Hiking Shoes: A guide to finding the right hiking shoes and boots

Trang, an experienced podiatrist at the Footcare Clinic and an avid-hiker, is here to share her extensive knowledge of Hiking and Foot-wear to give you the best advice for Hiking Boots and Shoes.

The cooler months are a great time for mountain trekking and bush walking – whether you prefer the rainforests of Tasmania, the coastline of New South Wales, or the highlands in Victoria. Therefore, choosing the right hiking boots or shoes is a matchmaking process. Your dream hiking boots need to sync with how and where you hike. Before you tie the knots, literally, you also have to be sure they’re a perfect fit. 

There are a few questions you should ask which can help in finding that perfect pair of hiking boots or shoes for you: 


  • Do the boots/shoes fit the purpose that you intend it to?
  • Are they comfortable and supportive?
  • Do you have any pre-existing injuries that you need to accommodate for?


First let’s talk about 3 main components of hiking boots or shoes


1. Outsole: Hard outsoles can increase durability but the downside is they can feel slick if you go off trail. You should look at the lug pattern of the outsoles as it will determine your traction and grip – the greater the spacing, the better the traction and mud dispersion. You should also look for a heel brake, on the outside back corner of the hiking boots or shoes, as good ones will have a distinct heel zone from the forefoot and arch to reduce your chance of sliding during steep descents.


2. Midsole: The midsole provides cushioning and support. When you are hiking longer distances and over more difficult terrain, a firmer midsole can give your ankle and foot more support, and less fatigue. For less strenuous hikes, a midsole made of softer EVA will be comfortable.


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

Next, we need to look at the types of hiking shoes and boots that are available: 

Hiking shoes:

Low-cut models with flexible midsoles are excellent for day hiking. Many ultralight backpackers may even choose trail-running shoes for long-distance journeys.

Day hiking boots:

These can range from mid- to high-cut boots mainly used for day hike or weekend away hiking trips with light packs. They should flex relatively easy and require little time to ‘break’ them in. However, they lack the support and durability of backpacking boots and therefore are not recommended for heavy hiking.

Backpacking boots:

These are designed to carry heavier loads on multiday trips. Thus, they tend to have a stiffer midsole and are more suitable for crampon additions for glacier climbing. Most will have a high cut that wraps above the ankle for excellent support. They are suitable with multiple terrains for on or off trail travel. However, they do take a while to break in – something that is best achieved gradually, before you set off on your next BIG trip!


Now we can return to our original questions to find the best fitting hiking boots or shoes for you.

Do the boots/shoes fit the purpose that you intend it too?

Yes, they should (given that you are the lucky one with no existing injury!). Trail shoes or hiking boots with synthetic upper and an EVA midsole should get you through a casual weekend hike. However, if you consider doing multiday trips with heavy carrying loads then perhaps investing in backpacking boots, with deeper lugs and a stiffer midsole for support. A Gortex upper can also help in protecting your feet and preventing injury in wet/snowy/icy conditions. 

Are they comfortable and supportive?

Yes, they should be comfortable and supportive for your feet. They 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 orthoses, make sure you bring them to the fitting, as well as the socks you are planning to wear when hiking. 

Do you have any pre-existing injuries that you need to accommodate?

This is an important question to ask when your pre-existing injuries can prevent you from doing the things you love and sometimes worse yet, can lead to secondary injury that could be avoided. It is recommended that you see your local podiatrist as they are specialists in assessing, diagnosing and providing the best treatment for your injuries – including hiking boots/shoes recommendations for your next holiday adventure.


See you out there on the Trails!


The Footcare Clinic 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 9711 7562 or make an appointment 24/7 via our secure online booking system.


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