Experts from REI give tips on what to look for when shopping for a hiking boot or shoe


Whether you are going for a quick day hike or an overnight backpacking trip, the right hiking boot is essential for an enjoyable experience. There’s nothing worse than painful boots or shoes that are not up to the job.

The best hiking boots are the ones that fit you properly and feel good even after hours of wear. Boots are one purchase we don’t recommend making online. It’s always best to get properly fitted for hiking boots by a professional who knows their boots inside and out and can help you find the perfect fit for your feet and your favorite activities.

A well-fitting boot should be snug everywhere without being too tight or pinching. You shouldn’t feel any hot spots, and you want a little bit of wiggle room in the toe box. You should have about a thumbs with distance between your longest toe and the end of the boot–this will prevent your toes from painfully jamming into the front on the shoe when going down hills.

A boot with a higher ankle will have more ankle support. This is especially helpful if you will be on unstable terrain or if you will be carrying a heavy pack or child carrier. You’ll also want to find the right amount of arch support for your activity. A stiff outsole increases arch support and makes a great backpacking shoe since it helps prevent foot fatigue and takes some of the pressure off of the muscles and fascia in your feet, but for short day hikes you can happily get by with something that feels more like a trail running shoe.

Most hiking boots these days also come with helpful features like waterproof liners, mesh vents to keep your toes cool, and lightweight outsoles that give you plenty of support without weighing you down.

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