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Trail walking shoes or boots? How to choose the right hiking footwear 

Written by Fiona

March 12 2024

With so many different types of outdoor footwear on the market, how can you decide what is the best pair of shoes or boots for your favourite activities? This article will walk you through some of the points to consider.

Choose your footwear to suit the terrain.

Where will you be walking?

From tarmac to forest trails to hill paths and mountain scree, there is a wide range of terrain to consider when choosing your walking footwear. Think about where you most walk and then choose footwear to suit. The chances are you will need a couple of pairs of shoes or boots if you plan to do different types of hikes.

For example, hiking shoes will be well suited to terrain that is not so rough, such as tarmac paths and forest trails. However, if you are venturing into areas where there will be rocks, stones and lots of vegetation, then it’s better to choose hiking boots because you will gain support around the ankle and also protection from terrain debris and vegetation. 

The rougher the ground, the greater the chance of going over on your ankle or slipping, so make sure you check out all the different footwear options carefully. Take a look at the adidas Terrex Free Hiker range as an example of the different types of hiking shoes and boots in just one collection. 

Look for different features, such as ankle stability, the grip of soles, how the shoes lace up and whether they have built-in durable features, such as a rand and toe-cap to stop wear and tear from natural obstacles and vegetation.

Choose shoes or boots to suit the season and the terrain.

What’s the season?

If it’s summer hiking on paths and trails that most appeals, you will probably be fine with a hiking shoe. Lightweight footwear makes for an easier and more enjoyable hike.

In seasons when it’s going to be wet or snowy, you’ll want the added protection of a boot with an ankle cuff to keep out the wet. Gore-Tex is a useful feature, too, because this adds a layer of waterproof / breathable membrane. 

If you plan to hike in the hills and mountains in winter, then a stiffer sole will be important in case you need to add crampons or microspikes in snowy or icy conditions. 

A sturdier boot will also help to keep your feet warm and dry, when compared to a hiking shoes.

It is not just the colour range that is different across male and female footwear because the shape and volume should be different, too.

Male or female 

The male and female physique is generally different and this is true of feet, too. Women’s feet are usually narrower, especially at the heel and forefoot, and require footwear with less volume. Females are generally lighter in total weight, too.

You should check out your favourite brand’s full outdoor women’s shoes collection, or the men’s collection to ensure you are looking at footwear best suited to your foot shape and weight. 

Well fitting hiking footwear is vital for an enjoyable and safe adventure.

Should I choose the same brand as my friend?

The short answer is, no! Just because a hiking friend swears by one brand it doesn’t mean it is the right footwear for you. The most important consideration is how well the shoes or boots fit. 

Try on your footwear and if it doesn’t feel immediately comfortable, you should try on another pair. 

In summer, many people prefer a hiking boot or shoe that is similar to a trail running shoe. It’s easy to understand why because of comfort. 

However, in the seasons when it is more likely to be wet and muddy underfoot, you should ensure your chosen boot has good grip and is robust and durable enough to cope with the weather and underfoot conditions.

Just because a friend swears by one brand, doesn’t mean it’s ideal for you.

Your footwear should fit neatly and offer support but not be too short so that your toes bang off the front of the boot. The heel should not move or lift inside the footwear. Make sure the laces offer good support along the entire footwear when tied.

Is colour and style important?

Again, it is fit and buying footwear that is suited to the terrain that are most important factors than colour and style. Many people are drawn to footwear in their favourite colour but you should chopse footwear for practical features, rather than looks.

Of course, if your hiking footwear fits well AND looks good then that’s even better.

There are many different brands and styles on the market and so you have plenty of choice. It’s always good to see a company that sells a collection of hiking shoes and boots with plenty of options, from hiking shoes best suited to tarmac and trails, to hiking boots designed for rougher terrain.

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