A hiking boot is a style of footwear that is best suited for countryside walking because of its thick and rugged grip, because of its internal padding, and because it reaches up and hugs the ankle of the wearer in order to provide more control when in use. When checking a review for hiking boots, consider durability and comfort.
Hiking boots need to be durable because they take a lot of punishment as users march through open countryside, and they need to be comfortable because walking for extended periods over uneven ground causes the inside of the boot to rub against the foot and ankle. It is also important that you review your shoe size and foot shape because a hiking boot works best if it is a very snug fit. A snug and firm fit will help reduce chafing significantly.
How does a hiking boot work?
A hardened sole is attached to a tough material. The hardened sole helps reduce wear-and-tear while walking. The hardened rubber sole often has a thick and deep grip to help the user walk over rocky and sludgy terrain without slipping.
Internally, there should be fair amount of padding, which adds to comfort, and allows the laces to be tightened in a way that helps the internal padding mould itself to the shape of the foot, which then helps to keep the foot secure and reduces rubbing while walking.
Advantages & Applications
If you are wearing hiking boots, you are less likely to slip while walking on sludgy or uneven ground, and they will last far longer than dress shoes and regular trainers if you are a keen hiker and rambler. If you review the best hiking boots you will discover advantages such as how some are waterproof, and others are easy-clean, and how some have a hardened sole for rough-terrain, while others have slightly softer soles for mountain hikes.
Comfort is a big advantage when using hiking boots because even though trainers are more comfortable on city streets, the best hiking boots cause less chafing and ergo causes less discomfort after extended periods of walking. A hiking boot is also more securely attached to the foot, which means fewer muscles and tendons are used to maintain the position of the boot, which is why it is less tiring to walk in hiking boots that regular shoes. Contrasted with a flip-flop shoe, which requires the most effort to keep attached to the foot while walking, the hiking boot offer the most comfort and protection for people enduring extended periods of rambling over uneven or slippery ground.
As for applications, hiking boots are best used for walking over countryside terrain, over slippery surfaces, and over rocks. Hiking boots are not typically built for deep and regular cleaning, so they are little use in farmyard scenarios, but may be very useful in pasture-farmland scenarios, such as for use by shepherds, cattle tenders, horse carers, etc. Though hiking boots are not best suited for rock climbing, they are suited for rocky terrain and are even useful if you are traversing rocks situated in rivers and streams.
What types of hiking boot are there?
There are water-resistant, water-proof and non-water resistant boots. Regular hiking boots are not water-resistant or water-proof. If you read a review that claims a boot is water resistant, then it means your foot will stay relatively dry in heavy rainfall, if it claims to be waterproof, then you should be able to dunk your foot in a pool of water without getting your sock wet. The water-resistant and water-proof boots are good for walking in sludgy and wet areas, but are poorly ventilated, which means your foot may feel very warm and sweaty.
There are varieties of hiking boot that are best used for inclines and deserts because they ride higher up the ankle and offer more support, and there are some that are best suited for more level ground because they do not ride up and hug the ankle, which means they require less energy to use.
The big hiking boots buyer’s guide
What is the point in searching out the best hiking boots review if your boots have the same problems that run rife through the industry? Here are a few of the most common defects, weak points and product faults that you should look out for.
Poor marketing and defective understanding
One of the most common problems with hiking boots is how they are marketed and how people review them. Manufacturers put a lot of money and time into researching the best shapes, materials and designs to make hiking boots for any occasion. However, sellers and reviewers will often write whatever they think sounds marketable, which leads to people buying the wrong type of hiking boot.
Your boots will not be as durable if they are incorrectly stitched and/or poorly stitched. Many times, the boots will tear themselves apart after extended use because the stitching puts pressure on the material in a way that causes weaker sections to rip.
Sometimes, the boot is designed in a way that means the stitching doesn’t hold the material together correctly, which results in the shoes feeling loose after walking in them on for a few hours.
Not suitable for excessive use
The fact is that some hiking boots are cheaply made, which means they are typically unsuitable for excessive use. Cheaply made hiking boots are only suitable for one-off hiking sessions or very infrequent hiking sessions where there is no need to invest in a good pair of boots. Cheaply made hiking boots will break more easily, they will be harder to clean, harder to maintain, and are more likely to cause chafing that leads to blisters. They may also have cheaper soles which means they offer less grip in slippery areas.
Improper sizing and shapes
A common problem in the entire shoe industry revolves around improper sizing and improper foot shapes. Many times, one size will fit you with one company and not with another. Boot shapes are also a problem with some hiking boots having very wide toe sections and some having very narrow toe sections.
