Rise and shine! The hiking season is here with you. Well, actually, now that you think about it, every time is hiking season. In California for example, in the Shasta and Trinity region, you can find awesome trails where you can hike even in winter. Every trail lover knows one thing though, and that is that the success of their hike does not depend on the backpack as much as it depends on the best shoes for backpacking.
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Yes, that pair can determine how much distance you will cover every day, or whether you will have to make camp after only two miles of limping like a lame duck.
Choosing the best shoes for backpacking
Do not be like Brad! Many people have had their hikes cut short by wearing the wrong type of hiking shoes. When Brad set out for his very first hike in 2001, he made a simple mistake. This something that he could have avoided if he knew. His mistake was to wear hiking shoes that were his exact size. At first, the shoe felt snug, warm and comfortable. But less than a mile into his hike, his feet expanded, if there is such a thing. Lol!
And they started getting hotter, and itchier and then … pain. The hiking shoes turned into an oven, and grilled his feet. Left these huge blisters at the point that is just above the heel, and on the soft city boy soles of his feet too. Bang! Just like that, Brad was out of commission. No more hiking for Brad that summer. A lesson hard-learned is a lesson never forgotten.
But you do not have to be like Brad. A smart hiker learns from the mistakes of other people. Therefore, when you go buying the best hiking shoes, bear in mind that it has to be a number bigger than what you usually wear. Hiking is tough. It is not prom dance. It is a fire, blood and sweat thing. Be ready!
From the onset, choosing the best hiking shoes looks ever so easy. This is until you get to the market and then the wide array of trekking shoes hits you. And you suddenly do not know how to choose the best one. However, in this short guide, we will show you why it need not be hard at all.
Best shoes for backpacking
There are so many brands online and offline. Some of them are very well established and others are new entrants into the market. Do not buy an untested brand. It is better to buy what has most reviews on Amazon, REI, eBay and other places.
Going by the brand name, it should be easy for you to buy the best hiking shoes. Find the best ones based on the Amazon reviews. That way, you can be sure that you are getting unbiased information from people who have used the product before. This means that you do not make a blind buy.
Here are a few types of the best hiking shoes to consider:
Merrell Men’s Moab Ventilator – best shoes for backpacking
It has many benefits. For example, it is lightweight. This is very important because with the weight of the backpack on your hips, you do not need any extra weight on your feet to slow you down. You can use it for biking, running as well as walking.
These best hiking shoes are designed in such a way that they conform to your feet. They have no lugs under the arch, thus leaving your feet more room and flexibility. The toe and the heel areas are protected by a good bumper; do not worry if you hit your toe against a tree stump when walking up the Whiskeytown Falls Trail.
The TC5+ rubber sole has a strong grip even on slippery ground. In addition, the M Select Fresh technology ensures that your feet stay fresh. The antimicrobial agents incorporated into the shoes ensure there is no bacterial buildup from the sweat. We can go on and on, but we will be reviewing this shoe later on in this blog.
Merrell Women’s Siren Sport 2 – Best Hiking Shoes 2018
This is one of the best hiking shoes designed to give maximum comfort and protection to the delicate lovely feet of the women.
It is not only a delight on the feet, but it is such a joy to look at too. The interior is pink – fancy that, and the laces are black with some splashes of pink. You will love everything about this pair of hiking shoes for ladies.
Some of the features that you can expect from this hiking shoe include MSelectFresh with antimicrobial agents to keep the shoes fresh even when your feet are sweating gallons.
Then there are the wonderful lug patterns that enhance stability even if you step on uneven ground. Like their men counterparts, these shoes have been made with a breathable mesh, which is at the same time waterproof. The bumper around the toe and heel areas protects you should you hit your feet against a rock or a log.
The sticky Mermaid Vibram sole is comfortable as it gives your shoes a bounce, very good for the rough trails. With so many positive reviews online, there is no doubt that these are some of the best hiking shoes for women.
KEEN Women’s Voyageur – Best Hiking Shoes Brand
Made of waterproof leather and a breathable mesh for the upper part, synthetic sole, KEEN Women’s Voyageur is the best shoe for hiking across board.
This means that you can use it on the rough trails as well as on the beach or pavement walks in town.
This is a hybrid shoe meaning you can use it for just about any terrain. It will give you great value for your money. Your feet will smile when you give them these hiking shoes.
