If you make one investment in your entire camping/hiking/outdoor life, let it be hiking boots! If your feet aren’t comfortable walking even 5 km in your boots, you’ll never want to try a longer distances or multi-day hiking.
Here is a short and sweet post offering you my best advice for buying the best hiking boots.
Pro Tip 1: Don’t be cheap
Take a deep breath and accept that you will pay around $200. Big investment, I know, but think of how much adventuring you can do if your feet are comfortable. These will last years of hiking –> buy what’s comfortable, not what’s on sale.
Pro Tip 2: Get an expert employee to help you
This is going to sound weird, but I seriously recommend it. Before you even head to the store, call MEC (or REI or Sail – any store that specializes in camping gear, rather than just any sports). Tell them you’re looking to buy a pair of hiking boots and would like to know when there will be an employee at the store who is an expert on hiking boots. You don’t want an employee who is three weeks on the job – you want the seasoned hiking boot department expert who will tell it to you straight. Go to the store when they are working.
Pro Tip 3: Take. Your. Time.
Don’t be in a rush. Give yourself plenty of time to try on the boots, walk around the store (bonus pro tip – bring a pair of tall, wool socks to wear when trying boots on). Tell the employee what activities you’ll use them for and say you’re new to hiking – get a little chatty, these people are very experienced and very helpful. Now, walk around the store a few times. If you feel pressure on parts of your foot or if something feels too tight/too loose,tell the employee. Some feelings are normal and will go away once you’ve broken in the boots, while other feelings mean the boots don’t fit your feet well.
Pro Tip 4: Test them out
Once you’ve found the pair you like, bring them home to test them out. Don’t go on a muddy hike through the woods (then you can’t return them), but walk around the block or wear them to the grocery store. Do keep in mind that hiking boots need to be broken in, but if there is any persistent pain or discomfort, bring them back to the store and try again.
Pro Tip 5: Break them in before your trip
If you have a specific trip coming up, make sure you give yourself at least 2 weeks (at a minimum) to break them in. Go for walks in the park or short trails near your house, and work up to longer distances. Breaking in your boots can be uncomfortable – do it ahead of time to avoid pain on your trip.