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My wife and I are going to buy some hiking boots as we've been using regular tennis shoes anytime we go on a hike.

What are the things I need to keep in mind when looking for a good set of quality hiking boots (materials, type etc)?

We generally go temperate hiking, so don't need something that protects against terrible cold. Also, we do walk along rivers and occasionally will get wet.

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You haven't said what it is about your tennis shoes that's not working for you. Many people, including me, prefer to hike in running shoes. I also like these: dirtygirlgaiters.com –  Ben Crowell Nov 21 '13 at 4:40

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted
  • Correct size. That might sound obvious, but consider also width and height (of the instep). Each make is a bit different, so there's a need to try on many before you find one that fits really good. For all-day trips get boots one size larger than your usual office shoes are.
  • Vibram sole
  • If properly maintained, leather upper is much more waterproof and durable than fabric/suede. Unfortunately, it is also heavier.
  • The fewer seams the better. Boots with many seams, holes etc. usually are not very waterproof :)
  • Gore-Tex inside is a big plus. Especially for multi day hikes in wet weather, when shoes won't fully dry overnight.
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Are you sure you need boots? I absolutely love my trail running shoes (La Sportiva Wildcats). They are much lighter than boots, and while they aren't water proof, they dry out very quickly due to being mostly mesh uppers. On hot days, you can literally feel the breeze through the uppers. It is very nice for me as my feet tend to sweat a lot in boots.

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Yeah, I'd like some boots mainly for the extra support when navigating boulders and such. +1 For the link though. I'll check them out. –  justnS Jan 26 '12 at 17:01
    
@justnS: Plenty of people get along fine on boulder-ish terrain in running shoes. It's a matter of taste. –  Ben Crowell Nov 21 '13 at 4:37

My experience in this field is quite limited, but this is what I'd look for:

  • Light - Hiking boots should be as light as possible. Believe me when I say that walking around when carrying a ton sucks.
  • A proper sole - and by proper I mean one that isn't too hard or too soft. Too hard will provide little to no traction on slippery surfaces, and one that is too soft will wear out quickly.
  • Water resistant - It would be hard to speak of water-proof, but hiking boots should definitely be water resistant. A quick slip should not render your feet completely wet.

And as a sidenote, do wear those boots in before a long hike. And if there is little time, carry some duct-tape, as was mentioned in this article.

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If you live in a very hot, but dry area, water resistant might not be as required, and might make the shoe too warm. –  PearsonArtPhoto Jan 25 '12 at 4:30
    
Re wearing in a pair of boots -- modern materials have in most cases made this idea obsolete. You have materials in your boots like kevlar. They don't give, and they don't wear in. You simply have to buy the right size. –  Ben Crowell Nov 21 '13 at 4:53

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