Gear Guides

Hiking boots buyer’s guide

Choosing suitable footwear is essential for outdoor adventures – there’s nothing worse than achy feet and blisters! Your perfect pair of hiking boots will help support your feet, compliment your terrain and keep you comfy for years. Whether you’re a casual day hiker or an expert mountaineer, these handy tips make picking the right type of shoes easier.

Hiking boot parts and jargon-busting

Can’t tell your shoe shanks from your strap-on crampons? Hiking boots come in many styles, so walk through these basics and feel more confident about what you need.

Outsole: The rubber bottom that provides the grip. Different ‘lug’ patterns suit different types of terrain – deep and widely spaced lugs shed mud easily, while finer patterns hold rocks better.

Midsole: Provides impact protection and cushions your foot on rugged terrain. Midsoles define how stiff or flexible your shoes feel and the ‘shanks’ or ‘plates’ inside add extra support.

Upper: The main part of the boot, covering your foot. Leather is heavy and long-lasting, while synthetics are light and breathable. Choose durable, water-resistant materials to protect your feet.

Lining: A waterproof liner should still allow your feet to breathe, while helping keep them dry from rain and sweat. It also helps with all-round cushioning and adds insulation for winter hiking.

Weight: Funnily enough, the weight of the boots! Soft lightweight boots are ideal for day hiking, midweights have added ankle stability for backpacking, and heavyweights are alpine-ready.

Cut: High cut boots cover and support your ankles – choose higher, more rigid boots if you’re carrying heavy loads. Day hikers can also try low cut hiking shoes, a light but sturdy alternative.

Accessories: For added protection, try toe caps or a wide rubber strap called a ‘rand’. If you’re tackling ice, strap-on or step-in ‘crampons’ can be attached to boots for winter safety.

Which hiking boots are right for me?

Consider where and when you’ll be using your hiking boots – pick them for purpose, rather than how stylish they look. Different types of environment need different levels of support, so remember to think about which season and weather you’ll be hiking in.

Rambling: Day hiking on flat and easy-going terrain? A pair of lightweight hiking shoes is the perfect step-up from trainers, providing more support while not being overkill. If you’re a summer walker, skipping out on a waterproof lining helps keep your feet fresh.

Hill walking: Hiking boots support your ankles and their stiffer midsoles help to protect your feet from uneven terrain. Choose an outsole that has good grip in mud, but still feels stable on rocks. Hiking boots can have sturdy leather or flexible synthetic uppers, or a mix of both.

Backpacking: If you’re planning on city-hopping around England and Wales, or are staying at one of our London hostels, ensure that you choose a supportive cut that goes above your ankles and can bear the extra weight of your rucksack. Leather hiking boots are water-resistant and long-lasting – ideal for multi-day travel – and stiff midsoles give lasting cushioning for unpredictable journeys.

Mountaineering: Whether you’re hiking near our Peak District hostels or taking on big climbs in Snowdonia, serious mountaineers will need boots with stiff midsoles, full shanks and a high cut. Look out for extra insulation and waterproof layers which are tough enough for unforgiving conditions. Some can accommodate winter climbing accessories like crampons.

Buying and looking after your hiking boots

Hiking boots aren’t cheap, so getting the right size and fit is crucial for a happy investment! Try shoes on at the end of the day (your feet swell) and look for a cosy fit that won’t slip around, but still has plenty of toe-wriggle room. Take your fave walking socks, have a trek around the store and see how the hiking boots feel on stairs or climbing a slope.

Stiff boots can feel painful as you break them in, so don’t go on a multi-day hike just yet. Get accustomed to how your new shoes work, let them soften up and buy insoles if you need them. Once you’re adventuring, give your boots TLC after every hike and you’ll help them last for years – leather boots can crack if not cared for. There are lots of handy products to keep your shoes clean, waterproof and in top condition, so follow any instructions that come with them.

With some fantastic walking routes near us, many of our hostels have drying rooms to store your muddy boots in. Check out some of our favourite UK hiking trails and put your feet to the test.

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