Finding the right footwear can make such a difference in your comfort and hiking experience. There are so many options in hiking shoes, trail runners, hiking boots, and hiking sandals, It’s great there are so many options, but it can feel overwhelming to know where to start. The first thing I recommend is considering whether you prefer a boot or shoe.
Boots offer more support for your ankles, which can help significantly if you go on longer hikes or if you are prone to rolling your ankle. If you are not a seasoned hiker, you may also prefer these to protect you while your muscles and tendons strengthen. If you are a regular hiker, you may prefer them for the added support on long or strenuous hikes.
Hiking shoes are lighter and more flexible. If you are a trail runner or prefer the lighter feel, then a hiking shoe or trail runner might be a better fit for you.
Hiking sandals are great if you will be hiking in and out of streams, sand or in the heat. I do not recommend only having hiking sandals, but they are a nice option for certain hikes. Depending on the hike you may want to get some neoprene socks for under the sandals. These are like a wetsuit for your feet to keep your toes warm in cold water.
Hiking Sandals are also a great option if you like to kayak or spend time in the water with foot protection.
Is it worth the investment?
If you only go on a few hikes a year, then you can probably get away with your running shoes or cheap hiking boots from Costco or something, but if you plan to hike frequently, or if you are an adult and won’t be switching sizes, it might be worth investing a little more in decent hiking boots or shoes. I have gotten my last several pairs at Outlet stores or on clearance at the end of the season, so I have been able to get my shoes for less than half price. That is a great route to save some money.
Brands of Hiking Shoes
There are many reputable brands that avid hikers swear by. I recommend trying on shoes from at least a few brands to compare the fit and feel. This is not a comprehensive list, but here are some brands to get you started:
Hiking Boot or Shoe Fit
Regardless of the brand, you will want to size up 1/2-1 full size larger then your typical shoe size. Feet can swell when hiking and when you go downhill you don’t want your toes to touch the front of your shoe. You do not want them so large that your feet slide around inside. Typically, if you lace them correctly, you can make your foot secure without lacing them too tight. You can actually exacerbate the swelling if your feet are too compressed.
Also, consider the socks you will be wearing. I just used cheap socks for years, but recently invested in some nicer Stance and Darn Tough brands. They are super nice, especially for longer hikes. Compression socks can also be a great option for improved circulation. If you will be hiking in the cold or have any chance of getting wet, wool socks are a must.
Another possibility is getting some shoe inserts. I always do since I had tendon problems running. My podiatrist says he recommends everyone use them and since you can get some good ones for around $20-40 on Amazon, it doesn’t cost much for the improved comfort and support. Here is one my podiatrist recommended.
So now I’ll tell you the shoes I’ve been using. I have the Women’s Lone Peak 4 RSM. It comes in both a shoe and a boot. The “RSM” indicates that it is waterproof. I have loved these shoes! They are super comfortable and have incredible grip! They have a nice wide toe box and built-in straps for adding quick gaiters (to keep debris or snow out of shoes). These shoes have taken me up many mountains! I was not compensated in any way. I just love these trailrunners!
When my shoes wore out I decided to get Altra Lone Peaks again, this time in boots. They are great too, especially when it’s rocky terrain or the snow isn’t deep.
My newest shoes are Hoka Speedgoat 5 and they are great! They are more like a typical running shoe, but they give enough support in most cases.
My hiking sandal is the Keen Women’s Venice H2. I have had them for two years and they have been a great investment.
Before Buying New Hiking Footwear
I tried on a number of different pairs until I found the ones I have owned. I recommend going to REI or another sports store or if you have Amazon Prime you can order a bunch and return the ones that don’t fit.
There are probably multiple brands and styles that will be a great fit. The best way to know is to try some out. Remember to get them a bit big so your toes will have plenty of room. Finding the right footwear will make a huge difference in your comfort!
- The photos above are from Kanarra Falls, Sunset Peak, Brighton Loop, Red Pine Lake, Silver Lake, Johnson’s Canyon and Arch, Grove Greek Canyon, Mirror Lake and Snow Canyon Petroglyphs
If hiking in the winter, check out these posts: