Understanding Which Hiking Boot to Buy

There is nothing better than the sensation that comes from an amazing hike through rough country terrain. One of the biggest factors to whether or not you will be able to enjoy that sensation is the boots that you have on your feet. No, that is not an exaggeration. The right hiking boots, or lack thereof, can either make or break your experience. 

As an avid hiker living in a tourist area deep in the Adirondack Mountains it is mind boggling how many people I see on trails without proper shoes. I have even see some people, up from the city on the weekend, wearing flip flops on the mountainside. This is very dangerous and often results in injury. So, please take the time to understand what type of foot support you need and buy the right type of hiking boot! 

To novices picking out a hiking boot can be very intimidating. There are several factors to consider and a surprising amount of jargon. This article will cover the basics on the three base types of hiking boots and take the mystery out of understanding how to choose the perfect hiking boot.


Types of Hiking Boots to Choose From 


Not all hiking boots are created equal and price is not the only factor. It comes down to the type of hiking that you will be doing.

The following are base types of hiking boots, the list obviously apply to men’s, women’s, or children hiking boots. While there are many different options that you can choose from with the boot models, all hiking boots fall into one of the following categories:

Day Hiking Boots: 

These are the most common boots and are well suited for most day hikes, as the name suggests. They generally come in mid to high cut models. Their main advantage is that they have more flexible soles and don’t take as long to break in as heavier duty boots. If you are not carrying much weight they are an excellent choice.

Backpacking boots:

If you are going to be caring a lot of weight for days in the mountains these are the boots that you need to buy. They generally come with a high cut and very sturdy support. The soles are not as flexible as regular hiking boots and they can be a bit heavier, however, good quality models are extremely comfortable and offer excellent support. 

Backpacking boots come in several styles themselves. “Trail” is considered the basic and lightest category. Trail boots are followed by: Rough Trail, Off Trail, and then Mountaineering models. 

Hiking Shoes:

These technically are not boots, however, they are great if you want to do light hiking at a quick pace. They are generally much lighter than hiking boots and they even come in trail running models. Hiking shoes have a lower cut than boots and more of a flexible sole than most boots out there. The downside is that they do not provide ankle support.



While picking out a hiking boot may seem intimidating at first it really comes down to just three basic types of hiking boots. Of course if you want to understand all of the jargon related to various options there is quite a bit more involved.

This article was meant as an introduction to hiking boots, if you want to dive deeper please take a look at our article: Hiking Boot Jargon – Help for Online Shopping. In that article we will better explain how to sort through the jargon and understand what you are ordering when you shop online for your hiking boots.