Blisters or Bliss: Choosing the Best Hiking Boots

The winter months are prime time for mountain trekking and adventure – whether you prefer the rainforests of the Gold Coast Hinterland, or the snowfields of New South Wales, Victoria or New Zealand.

what to look for in hiking boots

As a trekking enthusiast from way back, as well as a local podiatrist, I know firsthand the difference that a good pair of hiking boots can make: blisters, or bliss!

The Best Hiking Boots

The best hiking boots for you, may be completely different to what your mate wears.

And there are so many different types to choose from – trail boots and mountaineering boots; high cut, low cut, mid cut; leather or synthetic.

So here are a few tips to help you determine the best hiking boots for your needs.

How Will You Be Using Your Hiking Boots?

If you prefer shorter walks on well-constructed paths, a low cut hiking shoe should meet your needs.

Heading out for an all day hike with a lightly loaded backpack? Then a mid-to-high cut day hiking boot should provide you with the perfect combination of support and flexibility.

If a 2 week trek through rugged terrain is more your speed, look for backpacking boots with stiffer midsoles, and a high cut, as they offer superior support and protection. These will also serve you well if you are hiking in snowy and icy conditions, as crampons work best with rigid soled boots. However they do take a while to break in – something that is best achieved gradually, before you set off on your next trip!

The 3 Main Components of Hiking Boots

1 – The sole: While it’s certainly not the only component to consider, start by examining the sole of the boot. The lug pattern will determine your traction and grip – the greater the spacing, the better the traction and mud dispersion. Also, look for a heel brake on the outside back corner of the boot. Good boots will have a heel zone separate to the rest of the boot, to provide grip particularly during steep descents.

2 – Midsole: The midsole, like the middle child, is often overlooked. The midsole provides cushioning and support; if you are hiking longer distances and over more difficult terrain, a firmer midsole made of polyurethane will give your ankle and foot more support, and less fatigue. For less strenuous hikes, a midsole made of EVA will be comfortable.

3 – The Uppers:  Again, your choice of upper material will depend on how you will be using your hiking boots. In rain and snow you will truly appreciate waterproof membranes like Gore-tex; leather may be the best option for challenging terrain; while synthetic might be a more affordable option for the casual hiker.

what to look for in hiking boots

Getting the Best Fit

If you are investing in a pair of good hiking boots, here are some tips to help you get the best fit possible:

  • A good boot should fit your foot snugly, without being tight. Make sure the boot is wide enough in the toe box area, that you can still wiggle all your toes.
  • It’s best to time your boot fitting for afternoon or evening, as our feet tend to swell over the course of the day.
  • If you wear orthotics, make sure you bring them to the fitting, as well as the socks you are planning to wear when hiking. From a podiatrist’s point of view, the style and fabric of Injinji toe socks not only optimises your foot’s biomechanics, it also creates a more comfortable – and less sweaty – environment within your boots when hiking.
  • Take your time – Walk in the boot around the store, and on different angles and gradients (if at all possible) to test how your foot is sitting in the shoe. Check if the seams, stitching, or any other areas are rubbing on your foot, and that there is sufficient width.
  • When it comes to length, your toes should not touch the end of the toe box: your longest toe should be a thumb width from the end of the toe box.
  • Your boot lacing technique can help or hinder the fit. If you have narrow heels for example, the heel lock technique will stop your toes sliding forward in the shoe when descending, preventing you from bruising and damaging your toe nails.

Breaking in your Boots

Finally, make sure you break in your boots before heading off the beaten track. Hiking shoes with their lower cut and softer midsole may be comfortable from the very first wear, but the more rugged models usually take time to soften and conform to your feet. Just remember that the breaking in process does not convert a poor fit into a good fit.

hiking boots for Overland Track in Tasmania

Looking for Hiking Boots?

At Trevor Lane Podiatry, our footwear range includes a European brand called Ecco, with styles including hiking shoes and back country leather high boots. I have worn a high cut Ecco hiking boot in Gore-tex, the Expedition, on hikes in the Snowy Mountains, Europe, and the Overland Track in Tasmania, and highly recommend them.

If you live in the Redlands, Trevor Lane Podiatry is your local podiatrist clinic. We’d love to assist you with choosing the best hiking boots for your needs, boot lacing techniques, and preparing for your next hike or overland adventure – so call us today on 3207 4736 or make an appointment 24/7 via our secure online booking system.