|Different hiking boots work better on different terrain.|
While some avid backpackers have multiple hiking boots to meet different situations they encounter, for most day hiker that’s impractical. The challenge then is to find the right boot that works best in the conditions you most frequently hike.
Here are descriptions of the ideal hiking boot and sock for various terrain.
In the desert, you’ll want footwear with ankle support, that breathes, and that has a soft, flexible sole to ensure traction. To that end, wear lightweight, breathable hiking boots. Sandals will expose your skin to sunburn, thorns and sharp rocks while running shoes lack the ankle support needed for crossing rocky terrain.
Easy, dry trails
For flat, smooth, dry trails, sneakers and cross-trainers are just fine. If you really want to head onto less traveled roads or tackle areas that aren’t typically dry, though, you’ll need hiking boots.
In some parts of the United States, such as the Pacific Northwest, trail sections will be muddy even after a few days of dry weather have passed. Sneakers quickly will become soaked and unable to traverse mud. Hiking boots with taller lugs will provide increased traction.
Snowy, icy trails
Waterproof boots that are insulated work best. About 400 grams of insulation will keep your feet warm in 20 below F conditions. If you snowshoe, make sure the boots are snowshoe compatible. If going above the tree line or onto glaciers, you’ll want the boots to be crampon compatible as well.
Rocky, steep trails
Once you start doing any rocky or steep trails, you’ll want hiking boots that offer rugged tread for handling the rough terrain. The boots also should be durable to withstand bends caused by uneven footfalls and so that sharp rocks can’t press against or pierce the leather.
Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.