Considering the miles you plan on walking in them, having comfortable hiking boots is a bit of a no brainer. But with so many out there on the market, it’s tough knowing which pair to get. But new hikers may be wondering if hiking boots are even comfortable at all.
Hiking boots should feel very comfortable on your feet. They should feel supportive, snug and not feel as if they could give you blisters. While you might not choose to wear hiking boots every day, they should be comfortable enough that you could if you wanted to.
Below, we look at whether or not hiking boots are comfortable, and how to choose the right pair for your needs. We’ll also walk you through how you can make your hiking boots more comfortable, before taking a look at some of the most comfortable options out there.
Hiking boots are supposed to be comfortable. They would need to be in order to allow you to walk for miles at the one go while wearing them. With the varying terrain you’ll inevitably find yourself walking across, comfort is key to avoid pain and even potentially injury.
Wearing uncomfortable hiking boots can result in painful blisters, strains and sprains, and eventually getting to a point where you may feel incapable of walking. That would not be a good thing, and that is why I would suggest spending more time choosing the correct hiking boots compared to any other piece of equipment or gear.
If your hiking boots are not comfortable, then it’s simply a case of you having the incorrect boots for your needs. They may be the wrong size, or they may be incapable of providing you with the support you need.
The role of the hiking boot is to provide your feet with the support they need in order to help you get to the end of the hike without any major pain or discomfort in your feet and legs. They should provide more than adequate support for your entire foot, and also a substantial amount of grip on the sole.
Also, hiking boots should be in the position whereby they protect your feet from standing on all of those small, sharp stones that litter trails. If the sole of a hiking boot was flimsy, then hiking any trail would be agony!
Hiking boots are also designed to help protect your ankles. It is so easy to roll your ankle when out on a hike, so different boots can potentially help reduce the severity of the damage. But if you’re not hiking, could you still wear your hiking boots every day?
You can wear hiking boots every day if they are comfortable and suitable for what you’re doing. Hiking boots are designed for walking after all, so if you spend a lot of your day on your feet, hiking boots may be more comfortable than other options.
As I alluded to right at the outset, the toughest part is in selecting the right hiking boots. Now, this is not all down to the sheer number of options out there. Instead, it’s also connected to understanding what you should be looking for when buying these boots in the first place.
Hiking boots range from lightweight hiking boots, designed for short walks on easy trails, to heavier backpacking boots, and full-on mountaineering boots. You need to have the correct footwear for your type of hiking. For example, most people going on a day hike will find lightweight hiking boots are suitableif they intend on sticking to known trails.
But if you’re going on a long, multi-day hike, you may need boots that are tougher and perhaps a bit heavier. You need to choose your boots depending on the terrain you will be hiking on. Boots designed for going off-trail will be a waste of time and money if all you intend on doing is hiking easy trails on the weekend!
If you have a light pack, and you only venture onto well cared for trails, then sticking to either low-cut or even mid-cut boots is the best option. Often, they will be either fabric or a mix of fabric and leather, but the sole is usually pretty stiff.
One of the problems with these boots is that they are often not as waterproof as other options. You may want to keep that in mind depending on the terrain you plan to be hiking on and what you expect the weather to be like. Also, these boots tend not to offer as much support on tougher terrain. If you have some scrambling included in your hike, then they may not be the best option.
If you plan on walking a great distance or on rougher trails, which may involve some inclines and scrambling, then you should consider a pair of ankle-high boots. These are designed to offer some real stability, and they will also make you feel more confident when out hiking.
Check if your pair is waterproof either on the outside, or via a waterproof liner. Some of these boots are more breathable rather than waterproof, which is perfect if hiking in warmer climates, but they will still provide you with the same ankle support. However, they should still be relatively lightweight to wear.
Finally, if you know you will be going off the trail, you need to choose a different option. In this case, I recommend going for the full-leather hiking boot that comes above the ankle.
