Best hiking boots of 2024: Choosing hiking boots and shoes for comfort and support

By: Andrew Forrest - April 2024

Hiking boots

In this comprehensive buyer's guide, we will walk you through the best hiking boots of 2024, delve into the key features to consider, and help you navigate your way to the ideal hiking boots for your needs to ensure comfort, stability and protection for your feet on your walks.

A well-fitting pair of hiking boots can make all the difference in enjoying your walk and preventing blisters and discomfort. A good-fitting boot should give you support, cushioning, and protection while allowing for natural movement and flexibility. However, with so many types and options available, finding the perfect pair for your needs can be challenging.

Table of contents 

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What we will cover in this best hiking boots guide

  • The best hiking boots of 2024
  • Understand your hiking needs and choose the proper boots for terrain, distance, season and frequency of hikes
  • Types of boots available looking at boots vs shoes, waterproof vs non-waterproof, leather vs synthetic
  • How to find the perfect fit and break in your hiking boots
  • Key features in your hiking boot
  • How to customise your boot by looking at insoles, socks and lacing techniques
  • How to care for your hiking boots

Best hiking boots for 2024

Best hiking boots: At a glance

Best hiking boots

Inov-8 Roclite Pro G400 GTX V2

Except for the extremes of winter walking, these are my go-to boots for comfort and support. They are reasonably lightweight, waterproof, comfortable, and provide plenty of grip on various terrains. Being from Inov-8, they give almost trainer-like comfort but with ankle support.

Inov-8 Roclite Pro G400 GTX V2 - Men's
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Inov-8 Roclite Pro G400 GTX V2 - Womens
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Features 4.5  
Construction 4.0  
Comfort 4.5  
Performance 4.5  
Value 4.0  


Super-tough ripstop upper material, waterproof Gore-Tex XCR membrane, Powerflow Max foam midsole, 6 mm EVA foam footbed and Graphene G-Grip rubber sole compound.


  • Weight - 400 g (per individual boot average across size range)
  • Drop - 8 mm
  • Stack height - Heel: 33 mm / Forefoot: 25 mm
  • Lug depth - 6 mm


  • Gore-Tex upper - Waterproof protection helps keep feet dry
  • Tightly woven ripstop upper - Flexible material which protects from dirt and debris
  • Wraparound heel lock - Keeps your foot secure inside the shoe
  • Heel cupped footbed - Provides additional comfort and stability
  • Lycra padded cuff - Prevents discomfort and irritation and keeps foot secure
  • Traditional lace-up - Locks down the midfoot and keeps the foot secure in the shoes
  • Powerflow Max - Provides bounce and energy return and enhances durability in the midsole
  • 6 mm EVA foam - Additional cushioning provided in the footbed
  • Graphene G-Grip outsole - Provides durability, traction and support underfoot, great for all terrains
  • 6 mm G-Grip lugs - Digs deep into dirt and mud
  • Meta-Plate Pro 6th Gen rock plate - Shank protects you from rocks and sharp debris


  • Lightweight
  • Waterproof
  • Comfortable
  • Good grip
  • Good secure lacing


  • Could be cheaper
  • 3-season use only (but that is fine for most people)


These Inov-8 Roclite Pro G400 GTX V2 hiking boots are excellent for day hiking or lightweight backpacking in all but full winter conditions. They are waterproof and provide excellent comfort and heel and ankle support giving great stability when walking over any surface. Even providing all this, they remain lightweight hiking boots with a superb grip.

I have worn these hiking boots since Inov-8 first launched them, but the initial version had problems similar to the original Roclite G345 GTX I wore. These have all been addressed now in the V2, and after about 800 miles, I have had no issues at all with these boots.

The V2 improved the top weave, which had always been a problem for me. It now has a tougher ripstop material with a tighter weave, which gives more protection to the Gore-Tex XCR membrane. The toe bumper has also been extended. The heel lock system and ankle padding have also been improved, which gives more support, stability, and comfort.

Inov-8 grew its reputation on its fell and trail shoes, worn by many of the country's top fell runners and athletes. So, it is no surprise that they feel more like training shoes when you put these on.

I also love the additional cushioning and energy return from the Powerflow Max foam in the midsole. You can really feel a difference at the end of a long walk, as your legs do not feel as tired.

