Recent Comments

How to Buy Hiking Boots


You can make do with a hand-me-down backpack, tent or even sleeping bag. But hiking boots that don’t fit you exactly or perform as needed can end a trip. With so many choices in trail footwear, though, it’s hard to find what’s right for you without tripping over some that are wrong.

The key is getting a good fit and picking the right shoe for your needs. The shoes and boots reviewed here cover a range of models for all kinds of uses and users.

Need a comfortable, reliable shoe for day hiking that won’t break the bank? The MERRELL BIG KID’S MOAB FST LOW A/C WATERPROOF ($58, is a solid pick. With breathable synthetic and mesh uppers that prevent sweaty feet, plus waterproof construction and multidirectional outsole lugs, this shoe transitions smoothly from the school playground to the trail.


The truth: A pair of sneakers with good tread and a stiff sole is probably all you’ll need for 70 percent of your troop’s outings. Trail-running shoes are always a great option. The main exception is multiday hiking and backpacking, and trail activities in cold or wet weather. For those, you’ll want sturdier hiking shoes or boots with extra ankle support and possibly waterproof protection.

When you want to keep your feet light and cool, and have kicks that stick to everything from rock slabs to loose scree, slip on the low-cut LA SPORTIVA TX3 ($135, Mesh uppers provide super breathability on the hottest hikes, while the full rubber toe box protects your toes and sides of your feet from bashing against rocks. Best of all, the sticky Vibram outsole gloms onto the ground like a gecko. 1 lb. 9 oz.


Since you’re probably growing out of your shoes quickly, durability is less important. Odds are, you’ll grow out of them long before you’ll wear them out. So cheaper entry-level shoes and boots will probably be good enough. Also look for clearance sales at local shops and online deals. When you see a really good sale, think about planning ahead and buying for the next size you’ll need.

Some troops have a shoe/boot bin or hand-me-down program. Donate a pair of boots you’ve outgrown, and grab a pair that fits. And if your troop doesn’t have a boot bin, start one! (Remember: A new set of $20 insoles can really freshen up a pair of used boots.)

When you’re ready to tackle multihour day hikes, go for the support and waterproof protection of THE NORTH FACE JR. HEDGEHOG HIKER MID WATERPROOF ($65, The HydroSeal waterproof membrane keeps out water when splashing through puddles and mud. The reinforced toe and heel protect feet and improve durability, while multidirectional lugs on the nonmarking outsole deliver good traction for hiking fairly rugged trails. 1 lb. 4 oz.


When trying on shoes and boots, make sure you’re wearing the type of socks you’ll be hiking in. The heel should be snug with enough wiggle room for your toes up front. Kick the floor — your toes shouldn’t hit the end. Then spend at least 10 minutes test driving them, walking around the store. If you buy online, try them inside your house, because once you’ve worn new shoes outside you usually can’t return them. If you’re planning to do winter hiking, look for extra toe room for thicker socks and better foot circulation.

Imagine a sportier version of the classic leather hiking boot, and you have the VASQUE BREEZE III GTX ($180, A Gore-Tex membrane keeps water out and, combined with the partly mesh uppers, breathes moderately well in hot environments. The Vibram outsole’s multidirectional lugs are more similar to a lowcut shoe than a heavy-duty boot and grip well in most conditions. 2 lbs. 10 oz.


While your new boots or shoes might feel comfortable right out of the box, it’s not a good idea to wear brand-new shoes on a long hike without breaking them in first — unless, of course, you like painful blisters! So start by wearing your new shoes to school, around the house, anywhere you can. The more time you spend in them ahead of time, the better off you’ll be on the trail. This is especially important with new leather boots.

High-quality leather boots are rarely lightweight and easy to break in. The ZAMBERLAN 491 TRACKMASTER GTX RR ($220, boots are both. Everything about these comfy boots speaks to top craftsmanship, from the durable leather uppers to the rubber toe bumper, metal lacing hardware, supportive but light EVA midsole and high-traction Vibram outsole. 2 lbs. 2 oz.


Whether you’re buying full-on boots or a pair of trail runners, pay special attention to the sole and its traction. The deeper the tread, the more grip (and less slipping and falling) you’ll have on the trail.

Very few low-cut waterproof hiking shoes deliver the performance value of the OBOZ SAWTOOTH LOW WATERPROOF ($140, Support for carrying 30 pounds comes from what’s under the hood: a compression-molded EVA midsole, a polyurethane heel plug for rigidity, a partial nylon shank beneath the mid-foot, and a 1mm plate under the forefoot. Throw in the boa-style, one-pull lacing system, and uppers made of synthetic leather and abrasion-resistant synthetic, plus an outsole that grips the trail. 15.5 oz.


