Hiking is a lot of fun, provided that you have the right equipment. And one of the most important pieces of equipment is your shoes. When you go hiking, it pays to have a good pair of hiking shoes. The last thing you want is to have blisters, hot spots and the many other foot problems that hikers experience.
Hiking ShoesGenerally, you should look for hiking shoes that have a few things going for them.
- Lightweight - Everything else being equal, you want lightweight hiking shoes, rather than heavy hiking shoes. Every pound on your foot is equal to about five pounds on your back, in terms of energy expenditure, which is something to keep in mind when shopping for hiking shoes.
- Ankle Support, or Not - If you have a heavy backpack, anything over 40 pounds I would say, then you may need to upgrade from hiking shoes to hiking boots, or at least shoes with ankle support. Most hikers don't carry that much weight, however, so it shouldn't be something that you have to worry about.
- Proprioception - Some people probably wont agree with this one, but I think that proprioception is important. For those that don't know, proprioception is the ability to sense the environment around you. In the case of shoes, it is the ability to sense what is beneath your feet. That feedback can come in handy when you are on unstable or rocky ground, to give just two examples.
- Breathable and Waterproof - Depending on the season and the weather you expect, these are two very important features of hiking shoes. Unfortunately, the more breathable your shoes are the less waterproof they tend to be, so you will probably end up having to choose one over the other.
Best Hiking ShoesHere are a few of the best hiking shoes to give you an idea of what is out there.
- Inov 8 X-Talon 212 Trail Running Shoe - Inov 8 is probably the best brand of hiking shoe that most people don't know about. What they do really well is lightweight trail shoes, and the X-Talon 212s are a great example of that. They weigh just 7.5 ounces, or 212 grams, which is very lightweight for a pair of shoes. They have excellent breathability with the mesh uppers, but will not hold out well against water. The X-Talon 212s also have a great sole, which is thin enough to allow for good proprioception. But the bottom line is that with Inov 8, you get lightweight hiking shoes. You can see a similar women's shoe from Inov 8.
- Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 GTX Trail-Running Shoes - Salomon is a well known name when it comes to hiking shoes. These particular shoes are a great choice if you are looking for something that is both relatively breathable and waterproof, which is what you get with a Gore-Tex liner. They weigh 1 pound 12 ounces, or 810 grams, so you can really see the difference between these and the Inov 8s, but the waterproofing, along with these being a bigger, tougher shoe certainly adds some weight. Here is a similar women's shoe from Salomon.
- Montrail Mountain Masochist Trailrunner - Another very dependable brand when it comes to hiking shoes is Montrail. The Mountain Masochists are a great all around shoe that do well as a footwear choice for hikers. They're low profile and breath well, though they still manage to weigh 21 ounces, or 612 grams, which is not so much a mark against them so much as a demonstration of how ridiculously light the Inov 8s are. But if you are looking for something breathable and aren't sold on the Inov 8s, the Mountain Masochists are a great option. You can find the women's version too.
Hiking Shoes or BootsIf you're looking at the shoes listed above and thinking that they all seem a little flimsy for you, you are probably looking more for a boot. Hiking shoes are great if you don't carry too much weight in your backpack when you hike, or if you don't carry a backpack at all, but if you are carrying a lot of weight you probably need the extra support that a boot provides.
Just remember that even if you are wearing boots, they don't have to be heavy boots.