There is no ‘one shoe’ to suit everyone; something you’ll hear very often when buying shoes.
One of the commonest questions we get asked is “what pair of hiking shoes should I wear?” The first thing would be to always wear something that is comfortable. If it is one of your first days hiking and the walk is a grade two or three hike, you are better off wearing your runners than you are buying a new pair of hiking shoes or boots specifically for that event.
Types of footwear
First of all you have to understand that there are many different types of hiking shoes, boots and sandals suited to different trails and tread. Depending on what kind of walking you’re going to do, we suggest a hiking shoe or a trail runner is probably the most suitable option.
A walking sandal is great for hot, sandy walking or hikes that include river crossings. Always be mindful that sand and water can cause blisters even if the shoe feels really comfortable when you put it on.
Trail runners are a basic lightweight runner, often with a little bit less support and more aggressive tread on the bottom. Often your favourite running brand will have a similar trail version which usually has sufficient grip, is less likely to cause you blisters and takes less time to wear in.
Walking shoes are a cross between a trail runner and a hiking boot, consisting of a hard base and waterproof coating. This shoe usually has a slightly wider foot than the trail runners and has a little bit more support and structure.
Midi boots are between a walking shoe and a full boot, they often have the same hard base and are a more structured shoe with a slightly wider footing for a bit more stability, and come just onto the ankle bone. They are a great introduction to hiking boots option and a bit more affordable than buying the full hiking boot and generally a little easier to wear in because they have less material and it is often a softer design.
Full leather hiking boots can take a considerable amount of time to wear in, often the glue and the sole deteriorates or splits away before any real wear and tear in the upper material, particularly with thicker leather options. They are much heavier than other footwear options so hey can withstand more rugged terrain and show less wear and tear than softer materials, but the trad-ff is you have to have them on your feet all day long which can add significantly to the energy you expend walking. They usually are fully waterproof – although all footwear has a big hole in the top!
Where are you wearing them?
If you are just using your shoe for day trips around Victoria having a full hiking boot in my opinion is not needed. Additionally (and more importantly) there is no point not going hiking because you don’t have the proper hiking shoes as most of our lower grade hikes a runner is suitable so if you’re upgrading from your runner to have some little bit more support stability or something him to the trail running series keep reading on.
What are your feet like – feet test
There are many different brands of shoes and there is no one brand that is going to suit everybody. The best way to find your perfect shoe is to try on as many different shoes as possible. If you have a neutral foot there is no point buying an ultralight barefoot trail runner if you need to put your orthotics.
Size and width
The biggest mistake we often see people having with shoes is not buying them long enough or wide enough. Sometimes the shoe feels good in the shop but as soon as you start hiking you start to develop fluid retention in your extremities due to a number of factors. This increase in water in the foot causes swelling which can lead to very uncomfortable feet, so ideally you need to buy footwear than it slightly larger than normal. This will hopefully alleviate pressure, minimise blisters, black toes and other compression issues.
There’s nothing more annoying especially when you got a full pack on if your shoelaces keep coming undone. Flat shoelaces will stay together longer than smooth round shoelaces. There are many tips and tricks to help keep your laces tied and various ways you can tie them. Jump on youtube, learn and few and try them out on your next walk. You can also opt for shoes such as the Salomon brand which has a tensioning lace that will not come undone.
This is probably one of the biggest important factors in buying shoes. Every 50g extra that you carry on your feet will cause your legs to fatigue significantly faster than any other factor of your bushwalk. This may mean you are more likely to struggle with lifting your feet and may be more prone to tripping over, or just get tired early and not enjoy the hike. Obviously don’t go too light in your shoes as you lose all the stability so finding a pair of footwear that gives you enough stability and is as light as possible is the ideal for most day and overnight hikes.
How to buy
Try them on and walk around in them as much as possible in the shop. Many people often find a brand they like then stick with it, however remember that brnad often change a fair amount between older and newer models of the same footwear. Once purchased. keep the box, tags, receipts, scunchy paper and wear them around the house in ever increasing amounts over the return period until you either like or dislike them, then it’s time to go outside or back to the shop.
Remember that new shiny tread and wet ground, especially rocks, sometimes don’t match, so be careful on those first few outings until you get a sense of how your shoes perform in particular situations and surfaces.
A few shoes that we like and recommend
We are certainly not going to pretend that we know all the shoes on the market but here are some of our go-to shoes. Remember, brand is not crucial, but look for the features you want and start trying them on. Then consider weight, price and lastly color – as everyone likes nice shoes!
- Our Director Adrian has worn Solomon GTX Pro and Speedcross shoes for many years. He doesn’t duffer from blisters and prefers the lighter far more aggressive shoes for all but the snow. These are a great, affordable, but quick wearing shoe for narrow to normal feet.
- Altra’s very light shoe offers great proprioception (return of feeling from the ground) is really great for those that like the feel of the trail and would probably suit lighter more agile walkers.
- Hoka Challengers are great for wide feet, lots of support and fantastic if you’ve suffered from plantar fasciitis. They have a huge comfort level and the Speedgoat model have pretty good grip for the trail.
- Solomon Midi Boot – A really good lightweight boot, again more for the narrow fit. Easy to wear in and gives you that little bit more for ankle support.
You can read more about hiking boots compared to trail runners in this article HERE.