Comfy feet make for a comfy walk and with a variety of outdoor footwear types on the market it can be tricky to know what shoe is right for you and your chosen activity. Our handy guide will help you select the right type of footwear to match your ambitions.
The high or mid cut models of a hiking boot are defined by a collar which covers the ankle to provide stability and protection. Stiffer and heavier than hiking shoes, they often feature full-length shanks to provide additional torsional stability. A good pair will require little break in time (although this is still recommended before a hike).
- Any type of hiking that requires ankle support. For example, steep acents and descents, and trails involving a lot of mud and puddles, which is most likely to be during the winter months.
- Backpacking with medium to heavy loads.
These lighter, low-cut models are ideal for day hikes on varied terrain. They provide more support and durability than trail running shoes, but won't weigh you down as much as a hiking boot. They are comfortable with flexible midsoles for motion control and often feature a waterproof membrane.
- Day hikes or fast hiking on trails with smoother terrain that don’t require ankle support.
- Backpacking with light to medium loads.
These durable models feature a high cut which wraps above the ankle for excellent support. They feature stiffer midsoles to accommodate heavier loads and accept crampons for alpine hikes.
- Multi-day trips deep into the backcountry. They are designed to offer support when carrying heavy loads.
Approach shoes have a low cut and a softer rubber sole to accommodate those trails that involve a lot of scrambling up ridges. They provide a closer fit than hiking shoes and the lacing system will allow a lot of tightening for a snug fit.
- Hikes involving climbing, ridge scrambles or via ferrata.
- Some people with narrower feet prefer the snug fit of an approach shoe for hiking, however be wary that the sole will not be as durable as a traditional hiking shoe.
Despite the name, trail runners aren't just for running. Many experienced hikers and backpackers use them on all kinds of terrain. They are the lightest type of shoe suitable for outdoor adventures, however they provide much less support and durability than hiking shoes.
- Hikers with strong feet and ankles like to use them on dry, well maintained trails with light loads when they want to prioritise weight saving over support and durability.
- However, as the name suggests, they are best used for trail running.
- Know your size - it sounds obvious, but in order to know your exact shoe size get measured in store.
- Wear appropriate socks - it is likely you'll wear thick hiking socks with your winter hiking boots, if so then wear these when trying on your boots.
- Consider insoles - you may wish to add an insole or footbed to increase underfoot comfort or improve fit. If you do, consider this when trying on your boots.
- Be wary of differing sizes across brands - one brand's size 8 is another's 8.5, if you are purchasing online try to find out about the fit from reviews or information websites. Or to be safe, purchase a brand you have worn previously.
- Consider swelling - your feet normally swell during the day's activities, so it best to try on boots at the end of the day. Otherwise bear this mind when deciding between two sizes; the larger size is usually the best choice.
No matter what type you choose, it’s important to treat your footwear with some regular TLC to keep them working in peak condition.
Need some help treating your kit? See our Reproof Your Kit guide for more details.