Salomon Men’s Multi-functional Hiking Shoes X Ultra Prime
Between the inner and outer sole of this shoe, there is a light foot frame that is designed to enhance motion control, a very necessary element as you tackle different types of terrains out there.
Even with a lot of cushioning, you are still able to feel the ground with your feet thus giving you a lot of foothold and control.
Columbia Mens Newton Ridge – Best shoes for backpacking
Columbia is another well known name when it comes to the best hiking shoes for men and women. When you buy the Columbia Men’s Newton Ridge Plus, you will see just why it is a favorite among many hikers. It is waterproof, has a high shaft, about 5 inches from the arch. The Omni Grip rubber sole will keep your tread steady even on slippery or uneven ground.
The shoe has a masculine look to it too, what with the all leather look and the confidence oozing from every pore. It looks very sturdy and it does deliver on its promise – to keep your feet protected, dry and comfortable.
There are many more brand names that we will review later one by one. However, the most important things to consider when buying the best hiking shoes is comfort, fit and grip. This brings us to number two factor to consider when buying hiking shoes, which is:
Fitting the best shoes for backpacking
You will walk far and wide. You will read many blogs about choosing the best hiking shoes. And you will realize one thing, that fit is all that matters. No matter how expensive or cheap a pair of hiking boots is, if it is not the right fit for hiking, then it is no good for you. It will grill your toes, your heels and your soles, like a barbecue it will.
The problem with buying shoes is that they can never be just the right size, nor can they be too big. Make them a tad smaller or bigger than they should be and they will leave your heels blistered from here to kingdom come and then… boom! No more trekking for you.
They could also be perfect, you know right space between heel and shoe and all, but then they could be mashing your toes altogether like potatoes. Now, that could give you some serious walking problems. The best hiking shoes have to be just perfect.
If the shoes are too wide such that the foot is sliding from one side to another, that could cause serious blisters. As you gauge the width of the boot, you should consider the types of socks that you will be wearing. You will need thick socks, or you can buy third party shoe accessories like insoles to boost the size of your feet for a closer fit.
All it takes is a finger – Your boots should be a finger bigger! There are no two ways about this. When you have your hiking shoes on your feet, tied and all set to go, push your toes to the front of the shoes, until you can feel the shoes. And then slip one finger in the space left between the heel and the boot. If it does not fit in, the shoes are too small for you. If it slides in easily and leaves a lot of wiggling space, then the shoe is too big for you.
Now, most folks have one foot bigger than the other, and a sales clerk at the shoes store knows how to find out. Once you know what foot is bigger, always fit your shoes with that foot. If you are buying your hiking shoes online, you need not buy the wrong fit too. There are a few things that you can do. One of them is to know the size of your feet perfectly and remember, one of your feet is bigger than the other, most likely. You can walk in to any store and have that figured out. However, do not buy hiking shoes from just any store that you come across. Buy only from an outdoor specialist store.
Do you feel the shoe? This is another way to determine whether you have acquired yourself the best hiking shoes. Wear the shoe without socks, and then try and feel the shoe. Does it feel spacious between the wall of the shoe and the big and small toes? It should leave some space there.
If it touches your big and small toes, then that boot is too narrow for your feet. Make sure there is space between your heels and the boot wall, and between the front and the toes. Listen to your feet! Do you think they like the shoes?
The best hiking shoes leave some breathing space, even when you wear socks. When going downhill and you have the entire weight of your backpack pushing you down, your feet will be pushed to the front of the shoes and if they fit too snugly, the toes will be pressed against the shoes.
Repeat the same test with your socks on. The same rules apply. Your feet need space. The last thing that you really want on a trek is a hiking boot that grinds against your Achilles tendon. Try socks of different thicknesses.
Hit the strides – The reason why they are the best hiking shoes is because they are for walking. Therefore, wear them and walk with them. Good shoes crease nicely and comfortably without resistance when you lift your foot of the ground when walking considering that the heel goes up first.
If the upper wall of the boot touches your toes when walking, it is not spacious enough. If the heel grinds against the boot, it is not right for you. Again, if your feet are sliding in the shoes, they are too big for you. A pair of hiking shoes has to be just right.
