7 tips on how to choose hiking boots you’ll love

In our day to day lives the majority of us spend much of our time sitting down. Sure, we’ll do some walking and running here and there, maybe some skipping and jumping too. But mostly sitting (or sleeping!). So to then expect our feet (and the rest of our bodies for that matter!) to deal with days on end of walking should seem like madness!

But it’s not. Our bodies adapt quickly and with the right fitness plan and training a walking holiday will be no problem at all. That said, there are most certainly a few things that can seriously help adapting to prolonged periods of walking much easier. Like choosing the right footwear.

Choosing a great pair of walking boots or shoes is something worth spending time and money on, and making sure that they are super comfortable is the absolute most important thing to get right. Even a short day hike can turn into an endurance test that goes way beyond enjoyable if your boots are uncomfortable. Most people walk and hike for pleasure, so don’t ruin it with the wrong footwear.

This 6 tips will help you figure out what you need to look for in a great pair of walking boots and will help you make sure you get the right pair for you.

1. Understand your needs

Before you even start your search for the perfect pair of walking boots it’s really important to have a clear picture of what sort of hiking you will be mostly doing. Consider the following things:

The weather

  • Hot, dry conditions call for breathable uppers and a mid or low cut at the ankle.
  • Cold, wet weather will require the boots to be waterproof with a higher cut.

The terrain

  • Steep and challenging terrain requires high cut boots for stability with excellent grip and deep lugs in the outsoles.
  • On flat and easy terrain hiking shoes can often be a good option as your ankles won’t need as much support as on challenging terrain. You should also consider lightweight boots.

The load

  • If you will only be carrying a daypack on your walks and hikes, mid cut lightweight boots or low cut shoes may be just what you need. But this will also depend on the terrain and the weather.
  • If you will be carrying a fully loaded backpack you’ll need to opt for a heavier high cut boot which will help provide stability and support.

2. Know your feet

This may sound like a bit of an odd tip, but knowing your feet is really helpful in narrowing down your search for the right walking boots. If you have especially wide or narrow feet you can immediately head towards specific brands that typically cater for differences in width. Equally, if you have flat feet or very high arches you can steer clear of some boot models and head straight for others. Your shop assistant can help with pointing you towards the right boots, but you’ll need to give them that information in the first place.

Another thing to bear in mind is whether you have weak ankles. If so then be sure to look for high cut boots that will offer maximal support where needed.

3. Understand what you’re stepping into

Starting your walking boot search with some background information on the make up of hiking boots is also important. If you shop in store it’s likely that your shop assistant will use a whole load of complex terminology to sell you the boots. Get one step ahead and know your stuff about boots, and not only will you be able to keep up and understand just what they’re rambling on about, but you’ll also have a better understanding of the value of the boots.

Here’s a handy guide to get familiar with before you go shopping:


4. Time your shopping trip

You’re armed with all the info, and you have a clear idea about where and how you’ll be using your walking boots. Now the fun begins – it’s shopping time! As tempting as it may be to get out early in the day and get it done, shopping for footwear in the morning is a common mistake that you should try to avoid if possible. Get out in the afternoon, however, and your feet will have swollen slightly compared with first thing in the day. And fitting boots when you have swollen feet is much more realistic to how they will be when you’re hiking. So save your shopping trip until the afternoon if you can.

5. Try on loads of boots

Trying boots on can be a bit of time consuming event. But it’s really worth taking the time to try on as many boots as possible. When you just spend 5 minutes trialing boots on a shop floor it can be difficult to know just how comfortable a new pair of boots actually are. So it’s essential to compare how lots of different boots feel. And once you find the ‘right’ pair, hopefully you’ll know it!

6. Wear the right socks

If you are buying walking boots for the first time then you may not know what type of hiking socks to choose, or indeed what you prefer. If this is the case then be sure to ask your shop assistant to recommend a pair based on the conditions you’ll be hiking in. It’s then key to wear these socks when trying on new boots to help you get the best fit possible. If you already have hiking socks that you love and are comfortable, be sure to wear them when trying on new boots.

7. Over order

If you prefer shopping online then be sure to do your research before you buy. There is a load of information on hiking boots online that will help narrow down your search for boots to suit the conditions and your feet, so take the time to read up. Once you’ve found a few options that sound and look great, order them all! That way you can properly compare them, spend lots of time walking up and down the stairs in your house (on the carpet of course!) to test them, and then send back the ones that don’t make the cut.

It may seem like a lot of work just to choose a pair of shoes, but when you’re forking out a lot of money it really is worth it – not to mention the discomfort and pain you’ll avoid.

So embrace the trying-on process, take on as much knowledge as you can and enjoy taking a step towards choosing hiking boots that you’ll love.


For more hiking tips you can visit Joey’s blog for more insights into her trips at Cool of the Wild. To get more outdoor gear tips for your Camino journey you can download our free packing guide or contact one of our travel specialists anytime.



  1. By Maria

    Thank you for sharing your advice and suggestions, Antonio. Kind regards.

  2. By Antonio Wong

    We took a three months trip in Europe, most of the trip found us walking and exploring different types of areas, city, rural, coastal and rugged hilly areas. Prior to my trip I spent a few months trying on different types of shoes and was able to settle on a pair of shoes that were just perfect for the type of trip we took. I bought my shoes through REI, since I have always trusted their customer service this was the best way to explore different brands and their selection is basically huge. I was able to settle in a pair of Garamond mid uncle type, model name Santiago. They were incredibly comfortable since minute one. I used this shoe almost every day during the months of February to April. Rain and ice were of no concern and heat was almost not a problem. I used socks that were 60% or more wool and on hot days 100% cotton. Socks are just as important as shoes so try good país and avoid polyester types as they will give you blisters. When I got back home the shoes almost looked like new after cleaning the dirt and dust off them. If this helps someone in selecting their shoes, I wish them a great trip.

  3. By Lisa

    Hi Bridget, Joey has advised that you could take a look at brands such as Salomon, Keen and Vasque. They all do decent quality kids boots with some good waterproof options. The Salomon X-Utlra Mid GTX J boots have a Gore-tex membrane and also a Contragrip outsole. That said, it is unlikely these options will last as long as the adult versions. So be sure to clean your boots after each use and apply regular waterproofing treatment like Nikwax. This will certainly help them last a little longer and prolong the waterproofness of them. If we can help in any other way please let us know. Kindest wishes, Lisa from CaminoWays.

  4. By Bridget March

    Hi Joey,
    I have just read your tips for buying hiking boots with interest; however I have a huge problem and that is I only take a size 1! It is so difficult to get decent boots as companies just don’t cater for adults with small feet and children’s boots are just not robust enough – the average 8 year old girl takes a size 1.
    In recent years I have been alternating between Brasher and Berghaus, both of whom did a junior gortex boot with vibram sole, however both companies have now stopped making boots for children. Whilst good, these boots only stay fully waterproof for a couple of months so I always end up with very wet feet.
    Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

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