The leather will be waterproof, and it also offers far more protection to your ankle for when you are off-trail. Also, the soles need to be rigid. This will also help reduce the odds of you rolling your ankle, and these boots take no prisoners.
Now, aside from the different varieties, there are a number of key areas you need to focus on when it comes to buying your new hiking boots. This involves looking at their comfort, durability, stability, how waterproof they are, warmth, and weight.
Basically, you want boots that feel comfortable, offer stability, are not too heavy, will last for miles, and will keep your feet warm and dry. It may sound tough to get all of those things right, but it’s very doable and a must if you want to ensure you have comfortable boots.
When it comes to the actual fit, it’s not exactly as it is for normal shoes or boots. The reason for this is you may have times where you will be wearing thicker socks, and that changes the space you have inside your boots.
But aside from that, you should still feel as if your hiking boots are not pinching your toes, either on the length or width of your foot. Also, you should feel you receive support in the sole of your foot. Having the correct arch support can prevent a whole host of foot issues developing.
I would not recommend simply finding a pair of boots that fit your usual size, and then just going ahead and buying them. You may think you know your size when it comes to sneakers, but hiking boots can be a different beast altogether.
I would suggest physically going to an outdoor store and having your feet properly measured. Do so later in the day, as your feet swell throughout the day, and wear hiking socks when trying them on. That is the best way to get the most accurate sizing for your hiking boots, as this will help mimic how your feet will be on the trail.
But now that you have your new hiking boots, how can you make them more comfortable?
You should never simply buy new boots, and then go off on a hike. That is a recipe for disaster! Instead, you need to break in your new boots, and that will involve you wearing them around your home for some time.
I would even go as far as to say you need to wear your typical hiking socks, tie up your boots, and wear them both around the house and outside. This alone will make a significant difference when it comes to avoiding blisters when you do wear them on a hike.
I would start off in your home and walking around your yard. After that, a short walk in your local area is the best way to go. It allows your feet to become accustomed to wearing the boots, and it allows the boots to almost “shape” to your feet and lose a bit of their unwanted rigidity (not their structural strength) they have when new. Overall, it just makes them more comfortable to wear!
Another thing I would recommend is to get insoles. The insoles that come with your boots are fine, but they are made for the average foot, and that may not be enough for you. Say for example you have a problem with fallen arches. Well, your hiking boots probably won’t come with the correct sole in place to help your arches. That will ruin your hiking experience, and it’s easily avoidable.
So, look for specific insoles designed to help with structural problems you may have with your feet. However, if you do not have any issues such as fallen arches, then don’t worry. You can still take advantage of better insoles.
Insoles such as those with gel pads can make your boots way more comfortable than the standard ones. Also, if you feel your feet get too cold, then warmer insoles can make a huge difference.
The best part is you can have different insoles and change them as you please. Also, remember to check out certain foot supports at the same time. You are not required to have the full insole inserted into your boot. It can easily be the case that only the arch part is giving additional support if that is where you feel the boot is lacking.
The final thing I would recommend is to make sure you know how to lace your hiking boots in the right way. This is the part that is often the most surprising to people, but there are certain ways in which you can lace your boots to make them more comfortable.
It may be the case you feel your boots fit you perfectly from a length perspective, but they feel slightly tight with the width. For that, you can lace for a roomier fit. For this, you should alternate between crossing the laces, and then moving up the side through the next two holes before crossing again. From the top, it would look like: X=X=X, rather than XXXX.
The idea here is you can still pull the boot snug against your foot to get the support, but by not crossing between a few of the eyelets on the boot, it won’t pull as tight as it normally would, giving you that roomier fit.
If you have a wide forefoot, then I would recommend putting the lace straight across at the holes closest to your toes, and then missing out the next few holes before starting to cross the laces. The idea here is to focus more on lacing things up closer to your ankle rather than next to the toes.
But overall, I would spend time effectively playing around with the lacing of your hiking boots to learn more about the style of lacing that best fits your feet. Don’t just think in the conventional way, as there are lots of ways to tweak it. Be aware of where your hiking boots tend to feel too tight or uncomfortable, and then look at ways to change the lacing to accommodate that.
1. Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX
What I love about the Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX is not only the fact that they are waterproof and offer fantastic ankle protection, but they are widely known for not requiring a lot of breaking in before they feel comfortable on your feet.
But at the same time, they also go big on providing overall protection for your foot, and the fact they do this while still feeling comfortable is a major bonus. Also, they have a Vibram sole, and that makes a big difference.
With a Vibram sole, you are not going to feel every bump on the trail, and the sole is rigid without feeling too restrictive. It does mean this boot is suitable for people walking on a variety of trails, and it remains light enough even for the intrepid easy trail hiker.
Also, it has a Gore-Tex membrane. That’s going to stop moisture getting in from the outside, but it also allows moisture from your foot to escape. Having that breathability makes a huge difference to how comfortable your feet feel, since it can stop them from overheating.
2. Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX
Salomon is another well-established name when it comes to outdoor gear, and these hiking boots are certainly well worth considering. These shoes come up to your ankle, but not over them, so they are not designed for going off-trail. However, they should be suitable for pretty much anything else you encounter.
These boots are very lightweight, and yet they still feel firm and supportive on your feet. The shoe is waterproof and won’t inhibit your agility either. The grip is good, and they come with something they refer to as ‘Active support’, which means it has mobile wings that help hold the foot in place. This does add to the comfort level, and it reduces the chances of you developing blisters.
But it’s the support in the shoe that means it makes it onto this list. You feel it holds your foot perfectly, and as long as you have the sizing correct, then it should mean you have no issues with this boot for easy to moderate trails.
3. Merrell Moab 2 Mid
These shoes come up over the ankle, so you can pretty much attempt any trail while wearing them, so you get a lot of versatility with one pair of boots. You also get a very supportive footbed, and the Vibram technology on the sole is another added bonus. That means you won’t feel every stone under your foot while hiking, and then the ankle support just adds to that overall feeling.
These boots will also require little in the way of breaking in, but I still recommend wearing them around your home or in the local area before you go ahead and start testing them on a hike.
It also comes with a Gore-Tex membrane, so your feet can breathe and won’t overheat as moisture can escape without any additional moisture coming in. That in itself is a huge deal as your comfort levels drop significantly when your feet are either wet or too hot. These are therefore a great all-in-one hiking boot.
4. La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX
These hiking boots don’t just look the part, but they won’t let you down when it comes to support and comfort either. It’s a high boot, so your ankle is going to get that full-on protection, but the shoe is undoubtedly more about durability and comfort.
Not only do they come with a Gore-Tex membrane to help breathability, but they also use nano-cell technology to just take that breathability to a whole new level.
The midsole is compression molded, so it’s going to offer some help when it comes to your arch. However, while it will be suitable for most people, and should certainly be comfortable enough, I would recommend looking at some additional insoles just to take the comfort level up a notch.
Add in Vibram technology on the soles for example, and what you have here is a boot that offers exceptional grip, comfort, and breathability.
5. Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid
These hiking boots are so light that even trail runners are known to wear them. That also means they offer some pretty impressive support. The grip on the outsole is exceptional, as it comes with a mega-grippy DuraTread outsole. The insole is crafted by the company themselves, while some brands import technology from elsewhere.
They also have an ultra-responsive midsole. That means they are capable of providing all that comfort and support no matter the conditions you encounter. These boots offer a moderate amount of cushioning, but you still get plenty of support on any type of trail.
Hiking boots are comfortable to wear, as they’re designed to provide you with support and breathability for hours of arduous walking on various terrains. While there are ways to make your existing hiking boots more comfortable, it is key to pick a hiking boot that suits your feet in the first place.