How to Choose Hiking Footwear
Looking for a new pair of hiking boots or shoes? Run through this hiking footwear checklist, and then visit your local Eastern Mountain Sports to speak with a Foot Guru who will analyze and fit new shoes to your feet for free. No store near you? Not a problem: just call customer service and ask to speak with a Foot Guru specialist.
Know what and when
You first need to consider what you are going to do (type of activity) and when you are going to do it (time of year).
More than footwear size matters
The right hiking shoe or hiking boot not only matches your activity but also your foot shape (Not sure? Ask your local Eastern Mountain Sports Foot Guru or other shoe professional).
Choose hiking socks that match your feet
You wouldn't wear a down jacket at the beach, so why would you wear the incorrect hiking socks? Here are some general hints to put you in the right direction
- Wide Feet: Wear thin hiking socks
- Narrow Feet: Wear thick hiking socks
- Warm Feet: Wear hiking socks that wick moisture away from your foot (typically synthetic, e.g., Coolmax®)
- Cool Feet: Wear hiking socks that insulate or hold warmth around your foot (typically wool or a wool blend)
Choose hiking socks that fit
Make sure your hiking socks fit snugly but do not constrict the foot. Always carry backup socks on long day trips to keep socks dry and feet comfortable (friction and moisture cause blisters).
Choose hiking boots and shoes that fit your feet
Visit an Eastern Mountain Sports store to have your feet analyzed and custom fit by a Foot Guru. If you're shopping online and can't make it to a store call our customer service department and ask to speak with a Foot Guru specialist (1-203-379-2233). It's very important to meet with someone knowledgeable who can measure, evaluate, and fit your feet to a new pair of hiking boots or shoes.
Look for hiking footwear with firm support
A good hiking boot or shoe provides firm support through the arch area (shank part of the shoe). You should not be able to bend hiking footwear at the middle of the shoe or boot but flex at the forefoot of the shoe where your foot bends. Hold your heel in place with a heel counter (which helps stabilize the rear of your foot when in motion).
Make sure the shoe's upper fits the activity
Height matters (you don't want to be backpacking and carrying a heavy load while wearing ankle-height trails shoes). And material matters. Some examples: Gore-Tex for waterproofing and breathability, leather for support and durability, and fabric/leather (or synthetic leather) for light weight, flexibility, and breathability.
Understanding midsole materials
Look for hiking boots and hiking shoes with polyurethane midsoles for durability and support. Look for compression-molded EVA for lightweight cushioning. If you're not sure if the materials of a shoe or boot are appropriate for your activity, ask about them before you make the purchase and take them on a two-week hike.
Take the outsole seriously
Look for an outsole that provides traction and support for your activities. Don't buy hiking shoes if you're trekking through the Rockies with a heavy pack.
Know lacing techniques
Use lacing techniques to ensure your foot is not moving excessively in your hiking footwear during activity. Eastern Mountain Sports' Foot Gurus are trained to help you maximize a personalized fit by using special lacing techniques.