Hiking is one of the best ways to discover the beauty of nature. For me, it’s the perfect way to get solitude and a break from the stress of everyday life. I enjoy feeling a connection to nature and seeing things that few people get to see because of the effort it takes to get there. Unlike walking on a paved path or treadmill, hiking involves more variables, unpredictable sometimes, and they are part of what makes the experience so fun and enjoyable.
Not only hiking has led me to the most impressive sceneries I’ve ever seen in my life, but also it has helped me reduce my anxiety. It offers multiple physical and mental benefits and even though it may seem a little daunting for beginners, with the right preparation, you can get your body and mind ready for a hiking adventure.
Start small and choose the right trail for your fitness level. You could use some tips for choosing a daypack, dress in layers and most importantly, choose the correct footwear. As I’ve learned the hard way, having a successful hike starts with having the right outdoor shoes.
What Are Outdoor Shoes?
This type of shoes takes the best elements of hiking boots and trail runners and combines them into one. You can choose from a variety of outdoor shoes, designed with durability and protection in mind, offering the best balance for hikers. Whether you go for an easy day hike or a long backpacking trip, you need functional, reliable and comfortable footwear. There are several types of footwear suited for the trail and the following are some of the most popular ones these days.
They are ideal for low-intensity summer trips. They are my preferred footwear for summer hikes, as I like the comfort of a barefoot-like experience. Hiking sandals keep your feet dry and cool and the best thing is that you don’t have to take them off when fording rivers and streams. They are a great choice for casual hiking on well-maintained trails, however, hiking sandals with shock-absorbing outsoles and rimmed edges are good for longer and more difficult hikes as well.
These shoes are hybrids of hiking shoes and climbing shoes and are mostly used by climbers to get up and over rocky terrain and to the climbing site. They have special sticky rubber soles to maintain traction on steeper rock levels.
Lightweight Hiking and Trail Shoes
These are a great choice for a day or weekend hike and walking on natural or rocky trails. Trail shoes have soles designed to give good stability and traction on natural surfaces and protect your feet from rocks. They are breathable, comfortable and cushioned, and since I’m usually not carrying a heavy pack, these are my favourite choice.
Mid-weight boots are outdoor boots that are most suitable for climbing mountains with heavy terrain and steep hiking trails. They take the benefits of low hiking shoes and add additional ankle support.
Hiking boots are more supportive and protective than hiking shoes. You can find some that are simply higher-cut version of hiking shoes, or others that feature slightly stiffer construction. However, both types offer more support than shoes, but keep in mind that they’re heavier.
These boots are made for various terrains, both on and off the trail. If you’re going for a multi-day trek, backpacking boots are a great choice for you. Their durability and stiff sole can help you fight through almost any conditions.
If you’re traversing snowy paths, glacial trails or rocky territory, a pair of mountaineering boots is the one for you. They’re designed to handle a heavy load and can stand up against the toughest terrain.
Tips on How to Choose the Perfect Outdoor Footwear
I know choosing outdoor footwear can be a daunting task. The difference between blisters and bliss is finding a great fit, but it doesn’t stop there. We all know the importance of arch support in shoes , but to help you narrow down your choices, here are the two main factors to keep in mind when considering each type of shoe.
Since walkers strike with the heel first, you don’t want a big flared heel. A slightly undercut heel is a better choice to facilitate the heel-to-toe rolling action of walking. A flared heel, on the other hand, is a good option for walking on uneven surfaces.
Materials impact a boot’s weight, breathability, durability and water resistance. From full-grain leather to split-grain leather, synthetics, waterproof membranes and vegan-friendly hiking boots, you can choose hiking boot uppers that meet your needs the most.
When it comes to hiking boot midsoles, the most common materials are EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) and PU (polyurethane). EVA is a bit cushier and lighter, while PU is generally firmer and more durable, usually found in mountaineering and backpacking boots.
Rubber is used on all hiking boot outsoles. Carbon can be used as an additive on backpacking or mountaineering boots to boost hardness. Hard outsoles increase durability but keep in mind that if you go off-trail, they may feel slick.
Always choose your footwear according to the surface, weather conditions, distance of the trail and of course, your own preferences and don’t forget about good socks. When it’s hot, go thinner, and if you buy hiking footwear for the winter, opt for a half-size up to allow for thicker socks.