Adults always should wear hiking boots, especially if they have either a child carrier or a backpack strapped over their shoulders. If lugging about nothing more than a small daypack, you probably can get away with wearing crosstrainers, trekking shoes or trail-running shoes so long as you stick to fairly level, short footpaths.
Shop for hiking boots in the afternoon when feet are slightly swollen from having been walked on earlier that day. Also wear the socks you plan to don when hiking. If you wear insoles or orthotics, make sure they go into the boot as well.
Look for the following qualities in a hiking boot:
• Fit – Ill-fitting boots means blisters and foot pain. A boot should feel snug, yet you should be able to wriggle toes and have no pressure points.
• Support – A good boot for day hiking will have a soft collar to support the ankle and to keep pebbles or other debris from getting into the shoe. Ankle-high boots will give good support without restricting movement. If the boot allows your foot to flatten out, then it’s not providing enough arch support.
• Sturdy – The sole and the boot’s upper part should be firmly attached. It ought to be flexible enough that you have a full range of motion but not at the price of the boot stressing so it can’t provide support.
• Water-resistant – A boot needs to keep moisture from getting to the foot, but it also needs to breathe so the foot doesn’t get swampy, as this can lead to discomfort and blisters. Waterproof boots won’t breathe. For winter hikes and trails in wetlands, waterproof boots are a must, however.
• Traction – You want thick, nonskid rubber soles, which are good for keeping your footing on a variety of terrain, such as slippery wet rocks, mud and sand. The outsole should have deep tread to improve your grip on slippery surfaces.
• Durable – The boot should last a few years. Children and teens always should be able to outgrow a boot.
Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.