Boots and shoes with waterproof membranes like Gore-Tex, eVent and others usually do a good job of keeping the water out (think: stream crossings, heavy rains). That said, some guys find waterproof shoes to be less breathable and often sweaty in warmer, drier weather. So keep in mind where you’ll be hiking most and what the weather will be like.

It’s tough to find a good mid-cut, waterproof-breathable boot at this price, but the KEEN TARGHEE II WATERPROOF ($125, fits the bill. A cushiony midsole provides a stable platform when you are carrying up to 30 pounds. The Keen Dry membrane keeps water out and breathes well. Solid for day hiking and lightweight backpacking, the outsole grips dry or wet rocks, scree and dirt, but won’t shed thick mud or snow. 2 lbs. 3 oz.


Leather boots are more durable and traditionally provide more ankle and foot stability on tough trails than boots made of synthetic materials. But they are also heavier and more expensive. Synthetic boots are lighter-weight and more comfortable straight out of the box, with less wear-in time.


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.

60 Comments on How to Buy Hiking Boots

  1. Hi!
    I love the way you explain the “point” very well. Your content is full of information and can’t wait to dig it into utilizing the resources you provided. I was actually writing a blog on “Hiking for Beginner – The Most Common Questions” and thanks for your point of view help me to find some key points to focus on.

  2. Regardless of where you’re going, your boots will last longer if you pick up your feet. That way you can get less expensive boots that will be comfortable and last longer.

  3. What’s the price range for hiking boots

  4. One of your magazines from a couple of months ago had a coupon code for a discount for Salomon. I can’t find it. What is the URL for that? Thanks!

  5. PackTroopCrewMom // April 19, 2017 at 7:36 am // Reply

    We’re on our third pair of the LL Bean boots. Lots of muddy trails and both of the first two pairs were like new when we donated them to the Troop bin. Can’t beat that durability and comfort for $50.

  6. Zombie apocalypse // March 25, 2015 at 8:26 pm // Reply

    I want to get a pair of boots. I have never bought any . What is the best brand.

    • There is no “best brand”. Hiking boots can differ greatly, even from the same manufacturer. A boot that may be great for one person may be terrible for another. My best advice is to visit a reputable outdoor store such as REI, EMS, or Cabellas and work with someone to find a boot that fits you physically and fits your budget.

  7. The best way to test boots is to use them all day for a week even if you are sitting. The top of the boot will rub more often as well as other non typical pressure points thus showing you problems that would come out far down the trail. Usually working with the lacing will fix these problems if not try a different insert.

  8. Just received as a gift, Solomon GX trail hiking mid-top boots. Really nice, a lot different from my “loved” Timberlands. These are as light and about the same price but are fast drying and have flared out soles for lower chance of ankle twisting on the Philmont trails.
    Looking forward to using these this summer; breaking them in right now … very comfortable. My size 12’s weigh 20 oz. for the pair, crazy light!

  9. “Sorting the Best Hiking Boots and Shoes. For every Hiker Alike”

  10. I am inspired

  11. I have kodiak boots that I got for 30 dollars at Costco. They work great and haven’t worn out tremendously over multiple 2-3 hour hikes. I would recommend them as they are waterproof, comfortable, and durable.

  12. Get a pair that could double as snow boots. Just put on some wool socks before yoou play in the snow.

    • Good idea. I purchased some Lacrosse boots (galoshes not boot boots) that I used for about three years, in the summer for tromping around in the mud, and in the the winter for my regular snow boots. They were fantastic and never got snow in them.

  13. The hiking boots are really unique.

  14. Somebody from my church who was in the military gave
    me a pair leather army boots once

  15. you are my inspiration , I own few blogs and sometimes run out from to brand : (.

  16. 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.

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

    Timberland boots, buy them for life.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. keens are awesome

  22. 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!!!!!

  23. 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.

  24. 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

  25. 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?

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

  27. 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!

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

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

    Paratrooper combat boots are the best.

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

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

  33. 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!

    • I bought some Zamberlan leather boots back in 1995 and they’ve lasted more than 20 years on my feet.
      It’s the sole that, after 20 years, got too thin.
      If you take good care of them, the leather lasts forever.
      Best boots I ever had!

  34. the ones from cabela look nice

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

    KEEN hiking boots are even better!!!

  36. Is the L.L Bean all Leather

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

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

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

    I love my boots!


Leave a Reply to Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) Cancel reply

Please don't use your real name.