Poorly glued rubber and plastic sections
Plastic and rubber parts of the boot may start to come away or fall of completely because of the glue that holds them together. Sometimes, they are improperly glued because the glue was moist, or not allowed to set, or not heated to the right temperature and is therefore weak and likely to give way.
Soles are too hard or too easily worn away
Giving people a thick and hard sole makes the boot appear more durable than it really is. For example, there are some very durable soles that have a very robust grip that are made out of well-blended gum rubber, and then there are other gum-rubber soles that wear away too quickly.
How to test your hiking boots before you buy, or right after buying them
Trying on hiking boots in shops is the best way to review their quality. You may also ask friends and other hikers if they have a hiking boot preference. You can get a feel for soles that are too hard by trying to bend the boot. Plus, if you touch the sole, you can feel how rubbery and how tacky it feels.
Try pulling the boot apart to see if it is glued and stitched correctly. Examine the areas where it is glued to see if it lines up as well as it should. You may see splashes of glue here and there, which may not be a bad thing, but see if there are areas where glue is particularly lacking.
Check size charts if they are offered by the seller. It is especially encouraging if they give you a shoe size and then a centimetre or millimetre measurement to go along with it. This is because what they consider to be a certain size may not match up with what other sellers consider to be a size. If a company has user reviews complaining about shoe sizes, then you should redouble your efforts to be sure the size you receive is the size that will fit you. Even if this means contacting the seller for cm/mm shoe measurements and dimensions.
Look online for the best reviews and worst reviews. Checking out bad reviews is informative if more than one person complains about the same thing. For example, if two or more people are complaining about how the material rubs their heels, then there may be grounds for suspicion about the quality of the footwear.
Experiences and results from other consumer tests
Which Magazine ran their consumer test in early 2020. They reviewed the best hiking boots based on quantitative data such as shock absorption. The Gear Institute concentrated on lighter hiking boots, which is refreshing for the fact that most concentrate on study hiking boots without realizing that most people are simply countryside walking; they are not rambling through jungles or over rocky-crag-filled cliffs.
What did each study take into account?
- Shock Absorption
- Water Resistance
- Customer Score
- Light and fast
- Best light boots for warm and water environments
- Light for athletic people
- Best light boots for exploring
- Light and water resistant
How did they work?
Which gave out surveys to 1124 people who bought different types of hiking boots off of Amazon. Users were asked to rate different boots with numbers out of ten for things such as comfort, grip, etc. In this case, the sample size is suitably large, but the responses are very subjective. For example, the respondents may have very different ideas about what 10 out of 10 means for grip. In other words, some people are easily impressed and some are not.
Gear Institute gave out free boots to their reviewers and to preferred readers and customers. Gear Institute had them write full reviews about the hiking boots they were given. The reviews were then collected and edited together in order to produce several articles and documents about light hiking boots.
What did they find?
Which discovered that the better-known and the most successful brands manufactured hiking boots with superior quality. However, those manufactures created hiking boots that were overly generic and ergo less suitable for hardcore, determined or frequent ramblers and hikers. For example, a company like Meindl may not be a household name for most people, but they create hiking boots that are ideal for mountaineering because what they lack in waterproofing, they make up for with overly durable and highly effective grip and clever temperature control.
Which also found discovered that some brands are superior simply because they offer a wider variety and selection than others. For example, larger household brand names may have popular ranges, but the woman’s selection of hiking boots on offer with Merrell is far larger than anything Hi-Tech or Nike has to offer.
The Gear Institute concentrated on lighter hiking boots, which is a commonly ignored category when reviewing hiking boots. They discovered that the use of foot-forming construction has improved quality levels in boot manufacture, and that highly engineered boots are able to remove most of the excess material and still create a very sturdy and up-to-the-task hiking boot.
In short, the Gear Institute showed that you should research the types of technology being used in hiking boots if you want to understand their quality. They write about things such as Hyperlock moulded TPU heels, duel-direction flex groove midsoles, and Gore-Tex Surround Ventilation for 360 breathability.
What did the study discover about weak points?
The Gear Institute’s biggest find was that many hiking boots forget about the cuff of the boot. If your boot does not have a stretch gaiter at the cuff, then rainwater and pebbles can get into your boot. It is surprising how many hiking boots claim to be water resistant, and yet have openings near the ankle that are big enough to allow gravel to bounce its way in.
Are there certain properties that seem to differ between different types of hiking boot?
