Depending and when or where you hike, your feet have different needs to protect them and to ensure they can easily handle weather conditions. 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.
For the northern United States, winter as well as early spring and late autumn require cold-weather clothing. Hiking boots will need to be waterproofed, and if snow is present you ought to consider wearing mountaineering socks as well as having insulated boots. Always bring extra socks and even shoes to change into after the hike. Boots likely will get wet on a cold-weather hike, and if children are with you, they will need dry socks so they don’t have to suffer through cold feet on the drive home.
Always wear a waterproof boot during rain. As you’ll encounter mud, you’ll want boots with taller lugs to give you increased traction. You may want to consider wearing gaiters – a separate piece that can be strapped over the boots and your lower calves to covers the ankles and lower legs. Combined with waterproof hard shell pants, your feet will stay extremely dry.
Dry, hot summer hikes
Sneakers and cross-trainers are fine if the trail is flat and smooth. If not, get a boot that is lightweight and breathes to keep sweat from pooling in your boots. A lightweight wool sock is good as well; don’t fall for the temptation to wear cotton socks, however.
Cooler, autumn hikes
So long as the weather is dry, you can wear a lightweight breathable boot for most of autumn. Combine it with a thicker wool sock, however, to ensure your feet stay warm. If the weather is wet, go with waterproof boots that have tall lugs to keep your boot out of wet leaves and mud.
Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.