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Which type of hiking boot do you need?

Hiking can be one of the most gratifying outdoor activities you can experience in your lifetime, granted it is done right. If you do it head on, without any regards to proper preparation, chances are you’ll have a bad time halfway through, or even sooner, into the journey. Part of a proper planning is choosing the right hiking boots.

Now, keep in mind that boots are not the only type of footwear you can use on a hike. However, they are generally good for almost any average to long duration hikes. There are also several types of hiking boots, which might make it difficult to pick right one. If you’re new to this subject and would like to explore all available options, you’re about to learn which type of hiking boot is for you.

Types of Hiking Boots

There are an amazing amount of different types of hiking boots on the market today. But in general, there are three main types of hiking footwear, namely: hiking shoes, hiking boots, and backpacking boots. Each has its own strengths and appropriate use, and knowing them is key to figuring out which type is best suited for your hiking needs.

  • Hiking Shoes

Salomon Men X Ultra Prime Multifunctional Hiking ShoeHiking shoes are characterized by their lightweight, flexible midsoles and low-cut build, which fairs well on average hiking terrains. Most of them are also watertight, making them ideal for muddy paths. They will provide you the least support, which means little protection of your ankles while walking over rocky paths.

A lot of new hikers misconceive that hiking only refers to climbing. However, a hike can also take place on a fairly even trail, with little to no ascents at all. This is where hiking shoes shine the most.

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  • Hiking Boots

Merrell Women Moab Mid Waterproof Hiking BootCompared to hiking shoes, this variety capitalizes in good weight resistance. Hiking boots are designed to withstand heavier loads and are perfect for multi-day excursion or hiking trails that demand more of the hiker.

One of the key distinctions that hiking boots have is their mid- to high-cut design that typically cover slightly up the ankles; providing more support and protection of your ankles. Furthermore, these boots also have firmer midsoles, making them optimal for hikes through rougher terrain with rocks and uneven paths.

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  • Backpacking Boots

Lowa Men Trekker Hiking Backpackers BootIf you haven’t guessed by its name yet, backpacking boots are, obviously, made for hiking longer trails, multi-day trails and backcountry terrain. Although it can still be used for less demanding trails, due to its amazing weight handling and increased support and protection of the ankle, most boots of this variety are specially designed to help hikers hike the more difficult mountains.

The backpacking boots have a high-cut design that wraps above the ankles and also provides stiffer soles, giving your feet and ankles the needed support to climb steep elevations with better ease. But, what makes backpacking boots different is their compatibility with additional hiking boots accessories, such as crampons. Moreover, compared to the other two types, these are the ones with the highest cut, way above the ankles to maximize reinforcement for climbing.

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Other popular types of hiking footwear are hiking sandals for easy terrain/hikes, mountaineering boots for serious hiking and climbing in extreme conditions and alpine environments.

Of course there is specific hiking footwear for both genders and also for kids (hiking boots for men, hiking boots for women, hiking boots for kids)

Factors You Need To Consider When Choosing A Pair Of Hiking Boots

Hiking boots normally have four major parts. So, in order to make it easier for you, all significant factors below will be discussed per component of a hiking boot:

  • Upper

KEEN Men Targhee II Mid WP Hiking Boot - top viewDepending on the upper composition of the boots, its weight, durability, and weather-resistance, will all vary. It can be made from either full-grain, split-grain, or nunbuck, leathers. If you want resilience, go for the former leather. If you want lightweight boots, then the split-grain will do great. Go for nunbucks if you want a little of both. Make sure you take care of your hiking boots.

  • Midsoles

Like briefly mentioned above, the midsoles of quality hiking boots can come in either EVA or PU. Pick the former if you want more cushioning in your boots. EVA midsole boots also tend to be lighter and less expensive. The PU on the other hand provides a more solid feel and durability, making it ideal for heavier hikes.

  • Outsoles

KEEN Men Targhee II Mid WP Hiking Boot - solePicking the right outsole depends on the terrain you’ll be walking on. If you want the best grip and traction, go for lug patterned outsoles. Your other option is heel brake outsoles, which is ideal for slippery trails.

  • Internal Support

Two of your most common options here include shanks or plates. If the trail you’re heading to has a lot of sharp rocks and shrill paths, then plates will offer the best protection. Otherwise, go for shanks if you prefer flexibility, but just make sure to stick to flatter tracks as much as possible.

Understanding Season Ratings

Like other major hiking gears, such as clothing, hiking boots can also be categorized by its seasonal suitability. For this particular footwear, it can belong to up to four different ratings, which are as follows:

  • One season rating

Boots with this rating are usually built from lightweight and synthetic materials. They allow the most mobility, while still maintaining optimal feet protection. If you’re trekking low-lying and mostly flat terrains, one season-rated hike boots are generally a good pick. Some may even be viable for everyday use.

  • Two season rating

This rating is where you start to see leather materials get added into the construction of the boots. With the integration of lightweight leather, boots under this rating offer better ankle support and extra heel and toe reinforcements. You can also fair better on slightly uneven paths with these boots. And since waterproofing is better incorporated in this category, drizzles and wet paths won’t be much of a problem.

  • Three season rating

Boots that have three season ratings allow better control on long hikes. They can be made from either complete leather material, or other mixed components that offer similar or the same durability.

Three season-rated boots also tend to offer EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) or PU (polyurethane) midsoles, both of which are great for lengthy hikes. It’s also rare to see boots under this rating without any waterproofing, so you won’t have to worry about watery trails or rainy weathers.

  • Four season rating

Most backpacking boots and mountaineering boots are under this rating. They are also usually made with the thickest and most durable materials, and can handle tougher trail conditions. However, the added fortification does take a toll on the weight of the boots, making them fairly heavier than most.

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