How to Pick the Right Hiking Shoes

Written by

Not all hiking shoes are created equal. Too often, the novice hiker relies on look and feel at the shoe store instead of the actual elements that will be encountered on trail.

Will you be hiking for one to two hours, or do you plan on spending the night and packing your gear to a remote campsite? The weight of your gear, terrain and distance covered are essential components to consider before dishing out your hard earned money on your next pair of trail footwear.

Within the category of hiking shoes, there are a variety of designs to consider. Following is a list of how one differs from the other, and what to consider when comparing your options.

Trail running or adventure racing shoes are essentially running shoes made of more durable materials, such as thicker soles and stronger stitching designed to endure rougher conditions.

Hiking shoes or approach shoes are heavier than trail running shoes, as they are generally designed with a frame architecture to better support your feet and are cut below the ankle. Lighter fabrics are used, such as nylon or suede, than that of mid-weight boots.

Cross hikers or mid-weight boots are also referred to as Class B boots. These look more like the typical hiking boot intended for more off trail terrain with enough support to last through long single day and multiday hikes. The cut reaches above the ankle and therefore requires more breaking in than hiking shoes, and the materials used range from leather to tougher synthetic fabrics.

Heavy Boots (Class C) are designed specifically for rough terrain. These boots include additional support such as toe caps, rugged soles and synthetic linings. They are designed for maximum support for extended hikes with heavy packs. Other feature include shock absorbing soles, as well as water resistant and breathable materials.

These will require a great degree of breaking in before use on the trail. Don't skimp on this detail, as one of the more common mistakes made with new hiking footwear is wearing them before they're properly worn to fit the specific contours of your feet.

Mountaineering boots (Class D) are designed for extended, mountaineering-type expeditions, where colder weather conditions are expected. They are generally constructed of either a hard plastic shell with a pivot point at the ankle, or a combination of leather and synthetic materials for greater comfort. Other features include attachments for securing crampons and additional insulation for warmth.

For additional tips on the right gear for your next hiking adventure and up-to-date information for the active outdoors enthusiast, register for our monthly newsletter.