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How to buy hiking boots

Boots are, without a doubt, the most important piece of gear you take on the trail. They will make or break your trip. If you have a really bad experience with your boots, you can’t enjoy anything else. So before you buy your next pair, here are some things to consider.


The Gear Guy is currently researching new models and writing an update to this article. Watch for his updated tips and reviews in the May 2016 issue of Boys’ Life.


If you’re backpacking, look for a leather high-top boot with lots of ankle support. For those day hikes without a backpack, mid-top boots made of synthetic materials are a good option.

Trail runners are O.K. to wear if it’s a completely flat trail with no risk of turning an ankle, but when people go backpacking in trail runners, they’re asking for trouble.

It’s better to have a boot that’s more stout than to have a boot that’s not up for the job.


Leather boots offer excellent ankle and foot stability on difficult terrain, and they are usually more waterproof and durable than synthetic boots. But each step comes a little easier with synthetic boots because they are lighter, more flexible and more comfortable right out of the box than leather. They are also usually more affordable.


Like the tires on a car, the rubber-lug boot sole keeps your feet from slipping on the trail. The deeper the tread, the more grip you have. The sole should feel hard, and it should have plenty of knobbiness to it. Look for Vibram brand soles — they’re the best you can buy.



When it comes to hiking boots, you usually get what you pay for. That said, because your feet are still growing, your parents probably don’t want to spend a fortune on new boots that won’t fit after a while. Luckily, you can find lots of good deals if you know where to look. Check the Internet for online outfitters with closeout sales, and ever local outdoor store has a clearance section. Bottom line: Buy the best, quality boots that fit your budget.


Try on as many hiking boots as you can. Hike around the store for at least 10 minutes or so per pair. And for the most realistic fit, you should bring the exact socks you’ll wear on your hike. Your feet are largest in the afternoon, so shop then if possible.

The heel should be snug, and you want enough room in the toe so you can wiggle your toes. Kick the floor and see if your toes hit the end. Think about when you’re hiking downhill, are your toes going to hit the front of the boot? If winter camping is in your future, look for a boot with a little extra toe room so your feet have plenty of circulation.

Never wear your boots on the trail straight out of the box. Break them in first. Wear them to school, around the house, everywhere your mom will let you wear them. They’ll just get more comfortable the more you wear them.


Always clean your boots after every hike. If you have leather hiking boots, apply a leather treatment like Nikwax every once in a while to keep them waterproof and prevent cracking and drying out. Never dry wet boots by the campfire. The heat will damage the soles and weaken the glue that holds them together. To dry them out, just remove the insoles and stuff your boots with newspaper.

41 Comments on How to buy hiking boots

  1. Make sure they fit right. Comfort, comfort, comfort. If something doesn’t feel right in the store, it will be torture on the trail. Wear the same socks or sock combination that you will wear hiking for fitting. I like fabric / leather combination uppers because they don’t take no time at all to break in.

  2. Captain Scout // January 31, 2013 at 9:15 pm // Reply

    Timberland boots, buy them for life.

  3. Merrell Chameleon Mid Waterproof Boots are super comfortable boots that I got at REI for $65. I used them on a week long backpacking trip (31 Miles) in Utah’s High Uintas Wilderness and they were very comfortable under a 30 pound pack.

  4. November-Now is a great time to buy hiking boots: season close outs. I can usually buy the boots I want at a 40-50% off discount. Great time to suggest to parents for a Christmas gift.

  5. I have the ones from Cabelas they work great if you have been to Quivira Scout Ranch the trails there are rough and these worked fine.

  6. keens are awesome

  7. i think that they all look pretty cool.

    • outdoorman55 // October 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm // Reply

      they may look cool, but do they fit you,are they durable,do they fit your style,or are they comfortable enough to walk for a long time?These are questions you need to ask yourself when buying any type of shoe,boot,or sandle.

      :)(: think twice about EVERYTHING!!!!!

  8. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // August 29, 2012 at 10:14 pm // Reply

    I just got a new pair of Merrel heavy duty hikers.

  9. brahma hiking boots are very comfortable but they are a little heavy but i got used to them and they are cheap bought mine at walmart on sale for about 10 bucks or so

  10. No boot is ever waterproof. The brand “Snow Seal” is the best waterproofer there is for LEATHER.

    • I agree. Been using it for years and have never had a problem. Good call MT scout.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // October 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm // Reply

      Well actually as long as the boot says WATER-PROOF they should be water proof enough to last a while. As for Rewater proofing them I use good ol’ mink oil.

      • I used to use mink oil, a lot. Only problem is if you plan on keeping the same boots for more than 5 years, mink oil breaks down the boots glue seals and stitching where as Snow Seal does not. Mink oil is also a scent product meaning animals are attracted to it. Not a good thing for wilderness camping. It’s a-number-one for soccer shoes though.

      • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // November 26, 2012 at 2:06 pm //

        Hmmmmmm… is that personal experance or just internet hype?

  11. Timberland’s are great and very universal because they are very light in weight.

  12. Delta Force // May 3, 2012 at 12:36 pm // Reply

    Oakley “HellBound” Para-boots are what I used and they saved my feet on more then one occasion.

    • Wow I wish I had enough money that I could waist it on boots too. Anyways I have a really nice pair of Timberlands now. why spend $600 on boots when you can get a perfectly good pair for a few bucks?? sounds like overkill to me.

      • Delta Force // June 5, 2012 at 10:17 am //

        Ha-Ha good one. But you cant get a good pair for just a few bucks. and for your information they where ISSUED to me so I did not buy them, the government did. My boots had to be bullet resistant as i was a Para rescue-man for 8 years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now I use light weight Merrel’s when scouting with the boys and when hunting.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // August 29, 2012 at 10:17 pm // Reply

      @ delta. Your boots sound really tough but I could never afford them and I dont think any other scout could afford it either. Thank you for preserving my freedom though!

  13. On the Contrary // April 21, 2012 at 9:11 am // Reply

    I bought a Pair of Steel toe Combats at my friendly neighborhood Military Surplus store , if you have a big foot ( Im size 10 and a half) then go to a surplus store , i got these for like 20$ and wore then for 3 years and they still fit.

  14. Trail Monkey // March 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm // Reply

    I just bought a pair of Timberland woodland boots that weigh about the same as my tennies; very nice. Cost was $90.00. Just a suggestion.

  15. Delta Force // March 1, 2012 at 12:34 pm // Reply

    Paratrooper combat boots are the best.

  16. I love sports, I love nature, I love the Vibram Five Fingers!

  17. I bought some imitation boots and they work perfectly!

  18. I was looking for combat boots, ya know jungle or military style.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // October 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm // Reply

      I hope you have a lot of $$$ because combat boots cost up to $700!! the cheapest I have found them is $400! good luck with that!

  19. the ones from cabela look nice

  20. legoman88 // July 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm // Reply

    KEEN hiking boots are even better!!!

  21. Is the L.L Bean all Leather

  22. My Hi-Tec are the best!!!!!!!!!

  23. I think that they look pretty cool. The first one from Cabela’s have great quality.

  24. Mr sharp blade // April 23, 2011 at 7:08 pm // Reply

    I love my boots!


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