Which found that “Grip” and “Durability” have large differences. Some boots have fantastic grip that works well with most terrain types, even in frost, but they do not last very long. Whereas, some have grip that is only suitable for flat or muddy terrain, and yet the grip is so hard that the boots last a very long time.
The Gear Institute discovered a big difference between what one company considers sizes and what others consider sizes. They have noted several cases where they had to order different sizes for the same people because sizes differed so wildly.
Are there properties or qualities that do not differ between varieties of hiking boot?
Both Which and the Gear Institute found that grip print patterns are equally similar across the board. For example, if a boot was built for sludgy terrain, then it will have a grip pattern that lowers the amount of mud and leaves that gets caught in it, and this applies to boots of all prices and brands.
Are there concrete warnings of potential hazards mentioned?
The only warnings that were given as a result of the Which and Gear Institute studies were centred around picking the wrong type of boot for your activity, such as picking a boot for bog-walking when going mountaineering. Picking the wrong type of boot for your activity can lead to problems such as repetitive strain injuries, unfortunate sprains, chafing, aches, and an increased chance of slipping. Though this is not fully the fault of the manufacturer, they should be clearer about the best uses for their products and maybe insist that sellers do the same.
Hiking Boots Brands
Here are a few facts about different rambling boot brands. This section features something good about each brand and something not-so good about each brand.
- The North Face
They produce some of the lightest boots on the market, and they are sealed in a way that makes it difficult the water to enter. Their boots often have good traction that degrades slowly. The biggest problem with their hiking boots is that their boots sometimes have restrictive widths, and their out soles sometimes peel away too easily.
This company is good at building durable boots that are best suited to muddy conditions. They are also one of many companies that offers both a hard toe-box and a heel cup, which offers more protection to hikers. The most common criticism revolves around ankle support and or boots being unsuitable for men and women with thicker ankles.
This company offers cheap-to-middle priced boots, and each will often have a smattering of technology that elevates it above lesser brands, as anti-microbial properties and/or waterproof fibre insulation. The biggest and most common problem with their hiking boots are how they require a few days to break them in. Their hiking boots are sometimes squeaky at first, or are overly stiff, or feel very tight for the first few days.
This company offers low-priced boots that are not of a poor quality. They do it by keeping costs down rather than by skimping on technology and/or materials. The company has a habit of going to extremes. For example, its durable boots are woefully heavy, and their lighter boots offer little protection from the elements.
This company tries to make boots that last a long time, which often means they are not the most creative or adventurous designers. Their design and building methods mean your boots will perform just as well in a year as they did the first month you owned them, but Meindl boots are far from being the most stylish or attractive hiking boots on the market.
If you want comfort out of the box, then Merrell is definitely the company for you, and they have ventilated designs that are some of the most breathable hiking boots on the market. Their ventilated boots are probably the best in the business, but they almost always sacrifice water resistance. If you buy their ventilated boots, you will have to stay out of puddles and heavy rain.
This company excels in making boots for trail walking, hill walking, and for hiking-related athletics. Despite the fact that The North Face will typically load their boots with technology, they are often the last adopters. For example, many companies were using Gore Tex long before The North Face started adding it to their boots.
This company will typically make inexpensive boots that use various mixes of rubber and plastic to help ensure the shoes last as long as they can for the price you pay, which is what elevates this company above lesser brand. However, their low-priced boots are not suitable for hardcore hiking enthusiasts.
This company is good at making hiking boots that are deceptively light and that are very comfortable. They do not make durable boots, which means they will last longer if they are not overused or exposed to extreme environments.
This company makes boots that many consider to be more traditional, which usually includes the use of expensive leathers that makes the boots very easy to maintain. The downside is that your Scarpa boots will last a long time if you maintain them, and if you do not maintain them, then the eyelets will stop working and the leather will crack.
Interesting facts & guide
The first hiking boots, as we understand them, were woven sandals, which were created 12,000 years ago. Archaeologists discovered what we may consider to be modern shoes in the year 3,000 BC. These shoes had leather that stretched the bottom of the sole. This made walking easier for people to walk on stones and rocks.
The Forest History Society say that in the early 20th century, people decided that hiking was a leisure activity. This was commented on in the movie “Back to the Future 3” where Marty is belittled for his running shoes. When World War One ended in 1918, cobblers from northern Italy started tailoring boots for hikers. Even though Italy made strong hiking boots, they were not comfortable.
Safety instructions regarding Hiking Boots
10 tips for care & maintenance
Are there any Hiking Boots alternatives?
