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Hiking Shoes

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Hiking Shoes

How Hiking Shoes Differ from Hiking Boots

Hiking shoes are, in essence, lightweight, low-cut versions of hiking boots, though a few models might also be mid-cut for more ankle support. Hiking shoes generally have flexible midsoles and are an excellent, easily broken-in option for day hiking. If you want to go even lighter and more flexible, consider a pair of trail-running shoes.

Hiking Shoe Components

Materials impact a shoe's weight, breathability, durability and water resistance. Leather and synthetic leather shoes will be more durable than fabric models, but also a bit stiffer. Many hiking shoes combine leather and fabric for durability in key areas and breathability everywhere else. Waterproof models have a high-tech membrane that breathes a bit but won’t let water in when you splash in a stream or puddle. (They also won't let water out if you step into deep water that overflows their tops.

Rubber outsoles are found on almost all hiking shoes, but often additives such as carbon rubber will give a shoe increased hardness (durability). Sometimes, more durable, less-forgiving outsoles will feel slippery on wet rocks or logs. Wide-space lugs offer good traction and shed mud better than deep lugs with close spacing.

Hiking Shoe Fit

Hiking shoes should be snug everywhere, but not too tight. They should offer room to wiggle your toes and have enough space for your feet to swell during the day's activities. Buy a pair of shoes that is slightly larger than what you think you are in size, and try on the shoes at the end of the day when your feet are at their largest. If you wear orthotics, put them in shoes when you are trying them on for fit. Also wear the socks you plan to hike in.

Even though most shoes don't require much break-in time, it's still wise to spend some time in them before your first trip. Note, too, that how you lace your shoes can change how they fit; see our article on Lacing Tips to improve your fit.