The heel-cupped footbed and ankle support, and the more 'normal' hiking boot lacing, provide a secure fit, whether going up or downhill. Inov-8 has various widths for their footwear, from one to five, with five being the widest. These are a four on their fit scale, so if you have very narrow feet, you may feel they are too spacious in the toe box.

The sole and lugs are made from their Graphene G-Grip rubber, which they claim gives the world's toughest grip. I do find the grip to be superb over all surfaces.

There is also an underfoot rock plate that protects from sharp stones and rocks. The boot could be a little cheaper for me, but Inov-8 does have quite a few sales throughout the year, where you can pick up their shoes and boots at a reasonably discounted price.

Overall, these are excellent hiking boots for day hiking or lightweight backpacking. They are lightweight, waterproof, and comfortable, yet have the look and feel of traditional hiking boots.

Best lightweight hiking boots

Scarpa Rush 2 Mid GTX Boots

For me, this was a tough choice. I'm a real Inov-8 fan, and the Inov-8 Roclite G345 GTX (now V2) has been my lightweight boot of choice for quite a few years, but I think now, in a few areas, the Scarpa Rush 2 Mid GTX Boots have the edge. What you get is the feel of a trail running shoe, but with the support of a boot - they are lightweight, waterproof, comfortable and provide a decent amount of support and traction.

Scarpa Rush 2 Mid GTX Boots - Men's
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Scarpa Rush 2 Mid GTX Boots - Women's
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Scarpa Rush 2 Mid GTX Boots
Features 4.0  
Construction 4.0  
Comfort 4.0  
Performance 4.5  
Value 4.0  


Upper: Eco Air mesh + Eco Microfiber + Eco Film, Membrane: Gore-Tex Invisible Fit, Sole: Presa rubber, Midsole: IKS technology, PFC-free, Bluesign approved, vegan friendly.


  • Weight: 830 g (per pair size 8)


  • Anti-torsion system for added stability
  • Reinforced toe box for protection
  • Cushioning IKS technology
  • Removable inner sole
  • Sock-Fit construction
  • 3D auto-fit ankle pad
  • Highly breathable
  • Lacing closure
  • Waterproof
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Durable
  • Pull tabs


  • Lightweight
  • Waterproof
  • Good level of comfort for weight
  • Good grip


  • Not a con as such, but being lightweight, it lacks the support and comfort of some heavier boots
  • Fit felt a little narrow


These Scarpa Rush 2 Mid GTX Boots are an excellent, lightweight, waterproof pair of boots that perfectly balance agility, comfort and support. The Rush 2 Mid GTX features a new anti-torsion system that keeps you steady on varied terrain to enhance stability and ensure confident strides.

I could have included the Inov-8 Roclite Pro G400 GTX V2 in this category, but as I had already included them as the best hiking boots, I went for these as a very close second in the lightweight category.

I did feel the fit was narrower than the Inov-8s, so if you have narrower feet, these may suit you better. If you have wider feet, I would go with the Inov-8s.

Scarpa has made great hiking boots for years, and my much heavier leather Scarpa SLs are a testament to their longevity and design. They have extended their knowledge and experience into lightweight hiking boots, and these Scarpa Rush 2 Mid GTX hiking boots are currently the lightest in their range.

The Gore-Tex Invisible Fit lining provides lightweight, waterproof, and breathable protection and support, and I had no issues with water ingress during testing.

The 3D auto-fit ankle pad provided ankle support, but not quite as much as the Inov-8.

Unlike previous Scarpa boots I've had that had a Vibram sole, these come with a Presa® HIK-03 sole. Scarpa designed and made this sole with IKS technology (Interactive Kinetic System), characterised by seven cushioning areas (domes): six on the forefoot and one on the heel. The seven domes, they say, offer great cushioning and progressive support of body weight. The EVA midsole with two-density areas absorbs the impacts.

The boots felt stable and grippy over different terrains, and the sole and lug pattern includes a small heel brake.

There are lighter boots available, but you do not really notice the extra few grams in these boots, and for that, you get these additional protections, including the reinforced toe box.

Overall, these are excellent, waterproof, lightweight hiking boots that balance agility, comfort, and support.

