How to Choose Hiking Boots That Won't Hurt Your Feet

Make sure your hiking boots fit perfectly, so there's a spring in every step.

Finding a good pair of hiking boots is a little more involved than other shoe—you need to find a rugged pair that suits the terrain and your feet, so you can log the miles without a lot of wear and tear on your toes.

how-to-choose-hiking-boots: woman on a cliff wearing hiking boots
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When you're choosing hiking boots, don't go by word of mouth. "One of the biggest mistakes you can make when choosing new hiking boots is to assume that a boot that someone else loves will therefore be the perfect boot for you," says Jennifer Karr-Lee, product specialist and online community manager at REI. "Everyone's feet are so different. Whether it's length, width, volume, arch, shape, or ailments, no one has feet just like you. It's so important to make sure you get a boot that fits your unique feet and not just pick one because your best friend recommends it."

Your best bet? Start by shopping in person with an expert who can help you choose the perfect pair of hiking boots for you.

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Think about how you'll use your boots

If you're a casual day hiker, you'll need a different kind of boot than if you're planning multi-day mountain hikes with a large pack. "A good fit should include measurements both unweighted and weighted, a discussion about the terrain you'll be covering, extra weight you may be carrying, distance you'll be covering, and specific features you want—like whether you need them to be waterproof or not," Karr-Lee says.

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Wear the right socks

When you're trying out hiking boots, make sure that you're wearing the type of socks you'll wear when you're on the trail—that way you'll make sure that they both work well together.

Related: Six Life-Changing Benefits of Hiking

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Pay attention to any spots that pinch or feel tight

When you're choosing hiking boots, they should fit snugly, but shouldn't feel uncomfortable. Be especially mindful if your toes feel tight or seem like they're up against the edge of the boot, as that rubbing and tightness could become a literal pain during a long hike.

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Try your hiking boots later in the day

Your feet swell as the day goes on, and you'll want to make sure your feet will still feel comfortable in the hiking boots at their biggest.

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Take them for a test drive

You can't exactly go for miles in the woods before you buy, but take the shoes for a stroll around the store, so you can get a sense of how they'll feel on your feet.

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Consider adding some cushioning

To get the perfect fit, you might need to add insoles to increase the support and comfort for your feet.

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Choose hiking boots that fit well

Hiking boots will fit differently than your street shoes—so a good fit may feel a little stiffer than street shoes.

"Hiking boots are intended to provide your feet with more support on uneven ground, often carrying additional weight like backpacks, and typically over longer distances," Karr-Lee says. "So, hiking boots may be stiffer under your feet and a bit more rigid around your ankles, thus providing more support during hiking and backpacking adventures."

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