It wasn't all that long ago when finding a comfortable pair of hiking boots wasn't a painful experience of breaking in boots while on the trail. Now, hiking boots come in a variety of lasts. What does that mean? Lasts are the foot shape that boots and shoes are constructed on. This means that with the variety of choices based on so many lasts, your chances of finding a boot that fits great are much better. Don't forget that European made hiking boots often run slightly narrower than hiking boots made in the US.
Other factors to remember when purchasing the right hiking boots would be where you plan to hike. If you will be commonly visiting heavier, rocky, mountainous trails, then make sure your hiking boots allow for a little extra room for your toes. Extended downhill descents can put a lot of strain on your feet so the extra room will be beneficial.
Even if you do not plan to be going on multi-day hikes, hiking boots prove to be a better choice for extended day hiking. So whether you plan to go backpacking, long day hiking or alpine climbing, you can purchase one pair of good hiking boots rather than purchasing multiple pairs for different types of hiking. However, if you know your hiking trails will be short duration day hikes across predominately smooth terrain, light, athletic-styled hiking shoes may be far more suited than hiking boots.
Hiking boots are also helpful for the extra ankle support. Long or short hikes on rocky, dirt terrains can always be tiresome on your ankles. Choosing hiking boots over hiking shoes can help remedy tiring ankles. Some people opt for trail running shoes or hiking shoes but it is important to remember that many low-slung light shoes leave ankles exposed. This can can contribute to rolled ankles and other unpleasant injuries. The more weight on your back, the more chance you have of experiencing an injury. A feature that can help keep you more sure-footed is Vibram soles. Whether you get hiking boots or hiking shoes, its always nice to have Vibram soles.
Hiking boots range in price but expect to pay more for hiking boots that weigh less than others but offer similar features. If you dont plan to be on your feet for several hours, you might not need to purchase the lighter versions of hiking boots. However, if a long hike is what is planned, a few less ounces can help in the long run. Try to keep those thoughts in mind when you are looking for the right hiking boots for your trip.
Many hiking boots and backpacking boots use Nubuck or a full-grain leather material backed with a waterproof and breathable laminate like Gore-Tex. Waterproof protection like this is essential a multi-day trip with variable weather. This can also be helpful during the spring and summer months when snowmelt turns steep trails turn slick and muddy. Some backpacking boots use open panels with waterproof fabrics along the upper. However these less durable fabric panels often lose their important vapor transfer properties because mud and dust can accumulate on the boot throughout your journey. If you stick to fair-weather hiking or you are a desert-type trekker, you can save some money by choosing a backpacking boot with a waterproof leather upper instead of a waterproof and breathable membrane. Lastly in regards to the upper: Even if the manufacturer states that the upper consists of waterproof leather, the seams can compromise the watertight performance, especially if you plan on wearing your boots for a decade or two.