Best leather hiking boots

Hoka Kaha 2 Gore-Tex Boots

Okay, so this isn't your old-fashioned-looking, brown-only, heavyweight leather hiking boot, but my choice for a leather hiking boot is this midweight boot constructed from an upper made from waterproof nubuck leather incorporating Gore-Tex fabric. This gives an outstanding balance between weight and cushioning. It also uses Vibram Megagrip rubber for increased ground contact and is available in many colours.

Hoka Kaha 2 Gore-Tex Boots - Men's
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Hoka Kaha 2 Gore-Tex Boots - Women's
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Features 4.0  
Construction 4.5  
Comfort 4.5  
Performance 4.0  
Value 4.0  


Upper: Waterproof nubuck leather, Inner: 80% recycled polyester lining, Midsole: Dual-density CMEVA with HUBBLE heel and SwallowTail, Outsole: Vibram MegaGrip, Laces: 100% recycled polyester.


  • Gait type: Neutral
  • Weight: 996 g (per pair size 8)
  • Heel: 32 mm, Forefoot 26 mm, Heel to toe drop 6 mm


  • Anatomical achilles construction with heel pull tab
  • Abrasion resistant toecap and heel
  • Quick-lace metal top hooks
  • Integrated flex grooves
  • Moulded PU sock liner
  • Good cushioning
  • Water repellent
  • Waterproof and breathable
  • 5 mm lugs and durable
  • Available in various colours


  • Comfortable
  • Stable
  • Durable
  • Mid-height ankle support
  • Waterproof
  • Light for the level of comfort and support provided


  • Fiddly laces/lacing hooks and tongue is too short
  • Hoka style of bulky heels and 'rocking' may not be for everyone
  • Not as breathable as some


When you mention leather hiking boots, people's main perception (well, mine anyway) is of heavy, solid, stiff hiking boots of old. Things have moved on massively over the years, and if leather boots are your choice, this pair of Hoka Kaha 2 Gore-Tex Boots will not disappoint.

With an excellent weight-to-cushion ratio, the Hoka Kaha 2 Gore-Tex delivers peak performance with comfort. For the fashion-conscious, they are available in many colours.

The leather upper is made from leather working group gold-rated waterproof nubuck leather, so it is more durable than most synthetic boots. It features a Gore-Tex footwear fabric with a PFC water-repellent finish for increased protection.

The dual-density foam midsole and meta-rocker geometry give the feel of a plush hiking experience. The large heels and rocker feel may not be for everyone. I have a couple of pairs of Hoka running shoes, and with this technology being borrowed from them, I am used to it, but some people may find it a little strange at first. Once you are used to it, I feel it helps with a more fluid walking action.

The soles feature Vibram® Megagrip rubber with 5 mm Traction Lugs for increased ground contact, giving a good grip in wet and dry conditions. The heel fits snugly into the shoe, with an anatomical achilles construction and heel pull tab.

The only real downside was that the lacing system could be better, and the tongue was shorter than I would have liked. Also, being leather and waterproof, there are more breathable boots out there.

Overall, if you are looking for a leather boot, you can't go far wrong with the level of comfort and support provided in a reasonably lightweight boot.

Best-value hiking boots

Merrell Moab 3 Mid Gore-Tex Boots

For value in a hiking boot, you cannot go far wrong with the Merrell Moab 3 Mid Gore-Tex boot, which is often available on Amazon for about £100. It is ideal as an entry-level boot for day hikes and lightweight backpackers, and for the price, you get a comfortable shoe with a decent amount of cushioning, Vibram soles, and a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane. For generally £20-£30 less, you can get the same boot but with Merrell's own waterproof membrane rather than the Gore-Tex one.

Merrell Moab 3 Mid Gore-Tex Boots - Men's
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Merrell Moab 3 Mid Gore-Tex Boots - Women's
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Features 4.0  
Construction 4.0  
Comfort 4.0  
Performance 3.5  
Value 4.5  


Upper: Main body: Pig suede leather and mesh upper, webbing and laces: 100% Recycled material, Lining: 100% Recycled material, moulded nylon arch shank, Outsole: Vibram TC5+.


