Three Things to Consider Before Buying Shoes for Hiking

Choosing the right hiking shoes takes careful consideration of fit, pack weight and whether you’ll be facing soggy trails.

People hiking on a sunny day
Hiking shoes are great for covering lots of ground while carrying little weight.Phil Coffman via Unsplash

Getting out on the trail in any season is a treat, but nothing will wreck a day of hiking faster than footwear that leaves your feet burning and blistered a mile down the trail. The good news is that you need never suffer from sore feet again thanks to modern materials and high-tech engineering that make today’s hiking shoes more lightweight, comfortable and easy-walking than ever before. The even better news is that there are so many great hiking shoe options out there that everyone should be able to find a shoe that’s absolutely perfect. The only challenge is, how do you find that perfect pair of hiking shoes amidst all the options? Here are three things to consider.

Size For Socks

Merrell Men's Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe
These lightweight hiking shoes combine the strength of suede with the lightweight of mesh constructions. They’re ultra-breathable and great for summer and early-autumn day hikes.Amazon

Finding the perfect hiking shoes is all about choosing a pair that really fits well. That starts with your foot size of course, but you also need to consider what socks you'll be wearing and how foot size changes over the course of the day.

Thick or Thin: Do you feel more comfortable wearing a single sock or do you prefer to wear a liner sock underneath your regular hiking socks? If you like to wear a heavy hiking sock with a thin liner sock underneath, you might want to purchase your day-hikers a half-size larger than your normal shoe size to ensure you have ample room for that extra sock thickness.

Think big: Feet heat up and your foot size will actually increase (by as much as half a size) as the day wears on. Take that into consideration when sizing your hiking shoes.

Consider Pack Weight

Merrell Womens Siren Edge Hiker Shoe
Amazing comfort and good support is what you’ll get from these lightweight hikers. A tough Vibram sole will help handle even the roughest trails.Amazon

How much weight do you intend to carry? If you're only going to be wearing your hiking shoes on day hikes and carrying a light daypack with a lunch, water bottle and perhaps an extra outer layer or rain jacket, you need not worry about choosing hiking shoes that have a stiffer sole. If you intend to use your hiking shoes while carrying a standard pack and enough gear to keep you out for a night or two, then hiking shoes that provide more support and a stiffer soul is what you'll want to look for.

Prep For Wet Walking

Columbia Womens Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped Boot, Ankle Support, High-Traction Grip
If you’re thinking of extending your outing to an overnight where you’ll be required to carry a bit more weight, ankle-high hikers like these provide more support. And they’re waterproof.Amazon

Think about where you're going to be hiking and when. No single hiking shoe can handle every condition in every season, but if you're heading out in spring when trails are bound to be muddy or the area where you regularly hike has a lot of water crossings, waterproof hikers are the way to go. Most models employ a waterproof inner liner made of Gore-Tex or similar breathable material that wicks moisture away from sweaty feet keep them dry while creating a barrier to prevent water from outside seeping in. These materials are very expensive and extra labor is required to build them into boots, so costs for waterproof hiking shoes will be higher. The added cost is more than worth it, however, when it comes to keeping our feet warm, dry and comfortable.