Wear them gender specific – This is common sense really, but sometimes, you may have to alter this. In normal circumstances, men have broader heels and so their shoes are broader at the heels. Women have smaller feet in every aspect. However, there are a select few women with bigger feet and broader heels. If this category is where you fall, then you may want to buy hiking shoes for men.
Try also the inclined test – There is no promise that the terrains you will be hiking on are all flat. Therefore when fitting the best hiking shoes, you need to do an inclined test. That is why it is always advisable to buy hiking gear from a specialist outdoors store. They will have a slanted surface where you can try the shoes for inclination fit. Try it both ways; up and down. The shoes should not crush your heels and they should mash your toes.
The best shoes for hiking come with stiffer soles because a stiff sole gives more stability even on uneven terrain. It is easy to know whether a hiking shoe is stiff enough for you. Just hold the heel and the toes and then twist in different directions. The more the resistance the better for you because it means the sole is stiff. Please make sure that when wearing the boots, you do not feel rocks underneath, even though you want to maintain a solid hold over the ground. Remember, the main purpose of the hiking shoes is to protect your feet.
In accompaniment to the stiff sole, look for a shoe that has a high ankle collar. That also helps a lot with enhancing the balance as you move.
The debate about the synthetic and rubber soles is neither here nor there, because the sole alone does not make the best hiking shoes. It takes many factors to bring you the very best pair.
Protection from the sides
Many hikers think about the soles only, but that is just not enough. You need to have your feet sides protected too. Ensure that the hiking shoes that you buy have extra thick padding on the sides for the protection of your feet. Your feet will need all the protection that they can get.
Protection for the ankles
A hiking boot with a long shaft should also offer your ankle some support. There is a way to test this, and that is by holding the heel and shaft in your hands and then you try to bend the shaft sideways. It should display a lot of resistance. There is a lot of uneven terrain out there on the trails, you will have a backpack on your shoulders and its weight could shift pulling you to one side. Thus, you do not want a weak boot that will not support your ankles. If it bends sideways too easily, then that is not going to offer your ankle a lot of the much needed support.
The best hiking shoes should be waterproof
Wet feet are fried feet and blisters will attack you from all sides. The annoying cracking between the toes is not something that you really want to deal with when you are on the trails.
Too much hassle about waterproof hiking shoes? Well, no need to feel hassled and frazzled about it. Just be smart. Buy leather hiking boots. Leather is waterproof. And the best thing yet about leather is that it conforms to the shape of your foot. With a few weeks of wearing the best shoes for hiking made of leather, you will feel as if the shoes were custom-made for you.
But there are other hiking shoes that are not 100% waterproof, but once wet, they dry out very fast. When wearing such a pair, always ensure you wear Gore-Tex® socks because even when the shoes get soggy, the socks will keep your feet dry. They are not only waterproof, but they are breathable as well, thus keeping your feet aired and does not support bacteria growth.
Do not mind a little weight on your feet
Light backpack, traveling light and all the other “light” advises are good, but not when it comes to the hiking shoes. If they are too light, then they may not give you the support that you will need on the rough terrains. Good hiking shoes are stiff, and there are no two ways about that.
When you get home with the best hiking shoes for backpacking
When you get home, or when your shoes that you bought from the online marketplaces are delivered, wear them. Do not keep them in the box waiting for the day that you will hit the trail. Your feet need to be accustomed to the shoes. So wear them around the neighborhood, walk with them, get the shoes and the feet acquainted with each other.
Try the shoes out on all surfaces as advised above. If you note a problem, return the shoes and state the problems so that you can be sent the right one. Online suppliers have a return policy especially covering outdoor gear.
A long walk test is recommended. Maybe you want to sing “when the saints go marching in” as you walk, huh?
During the actual hike
You have bought your shoes for hiking, tested them and passed them as perfect. The day of the long hike is here. So you wear your shoes, and hit the trails. But wait, there still could be a few problems with your hiking boots, there always are. So do carry some soothing balm because the shoes will pinch some. Not too much though if you bought the right pair.
You are also advised to carry some abrasion padding with you. You can wrap it around the delicate parts that are mostly affected by a new shoe, like the heel and the toes. This will prevent the formation of blisters.
The first day, as you break the shoes for the hike will be a bit hard, but after that, everything should be awesome. That’s a promise. When you buy the best shoes for backpacking, you are set for adventure. There is nothing to prevent you from conquering the trails.