  • Weight: 980 g (per pair size 8.5)
  • Lugs: 5 mm
  • Heel: 31.7 mm, Forefoot: 20.5 mm, Heel to toe drop: 11.5 mm


  • Gore-Tex® waterproof membrane, exceptional breathability and waterproof performance
  • Pigskin leather and mesh upper
  • 100% recycled laces and webbing
  • Bellows tongue keeps out debris
  • Protective toe cap
  • 100% recycled mesh lining
  • Kinetic Fit™ ADVANCED removable contoured insole with reinforced heel cushioning for medium support
  • Moulded nylon arch shank
  • Merrell Air Cushion in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability
  • Super Rebound Compound provides durable shock absorption in the heel to help reduce torque and allow for a smooth transition into the midfoot.
  • Vibram® TC5+ outsole


  • Comfortable
  • Supportive
  • Durable soles
  • Waterproof


  • Toe protection could be larger to cover the front mesh
  • Traction could be better, especially on wet rock


For many, Merrell Moab's have been their first pair of hiking boots, and for what you get for the price, it is not hard to see why, with these Merrell Moab 3 Mid Gore-Tex boots often available on Amazon and at other outlets for about £100. You get a good fit, reasonable levels of comfort, and durable boots, all for a fair value price. For me, its cheaper build quality comes with a couple of downsides in its weight (other more expensive boots afford better comfort in a lighter boot) and lack of traction sometimes, mainly I found on wet rocks.

When you first put the boot on, you'll notice a decent amount of padding around the collar of the boot, which being mid-height cradles around the top of your ankle. Albeit, other mid-height boots I've tried have been a little taller than this one. Still, there is a feeling of comfort, and that, along with good support, did give that comfort out-of-the-box feeling. Merrell includes their Kinetic Fit™ ADVANCED removable footbed with added zonal arch and heel support in these boots, which offers that support. Breaking the boots in was relatively quick for me, and I was outdoors on the fells testing them the next day.

Even with the Vibram TC5+ sole, these walking boots did lack a little traction for me, especially on wet rocks. Being Vibram, I have no doubt the sole will be very durable in the long term, but on more expensive boots, they often include the Vibram Megagrip rubber, which, for me, is much stickier and gives a lot better traction.

The boot's cushioning is provided by an EVA midsole and an air cushion in the heel to absorb shocks. There is a protective toe cap on the boot, but for me, that could be just a little larger to protect more of the mesh. With the Gore-Tex membrane, the shoes were entirely waterproof when I tested them.

I only had mid-weight backpacks when I tried these boots, but I feel that if you had a much heavier backpack on multi-day hikes, these probably wouldn't give you the support and comfort you'd need, but they were fine for day hikes.

They are available in many colours and a couple of widths.

Overall, if you are looking for a good value, comfy, waterproof boot, you can't go far wrong with these Merrell Moab 3 Mid Gore-Tex Boots.

How to choose hiking boots for comfort & durability

Understanding your hiking needs

Choosing the right pair of hiking boots is key to enjoying your walk. In making that choice, you must first consider the terrain, distance, time of year/weather and frequency of your hikes.


The terrain you will be walking in significantly affects which boots would suit you. If you wander around local parks or fields, the stability, cushioning, and protection needed will be much less than when heading up or down steep climbs, especially on uneven ground in the mountains.

Lightweight boots or shoes with reasonable flexibility are ideal for well-trodden paths and trails. In general, for more uneven or steep terrain, stiffer boots with substantial ankle support are advisable. A higher cut on the boot will provide additional protection and support for the ankles. More rigid soles will create a strong base for the feet and are also helpful if carrying a heavy backpack.


The further you plan to hike, the more critical it is to select a boot that offers comfort, stability and durability.


The frequency of hiking directly affects the selection of hiking boots, as it determines the level of support and durability required. In general, a leather boot is more durable than a synthetic boot, but that generally comes at a price because the boot is also heavier. Regularly checking and maintaining your boot will help extend its longevity - more on that below.

Time of year/weather

If you do most of your walking in the summer in dry weather, you may be better off with a non-waterproof pair of boots, as they are more breathable than waterproof boots. If you simply do not like wet feet, then choose a waterproof pair.

Boot types & their benefits

Hiking boots are broadly classified into three categories: lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight. Each type offers advantages and disadvantages and is tailored to specific hiking scenarios.

There is generally a trade-off between different boot weights - the heavier the boot, the more cushioning, support, and protection it provides. I prefer using as light a boot as I can get away with that still offers me the support, comfort, and protection that I need for my various types of hikes.

