Backpacking Footwear Tips and Advice

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Hiking excursions are very exciting and refreshing. Ever asked yourself whether your feet are usually as excited as you when on a hiking excursion? Since the feet take on most of the work during hiking excursions, make sure that they have the right protection and padding. However, choosing the right hiking boots is not always an easy task. From your preferred style to the size that fits you, there’s so much to consider when choosing the best footwear for you.

Types of Hiking Footwear

Not every boot qualifies to be hiking footwear. Although backpacking boots are the most preferred type of boots for an on and off trek, other shoes and boots are also preferred for hiking excursions depending on terrain and other factors. Let’s take a look at the various types of hiking boots.

  • Hiking Shoes

These are low-cut shoe models made with midsoles that flex and are excellent choices for a day’s hiking. Most lightweight backpackers may choose the best running shoes for hiking over long distances. Light variants are excellent walking shoes for traveling and for lengthy hikes too.

  • Day Hiking Boots

These boots range from mid to high-cut footwear models that are intended for short backpacking trips or day hikes with light loads. These low boots require less break-in time and often flex easily. However, their major downside is that they are not as durable and tough as backpacking boots.

  • Backpacking Boots

If you want to go on a multiday trip deep into the countryside while carrying heavy loads such as backpacking tents, these are the perfect boots for you. Probably the most popular boots, these high boots have a high cut that is essential for wrapping above the ankles, offering fantastic support. Backpacking footwear is durable and endures the toughest conditions since they have stiff midsoles than the other boots. Ultimately, they are perfect for an on or off-trail trip.

Features to Look Out for in Backpacking Footwear

Backpack footwear components can be split into four: Boot uppers, boot midsoles, boot internal support and boot outsoles.

Backpack Footwear Uppers

Materials used in the manufacture of the boot determine its weight, durability, water resistance, and breathability. Some of the materials used in making the upper part of the boot include:

Full-grain Leather: This guarantees durability and produces the best leather footwear there is in the market. What’s more, these boots are abrasion resistant and water resistant, making them excellent outdoor hiking shoes.

Full-grain leather is commonly used for backpacking footwear build for the extended hiking excursions, rugged terrain, and heavy loads. Looking at these boots, the only downside one can identify out is that they are not as breathable as boots made of nylon or split-grain leather. As such, sufficient break-in time is required before setting off on a lengthy trip.

Split-grain Leather: This grade of leather is regularly paired with nylon to create a lightweight boot, offering excellent breathability. This leather “splits” the rough inner portion of the cowhide from the smoother exterior. Boots made from this type of leather cost less but are less resistant to abrasion and water.

Nubuck Leather: This is typically full-grain leather, only that it is buffed to look like suede. Boots made of this leather are durable, abrasion, and water resistant. They are also reasonably flexible but still requires ample break-in time before one can go out on a lengthy hike.

Synthetics: Materials such as polyester and nylon are common in modern design of boots. These boots are lighter than leather boots, dry faster and cost less than the leather backpack boots. These may not be the best outdoor footwear but are excellent options whenever you’re going on a hike.

Waterproof Membranes: Waterproof shoes feature uppers that are made with waterproof or breathable membranes that are meant to keep the feet of the wearer dry during wet conditions. A downside to this material is that it may result in sweaty feet on hot days.

Vegan: Vegan-friendly backpacking footwear is made with no animal byproducts or ingredients.

Insulation: Synthetic padding is added to some backpacking footwear, especially winter hiking boots, for extra warmth whenever you are out hiking on glaciers and snow.

Backpack Footwear Midsoles

The midsole of the backpack footwear is responsible for cushioning, and protects feet from shock and is the part that determines the stiffness of the boot. Stiff boots are ideal for lengthy hikes over rough terrain as they provide more stability and comfort.

