How To Choose Hiking Boots
Hiking boots are an essential piece of kit that can make or break your walk. The right hiking boot will give you the protection you need to scale rocky terrain, navigate forest trails and take in the scenery, while an ill-fitting boot can have you wincing in pain with every step.
Material, weight, fit and shape are all important factors when it comes to selecting the perfect hiking boot. But with so many available on the market, choosing the right pair for you can be confusing. Find out how to choose a great hiking boot and learn the key differences between style, fabrication and fit with our expert guide.
What walking routes do you do?
Tough forest trails or strolls through sweeping fields; the types of walks you go on will inform the style of hiking boots you need.
Consider the terrain, climate and weather conditions you face when out hiking. If you often contend with rain, wind and storms, waterproof hiking boots are essential, while lightweight hiking boots are ideal for warmer climes and walking holidays.
The size of your pack should also influence your choice of footwear. Walking with a heavy kit can take its toll on your feet and your energy levels, particularly on long walks. If you’re often out for a full day’s hike or multi-day trip, consider a lightweight boot to keep your energy expenditure to a minimum and prevent foot fatigue.
If you stick to pathways and well-maintained tracks, durability, comfort and traction is key. Ditch the running trainers and lace up a pair of lightweight hiking boots for your next excursion. Often designed with padding around the ankle, which helps prevent twists and sprains when navigating roots, stones and debris, they also have a protective outer and stiff sole that’s equipped to deal with trail detritus.
If exploring off the beaten track sounds like your idea of a good day out, you’ll need a hiking boot that’s up for a challenge. Finding the perfect balance between support, flexibility and protection is essential for aggressive hikes and uncharted territories. Look for hiking boots made from materials that offer both breathability and water-repellent coatings, ensuring you’re truly ready for anything. A higher mid-cut will also support the ankle through the miles, for a stable ride with every foot strike.
Multi-day hikes and holidays require a boot that's incredibly comfortable, light and supportive. As your backpacking adventures progress, you'll need a durable boot that can withstand tough terrain, changeable conditions and still remain comfortable six hours in. As you'll likely be carrying a heavy load with you, look out for a stiffer insole. These can withstand the added impact when you're carrying a bulky payload, whilst offering the grip you need for scaling climbs and descents.
Types of hiking boots
While all hiking boots have been engineered specifically for walking, they can vary when it comes to style, shape and purpose. Find out the difference between a low hiking boot, mid-cut style and long boot:
Low hiking shoes
Designed for traction, low hiking shoes offer a lower rise, which promises increased agility for climbs and uphill tracks. Ideal for trail running and walking, they’re constructed for comfort and agility, with a flexible feel and a grippy sole.
A versatile option for committed hikers, mid-cut boots offer solid protection - without compromising on flexibility. With more support around the ankle than low-rise styles, a mid-cut boot is ideal for uneven terrain and armours feet against stones, sticks and rocks.
Offering impeccable support, high-cut boots encase the ankle to keep feet dry, protected and comfortable during extreme hikes. Often heavier than their mid and low-cut counterparts, these boots are designed for the toughest conditions, with soles that refuse to yield to pressure from heavy packs or off-trail terrain.
The materials that matter
Now you've narrowed down the style of boot that best-suits your walks, you can become more discerning about the materials and components you want your hiking boots to feature.
In recent years, a new generation of waterproof hiking boots has emerged, offering breathability from the inside while repelling moisture from the outside. At DLX, our men’s footwear and women's footwear collections feature innovative water-repellent materials and mesh membranes for breathability.
Here's an overview of the popular materials that hiking boots are made from:
Often featuring waterproof coatings, these flexible materials make a regular appearance in hiking boots. Easy to break in and often lightweight, they combine quality, function, style and – not forgetting – affordability. Our men’s walking boots and women’s hiking boots feature breathable membrane technology for impressive results.
A premium material used in heavy-wearing hiking boots, full-grain leather is strong, water-resistant and durable. Featuring a charming natural appearance, leather boots come at a premium price and will need to be broken in long before any hikes.
While not as strong as full-grain leather, split-grain leather is still durable and water-resistant. It comes from the lower section of a hide once it’s been split from the top and is often paired with other materials to increase its resilience.
Buffed to resemble suede, yet stronger and more durable, nubuck leather is a popular choice for footwear. However, good upkeep is essential as it’s susceptible to scratches and visible wear.
Selecting the right soles
Midsoles are another important feature to consider in your search for sturdy hiking boots. This cushioning layer between the sole and insole determines how stiff a boot is underfoot. Flexible midsoles are ideal for clear debris-free trails and scrambling, but stiffer midsoles are often picked for their ability to protect feet from rocks, roots and branches encountered on uneven terrain.
The two main types of materials used in midsoles are:
- EVA - Moulded to create a cushioned lift-off, these flexible midsoles provide firmer support where needed.
- Polyurethane - A firmer material that’s hard-wearing, durable and anti-compressing.
When it comes to outer soles, you’ll want to look for a boot that has impressive grip and traction abilities. This bottom layer of the boot is often made from tough rubber that absorbs shock and sheds mud easily. Some soles offer lug patterns for improved traction on downward descents, while rocker soles can reduce pressure on the ball of the foot.
We use performance-ready Vibram soles on our hiking boots, which gives you the confidence to tackle wet surfaces and enhances friction on all types of terrain.
Top tips for getting a good fit
No matter what hiking boots you choose; if you don’t get a good fit, they’ll be spending more time in the cupboard than they will in the wilderness.
Getting the right fit is incredibly important and can prevent painful blisters, bruised toenails and sprains. The right fit should feel snug, comfortable and give you room to move your toes.
Here are some useful tips for achieving the perfect fit:
- When trying your hiking boots on, there should be a thumb-sized gap between the end of your big toe and the end of the insole. If there’s less space, consider sizing up to avoid damaging your toes on downward hill descents.
- As feet tend to swell during the day, try on your new hiking boots in the evening as you’re more likely to get a realistic fit.
- Walk around the room with your boots fully laced-up. They should hug your heel securely, without slipping down. Any slipping can lead to rubbing and blisters later down the line.
- Another way to check whether the style of the boot is right for you is to look at where the boot creases on a forward step. Take one step forward, notice where the crease falls and consider if it feels comfortable. If it digs in, you might want to consider a different style boot.
- When lacing up your boots, ensure the tongue is in a central position and not leaning to one side.
- Try on the boots with your walking socks. Is there any gaping or pinching? If so, consider opting for a bigger or smaller size. It’s always best to wear a specialist hiking sock on long walks, as they’ll offer sweat-wicking performance and increased comfort over basic styles.
- If you wear heel supports, orthotics or specialist insoles, place these in the hiking boots when trying them on.
- Test out your boots on inclines and declines. If you can feel your foot falling forward or you’re not experiencing the flexibility you’d expect, check the lacing or swap your hiking boots for a different size.
Now you're armed with all the information you need to choose your next hiking boots, you can feel confident that the style you choose will help fulfil your athletic ambitions.
Test out several pairs before making your final decision, look out for key features like Vibram soles and remember to wear them in with a few short walks before progressing on to more challenging adventures.
Explore DLX women’s hiking boots and men’s hiking boots today.