One of the few essential pieces of gear necessary to hike is a good reliable pair of hiking boots. Most people have a general idea of what hiking boots are. The mental image springs to mind when you hear the two words in order…leather, brown or tan, lace-up with thick rubbery tread. But there’s more to a well-made hiking boot than looks! Hiking boots support your most important asset during a hike: your feet. With every step, you’ll be putting weight, stress, pressure and impact onto those feet, and your hiking boots and socks are all that separate them from whatever rough untamed terrain you may be hiking over.
Fit is extremely important. You need boots that fit well–not slightly loose or tight, but as close to a perfect fit as possible. A good hiking boot will feel solid and won’t let your foot slide around, but it will have a little space for your toes too. Tread is important, but don’t pick boots with such thick tread that you trip over it–the boot should feel like an extension of your foot to the ground.
Also essential for a perfect fit is good ankle support. Your hiking boots are made not just to cushion the bottom of your foot, but to soften the impact of each step on your ankle and to stay stiff enough that you are much less likely to twist your ankle by stepping through uneven terrain. The best hiking boots are lace-up and cover your ankles entirely. Whether they are taller or not depends upon your hiking style and how much support you need, but bear in mind that good support of your ankles and feet affects the posture of the rest of your body. Not enough support in your ankles can actually cause aches and pains in your back, neck and shoulders.
Leather is still the preferred material for hiking boots due to being waterproof, flexible and durable. Gore-Tex and rubber are also very good, particularly for insulating your foot in cold weather. Pick the best hiking boots for the climate you’ll be hiking in most.