I do a lot of walking, so I have a couple of lightweight pairs, one Gore-Tex for wet days and one not Gore-Tex for warmer, drier days, a midweight pair, and a mid/heavyweight pair with Gore-Tex for my winter walking. If you do a lot of winter walking and use crampons, you need to look for crampon-compatible boots.

Lightweight boots

Lightweight boots generally offer more flexibility and mobility than their heavier counterparts, making them an excellent choice for less demanding hikes and walking along well-made paths. Most lightweight boots should be fine for longer day hikes or overnight backpacking trips if you don't have a heavy backpack. Some of the best ones are based on trail shoes or fell shoes but are built up to provide some over-the-ankle support. They typically have a lower ankle than midweight.

The weight carried on your feet directly impacts your walk, and we discuss that further in the 'Weight' section below. The downside is that as they are lighter, the boot has less cushioning, support and protection than a midweight or heavyweight boot.

Midweight boots

Many people choose midweight boots as they balance support, comfort, and weight, making them suitable for various hiking conditions without being too heavy. These boots typically feature a mid-cut or higher design, offering enhanced ankle stability and foot support.

They are ideal for extended hikes with moderate to heavy backpacks, providing the necessary comfort, cushioning, and support. They are often made of more durable materials than lightweight boots.

Heavyweight boots

If you're tackling steep inclines or rough terrain, heading off-trail, or going on multi-day hikes, heavyweight boots may be the choice for you. These boots are generally stiff and tough and typically offer better support and protection, making them perfect for carrying heavy loads and navigating challenging landscapes.

However, heavyweight boots can be less comfortable due to their increased bulk and weight. As the name implies, they are heavier, so more energy is needed to walk in them. They generally require more break-in time (see below), so don't wear them straight out of the box on a long hike!

Material choices: Leather vs Synthetic

When it comes to material choices, leather and synthetic options have both their advantages and disadvantages. Leather walking boots are known for their durability and ease of care, making them popular among seasoned hikers. However, they are generally heavier than synthetic boots and don't provide the same level of breathability. You can see how the trend has changed over the years, with how many synthetic boots are now available compared to leather ones.

On the other hand, a synthetic boot is lighter, more breathable, and can dry faster than a leather boot. Generally, they are not as durable as leather boots, but their reduced weight and increased comfort can make them an appealing option for many people. Woven nylon and meshes are often used on synthetic uppers, which aid breathability and reduce weight, but they aren't as durable as others.

Leather hiking boot and a synthetic hiking boot

Leather hiking boot and a synthetic hiking boot

Nubuck leather is often found on midweight boots, and it is softer, lighter, and more flexible than full-grain leather. Still, whilst not as durable, it is generally more durable than synthetic woven and mesh uppers. Full-grain leather is often found on heavyweight boots, and often, uppers are made with just one piece of leather on high-end boots. It is durable and waterproof but requires more maintenance than synthetic boots to keep it that way (see below) and is not as breathable.

For many years, all I wore outdoors was leather hiking boots, but now it is almost always synthetic boots for me. I find the best synthetic boots and shoes much lighter and comfier while giving me the stability and protection I need. I know I will have to replace them more often with the miles I walk. My leather Scarpa SLs are still going strong after nine years, whereas I go through a couple of synthetic pairs a season. The additional comfort and less weight, meaning less tired legs, are worth that for me. Ultimately, the choice between leather and synthetic boots will depend on your preferences and the types of walks and hikes you go on.

Waterproof vs non-waterproof boots

Waterproof boots keep your feet dry in wet conditions, thus providing a level of comfort and eliminating one of the sources of blisters. They are great for wet, muddy walks or venturing out in the snow. The waterproofing also effectively provides an extra layer of insulation, which can be helpful when walking in the colder months.

Waterproofing can be provided by treated leather, treated outer shell, waterproofing built into the outer shell, or waterproof membranes, such as Gore-Tex constructed just under the outer shell. A waterproof boot is my choice for wet-weather walks and walking in winter.

Non-waterproof boots offer better breathability in dry climates, which can be key for maintaining foot comfort during long hikes. I prefer non-waterproof boots and shoes when I'm out walking when the weather is warm and dry. When paired with the right socks, their breathability can keep your feet from sweating, helping reduce hot spots and blisters.

