the forefoot. It reduces sliding on steep slopes.
If you intend to do winter backpacking or mountaineering, wearing compatible boots and crampons is vital to keep you protected. Narrow down your list by crampon compatibility. Your camping boots should not just fit your feet snuggly, but should also be comfortable on your feet and legs. Keep in mind that hiking involves walking for miles before you reach your campsite. Make sure your camping shoes are not too stiff, not too big and not too small.
Before you go camping, it is a good idea to test your camping boots first. The best time to try your shoes on is at the end of the day and with socks on.