Common materials that make up the midsole of backpacking footwear are ethylene vinyl acetate and polyurethane. EVA material is lighter, fluffier, and less costly. On the other hand, polyurethane is a firmer material and is more durable, probably the most common one with mountaineering and backpacking footwear.

Backpacking Footwear Internal Support

Shanks: These are approximately 3-5 mm thick inserts sandwiched between the outsole and midsole. They are meant to add weight-bearing stiffness to the midsole. They come in various lengths with some covering the whole length of the midsole while some cover only half the length.

Plates: They are thin and semi-flexible inserts that are placed between the outsole and midsole, and sometimes below the shank. They cushion the feet to avoid being bruised by rocks and roots when hiking.

Backpacking Footwear Outsoles

Rubber is the material used for backpacking footwear outsoles. Sometimes, carbon is added to mountaineering and backpacking footwear to enhance hardness. Firm outsoles are vital to the durability of the boots.

Heel Brake: This is the clearly defined heel zone, which is distinct from the arch and a forefoot. This part of the boot prevents sliding during steep descents.

Lug pattern: Lugs are the bumps that give traction on the outsole. Backpacking footwear has thicker and deeper lugs to improve their grip. Wide spaces between lugs come in handy in shedding mud more easily and are vital in providing excellent traction.

Tips for Choosing the Best Hiking Boots

Whenever you are out looking for the perfect hiking boots, there are things and steps you can’t miss. Here are tips that should be at the back of your mind whenever you are selecting the best boot for your hike.

  • Get The “What”, “Where” and “When” Right

Be clear with the kind of outdoor excursion you are about to embark on. Is it a forest hike? Is it a short distance walk? Is a desert cruise? In later the case, you probably have to find the best desert hiking boots for an enjoyable experience. You should also be aware of when the hike is going to take place. This way, you can anticipate the weather and so on. As such, you get to know the right kind of boots and clothes to wear during the hike.

  • Know Your Size

The right idea is to have backpacking footwear that fits you perfectly—length, width and arch length should all be right. Make sure that a specialist at a store thoroughly assesses the boot. You can also measure the length of your backpacking footwear via various online sizing charts. You can double-check the size of the boots by removing the boots’ insoles and standing on them.

  • Try the Backpacking Footwear at the End of the Day

Your feet are largest during the day as they swell due to the day’s activities. Trying your boots at the end of the day is advisable so that you don’t end up buying small boots.

  • Choose Socks that are Appropriate for Your Boots

Get yourself the best socks for hiking—those that match your feet. You have no reason to wear incorrect hiking socks if you wouldn’t rock a down jacket at the beach. Check out some hints that will put you with your decisions.

    • For wide feet, choose thin hiking socks.
    • For narrow feet, choose thick hiking socks.
    • For warm feet, be sure to wear socks that help give off moisture away from the feet. Synthetic socks would be perfect.
    • For cool feet, woolen socks would be perfect for hiking since they insulate against heat loss by the feet.

On the same point, it is important that you go for hiking socks that fit well—not too loose and at the same time not constricting your feet.

  • Choose a Familiar Brand If You Are Buying Online

You are more likely to be comfortable in boots that you have worn in the past since boot companies tend to produce boots based on a consistent model over time. Enquire for the best place to buy boots online so that you land the best boots.

  • Break-In Your Boots Before the Actual Hike

This step is important, but most people overlook it, especially the sore-footed hikers.


Having the idea of where you are headed is a good starting point for the process of choosing the hiking gear – clothing and footwear, camping tents, a good compound bow. Knowing the right size and brand of the backpacking footwear you need for your next hike is important in the purchasing process. Having the features of each boot and shoe in mind is all you need to decide the kind of footwear you need for your hiking excursion.

Any ideas or advice on tips for choosing the backpacking footwear? Feel free to share with us or leave any comment you may have below.

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About the author


Hi, I’m Brian Bradshaw. I’m a super duper mega hiking enthusiast, with a love for everything that has to do with outdoors, hiking, gear, footwear and more.

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