Hiking Lady’s 10 Tips for Mastering Hiking Boot Shopping

    1. Take your sock liners and hiking socks to the store with you, so you can ensure a proper fit. Trying hiking boots on without the proper socks is a total waste of time.
Hiking Socks and Sock Liners
Take your hiking sock liners and socks to the store!
    1. Bring along your enhanced insoles too. If you have enhanced insoles like Superfeet, you’re going to want to try on boots with them inside.
Hiking Insoles
Hiking Insoles: Superfeet Blue Premium Insoles, Cadence Insoles, and currexSole Active Pro
    1. Try on lots of styles. Some brands run narrow (Asolo, Vasque, Tevas), others run wide (Keen), and others are true to width (Merrell). If you shop online, either order multiple pairs and return the ones that don’t fit or head to a physical store first and try them on in person.
    2. Ask for a half size larger than normal. Even with your insoles, sock liners and hiking sock on, you still need about a finger’s width between your longest toe and the front of the boot. You’ll be thanking me on the downhills!
    3. Walk DOWN a ramp or steps. Make sure that your toes aren’t hitting the front of the boot when you do this!
    4. Walk UP a ramp or steps. When you’re headed up the steps, make sure that your heel is not lifting up. If it does you’ll end up with a nasty heel blister on the trail.
    5. Jump up and down with the boots on. The weight of the boots is important. The goal is to have the least amount of weight for the type of hiking, backpacking, or mountaineering you’ll be doing. For hikes on maintaining trails, there is no need to be wearing 2+ pound backpacking boots with stiff shanks. But for mountaineering, you’ll need a technical shoe that can handle the conditions you’ll be climbing and hiking in, so inevitably they’ll be heavy. Just remember, having boots that weigh 5 pounds is just like you gaining 5 pounds or throwing a dumbbell in your backpack… even though the weight is on your feet, you’re still carrying it up the hill!
    6. Make sure the boots are suitable for your intended use. If you are planning to go on a backpacking trip, you’ll want a boot with a stiff shank (see below). If you hike in a rainy area, make sure your boots are waterproof and have Gore-Tex or eVent moisture blocking technology. If you’re going on local day hikes, you don’t need a heavy, stiff boot.
    7. Try on shoes late in the day. Your feet are going to be tired, the least happy, and are actually larger than in the morning because they swell during the day. Keep this in mind when shopping for any types of shoes.
    8. FIT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Style certainly won’t matter if your feet are covered in blisters and you can’t walk…
The Perfect Fit: Happy feet in the Backcountry
The Perfect Fit: Happy feet in the Backcountry

 

Check out my Blister Prevention Tips and Footwear Gear Reviews to learn about the boots I like (and don’t like!)


 

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9 comments

  1. Victor says:

    Hello Hiking Lady,

    Just found your site while trying to help my girlfriend solve some boot issues. My girlfriend has very small feet, size 3 in youth. While shopping for some hiking shoes for her, we realized that the selection is somewhat limited in her size. We ended getting some HiTek hiking boots for her at REI. Because these were a kids model, I can’t help but think they are just not made as good as adult shoes. Can you offer any advice on who makes a good quality boot in her size? These would be used for day hikes and such. For now, the boots we just got will probably work out OK, as she is new to the hiking world. But as her endurance increases, I plan on taking her on longer treks. Which may expose any shortcomings of her current boots.

    TIA

  2. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Dee,

    Thanks for the question! In your case I recommend keeping the larger size, since you used the key phrase to describe them “they fit quite well”. I think your issue could be with your socks. I only recommend wearing 2 pair of socks when the inner pair is a very thin liner sock made of synthetic material or wool. See this article on Liner Socks for more information. Also, check to make sure that your socks fit your feet snugly. The looser they are, the more prone they are to slipping and creating the friction that will result in your heel slipping. Old socks that have lost some of their elastic or that don’t hug your feet well can cause lots of problems.

    As far as the leather on your boots stretching over time, that is quite likely, but the amount of the stretch tends to be relatively minimal. You also should consider using a pair of good quality insoles. They take up a bit of the volume in your shoe (another reason to go for the 8.5), and will provide more support for your feet. I have heard from some readers that they help prevent heel slippage too, so they might be just the fix you need.

    If neither of these tricks work, I recommend that you consider trying another model of shoe that might fit better.

    Happy trails!

  3. Dee says:

    Hello, I wonder if you could help me decide between two sizes of a leather hiking boot.

    I recently ordered online a pair of Cabela’s Women’s Rimrock GORE-TEX Hiker – Nubuck Leather boots. My intended use for them is mainly walking in cities in the rain and snow, though I may use them for some non-intensive (summer) hiking.

    I bought a size 8.5 and they fit quite well when I am wearing wool socks over my regular socks, though I still notice very slight heel slippage (even after following your great lacing tip). With two pairs of thinner socks (what I would wear if hiking in the summer), I notice the slippage more. Because they are leather, I worry the leather will stretch with time, and they will feel even bigger.

    I am considering sending them back and having them send me a size 8 (half a centimeter smaller), but this might mean that my toes are only half a finger’s-length from the end of the boot (I saw that you recommend a whole finger’s-length).

    Do you think sacrificing the extra length would be worth reducing the heel slippage?

    Not being to try on each pair in advance is one of the downsides of online ordering! I appreciate any help you can offer!

  4. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Bonnie, the price range for hiking boots is quite wide. Generally they run anywhere between $50-$200, depending on brand, materials used, whether or not they are waterproof or not, etc.

  5. Bonnie Burke says:

    Why does anyone have to ask the price of any given shoe. Just give me the prices so I know what to budget for….

  6. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Jeanette! Yep, as long as the store has a good return policy in case they don’t fit. I’ve definitely bought a few pairs for myself online. I personally love Zappos because of their free shipping and free returns, plus they have a HUGE selection in regular sizes as well as unusual widths and lengths.

  7. Hiking Lady says:

    Thanks, Stacey! That is so exciting that you are going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro! Asolo makes excellent boots. I love my Asolo Styngers. My recommendation is that you try on those Asolo’s you’re looking at, and really make sure they are comfortable. A lot of people have heel slippage in leather hiking boots, which causes heel blisters, but there are quick lacing adjustments that will stop that and help prevent blisters!

  8. Stacey says:

    Great tips! I am heading out this week to get a new pair of boots to break in. I am hiking up Mt Kilimanjaro and need a good pair of leather boots. I’m looking at Asolo TPS 520 GV Hikers. Any other suggestions for a good leather boot?

    Happy Hiking!
    Stacey

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