If you were to run a comparison on hiking boots and hiking shoes, you may find that hiking boots are better for harsher conditions. The best hiking boots can take a beating. On the other hand, the best hiking shoes are good for extremely long rambles, or hikes of a more athletic nature.
Upon closer inspection, you may find hiking shoes are most suitable for occasions where the terrain is fair, or where overheating is an issue. Hiking boots are best for rough terrain, harsh conditions, and for colder situations. The best hiking shoes tend to have a lot of mesh that allows for quicker heat transference, which is great in situations where your feet are warm.
If you are looking to review alternatives to hiking boots, then run a comparison between situation-specific cases. For example, a situation may be a very muddy and boggy ramble over a short distance. In such a case, run a comparison between hiking boots and Wellington boots because the Wellies may come out on top.
Hiking Boots FAQ
Are cheap hiking boots worth it?
If you want a test winner, then cheap hiking boots are not going to win. The best boots are often the ones that reviewer note as the most expensive. Nevertheless, if you are taking up hiking a hobby, then having the right sort of boots and shoes is a big plus, and hiking boots are best suited for rough terrain.
Give cheap hiking boots a practical test and see for yourself. If your evaluation proves that cheap hiking boots are not suitable for you, then use them until they wear out, and next time you can buy more expensive hiking boots that have the best performance ratings as given by reviewers.
How long to hiking boots last?
Compare them to regular trainers or shoes, and they will last the same amount of time on city streets. They are not best suited for city streets, but they will last as long as any other type of shoe. However, in the country and over rough terrain, your hiking boots will win any trial you give them.
What are Graphene hiking boots and why should I care?
When Gore-Tex was created, most test results proved it to be one of the best shoe-making materials of all time. Graphene is thought to be the next step in the evolution of the shoe wear. It is a material that is built into the rubber sole of your shoe to make it last longer and to make it stronger.
Can hiking boots be used in snow?
Some are designed to do their best work in snowy conditions, but is all about picking the right pair. It is hard to sample a pair of hiking boots in snow since it doesn’t snow that often, but the manufacturer should point out if it was built for snowy conditions, and there are often reviews that tell you which are good for snowy terrain. Some hiking boots will do their best work in snow, icy sludge and in frosty conditions.
What is the difference between waterproof and water-resistant hiking boots?
If you were to sample and trial waterproof hiking boots in a puddle, then the best ones will let no water in at all. You can test waterproof hiking boots by submerging them half-way in water, whereupon the test result should leave you with a dry sock.
Are there such a thing as breathable hiking boots?
Many types of hiking boot will have some form of breathable layer. The most common is a mesh layer. Many different types of trainer have a breathable layer on the top or down the sides, and many bare a similarity to the breathable sections in modern hiking boots.
Breathable simply means that the boots do not get too hot when you wear them. If you are looking for boots to wear in warm or hot-and-dry conditions, then check out which boots the reviewers say are the best, and look for the words “Breathable” in product descriptions on merchant websites.
Do lighter hiking boots break more easily?
Extensive examination has proved that the lightness of a boot doesn’t affect how easily breakable the boot will be or will become. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a very durable boot, then a thicker and stronger boot will last longer.
Do hiking boots “Have” to be used for hiking?
Nobody is going to arrest you for wearing your hiking boots to a wedding or funeral, but it is all about suitability. Wearing high heels to go rambling may cause injury, whereas wearing your hiking boots to go driving will not. Hiking boots are built for the types of terrain and conditions that you will experience when you are hiking, so it makes sense that you wear them when you go hiking/rambling.
Are rambling boots and hiking boots the same thing?
The best rambling boots and the best hiking boots bare an exact similarity because the words rambling and hiking are interchangeable on eCommerce websites. Websites try to capture more web traffic by using different synonyms for the same thing, which is why you will see hiking boots also being called rambling boots, trail boots, hiking shoes, etc.
Should I buy Velcro strap hiking boots?
If you were to hold Velcro strap boots under some sort of examination and comparison with lace-up hiking boots, then the test result would claim that lace-up boots are the most effective. Yet, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with hiking boots that use Velcro, and the best Velcro boots are often more convenient than lace up boots. Check reviews to see which are the best and most reliable Velcro boots onto market.
What is the difference between hiking boots and hiking shoes?
In accordance to distance selling laws, one must not describe shoes as boots, and yet the definitions are a little loose. In short, if the boot/shoe rides up your ankle at least half-way, then you are dealing with a boot. If the sole is thicker or stronger, then you are probably dealing with a boot. The best hiking boots may also contain toe caps for extra protection. Some people say that the best boots are thicker, and that the best shoes are thinner and lighter.