To determine whether you need waterproof or non-waterproof boots, you need to consider where and when you'll be walking, the condition of the terrain, and the weather.

Hiking boots vs hiking shoes

Hiking boots and hiking shoes both offer their advantages and disadvantages. Hiking boots with the added ankle support provide greater protection and stability, making them preferable for rocky and uneven terrain. They provide enhanced ankle support and protection, ensuring a safer and more comfortable hiking experience.

In contrast, walking shoes, which are generally lighter and more flexible, are an attractive option for many on easier paths and shorter distances. There is the old adage that a pound in weight on the foot is equivalent to carrying five pounds on your back, so being lightweight can make your legs feel less tired after hikes. They do, in general, provide less ankle support and protection.

Having used trail and fell shoes over many years, I've built strength up in my ankles, so I do prefer, when I can, wearing trail or fell shoes, especially in the summer, but that is not for everyone. Many people I walk with prefer the added 'safety' of ankle support. Ultimately, the choice between hiking boots and shoes will depend on personal comfort preferences, the type of walk you are undertaking, the terrain you are walking on and the time of the year.

Finding the perfect fit

A well-fitting pair of hiking boots can make all the difference when it comes to enjoying your walk and preventing blisters and discomfort. A proper fit should give you support and cushioning, allowing for natural movement and flexibility.

Fit, comfort and sizing

When trying on walking boots, try them with the socks you intend to use for your hikes to ensure a good fit. When doing so, take account of your foot arch type and choose the corresponding insole for maximum support and comfort. Finding the right fit will allow you to enjoy your hikes without the discomfort of poorly fitting boots.

I have always found that having around a thumb's width of space beyond the big toe allows for my natural foot expansion during a long day of hiking and ensures that my toes won't be cramped or pressed against the front of the boot during downhill treks. Because your foot can swell when walking during long hikes or towards the end of a day, I always buy at least half a size larger than my normal shoe size, as it is normal for my foot to swell during long hikes.

Additionally, a boot should fit snugly around the heel, which prevents blisters by reducing friction and ensuring that your foot doesn't slide around within the boot.

If you can, it is always advisable to try on new boots before you buy them. That may not always be possible, depending on where you live and time constraints. Once you are happy with a brand and a certain fit, I find it easier to buy online, as there is greater choice... unless the manufacturer changes their last and fit! I must admit that probably 80% of my boot/trail shoe purchases are online now, as you have more choice, and I know which boots suit my foot shape.

Most manufacturers provide size guides online and instructions for measuring your feet to find the perfect fit. Boots and shoes are made on lasts, and they vary slightly between brands and even between different boots of the same brand.

Breaking in your hiking boots

If you have bought or are going to buy some new hiking boots, do not overlook the importance of knowing how to break in those boots. Out of the box, even a great-fitting boot needs time to adapt to our feet. A modern synthetic boot generally requires hardly any time to adjust to, but a leather boot can take up to a few weeks.

Breaking in hiking boots and shoes is a vital step towards ensuring a comfortable, pain-free and blister-free walk. You can start by breaking them in at home and walking around the house in them, initially 30 minutes and then building up daily over longer periods. Even sitting in them while watching the TV can help, as the heat and moisture from your foot can help mould the boot to your foot and allow the material to become more supple and flexible.

If it is a leather boot, you can flex the leather using your hands to speed up this break-in process. Then you can move on to outdoors. Initially, go out on short walks outdoors and gradually increase the mileage of the walks until you feel comfortable in the boot. Besides increasing mileage, add different terrain types and walk with added weight in your backpack.

If you still feel any discomfort, experiment with different types and thicknesses of walking socks or other insoles, as you need to find a comfortable and secure fit. As we have just run through above, also experiment with the different lacing techniques available to fine-tune the fit of your boot. Your muscles and ligaments need time to acclimatise to their new position.

If you are still having problems, check out our detailed guide on how to break in hiking boots.

Key hiking boot features to consider

Selecting the perfect pair of hiking boots involves more than just finding the right fit. It's also crucial to consider key boot features that can enhance your hiking experience, some of which include:

  • Breathability and waterproofing
  • Weight
  • Outsoles and traction for grip on various terrains
  • Toe protection
  • Ankle support
  • Stiffness and stability

Keeping these key features in mind will better equip you to choose from a full range of hiking boots that offer the support, comfort, and protection you need for your walks.

Breathability and waterproofing

Waterproofing is essential for keeping your feet dry and comfortable in wet conditions. Waterproof and breathable membranes, such as Gore-Tex, are integrated into the construction of the boots to provide waterproofing. Additionally, waterproofing sprays, creams, liquids or wax can be applied to the outer surface of a boot to enhance its water resistance further. The membranes or Gore-Tex also stop as much wind from getting through, which helps insulate your feet, keeping them a little warmer.

Gore-Tex label on hiking boot with a Gore-Tex membrane

Gore-Tex label on hiking boot with a Gore-Tex membrane

While waterproof membranes keep your feet dry, they are not as breathable as shoes or boots with non-waterproof membranes, which I prefer on drier, warmer days, as they help your feet breathe and keep your feet cooler. For most people who just want one pair of hiking boots that can be worn for most of the year, a pair with waterproofing will be the way to go.

With waterproof hiking boots, I have found a large variability in breathability, with some being much more breathable than others. My leather boots are the worst performers, which is why I generally do not wear them in summer. So, finding a boot with good breathability can stop sweat from forming on your feet, which can make them uncomfortable.


Much is to be said for the old adage that a pound on your feet is the equivalent of five pounds on your back. This has been backed up by studies, including one from the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in 1984 that concluded that it was between 4.7 and 6.4 times as much energy needed to carry weight on your feet as to your back. But lightweight doesn't always mean they are the best walking boots for you.

Your boot must protect your foot by making it stable and comfortable. To do this, the more protection and comfort added by way of grip, rock plates, toe protection and cushioning, the heavier a boot will be, so there will be a play-off between them.

If you wear a heavy backpack that shifts the centre of gravity back a little onto your heels, you would need boots with more heel stability and cushioning, especially if you are walking on hard, rough trails. If you walk mostly on softer ground and grass, you don't need as much protection and can wear lighter boots.

A heavier boot, or those with a stiffer outsole, are also less flexible than many lightweight boots. This can be useful for certain terrains or when using crampons, but I do prefer a boot with more flex, where you can 'feel' the ground as you walk and respond to uneven surfaces.

For me, the lighter the boot I can get away with whilst still finding comfort and support, the better. I use a range of boots and shoes that tend to be lightweight and non-waterproof for dry, warmer summer days, lightweight and waterproof for spring, autumn and warmer winter days, and a heavier weight pair for very wet, snowy or icy winter days. This comes down to preference, as some people prefer the stability of a heavier boot or walk in conditions better suited to it, whereas others prefer a lighter boot.

Outsoles and traction

Outsoles and traction play a significant role in providing grip and stability on various terrains. Hiking boots typically feature a rubber outsole, which offers excellent grip on multiple surfaces. A harder outsole may increase durability but can be slippery on off-trail surfaces.

One of the more well-known soles is Vibram, which uses different types of rubber for its various soles.

Vibram sole

Vibram sole

More recently, newer developments include graphene-enhanced G-Grip rubber, as used by Inov-8. Some soles are made of 'stickier' rubber, which works well on wet grass and rocks. However the downside I find is that the rubber wears much quicker and is not as durable. Some sticky rubbers also sometimes get hard in colder temperatures and lose some of their grip.

Graphene G-Grip sole

Graphene G-Grip sole

When selecting a walking boot, consider the lug pattern and depth on the outsole for optimal traction in different conditions, such as muddy or loose terrain. Ensuring your boot provides adequate traction will help you maintain your footing and avoid slips and falls during your hikes.

Lugs in different directions on different parts of the hiking boot sole

Lugs in different directions on different parts of the hiking boot sole

Generally, deeper lugs provide more grip, and wider-spaced lugs shed mud more easily. Some shoes have lugs coming up the underside of the toe to help when climbing steeper slopes, and some have different distinct lug patterns around the heel to help reduce sliding during steep descents.

One of the many different patterns of lugs and tread on a hiking boot

One of the many different patterns of lugs and tread on a hiking boot

Specific mountaineering boots have 'B' ratings, which shows their suitability for winter mountain walking, ranging from B0, which are not suitable for crampons, to B3, which are boots with welts on the outsole at the toe and the heel for fixing crampons to. C2 crampons should be used with B2 boots, and C3 crampons with B3 boots.

Toe protection

Toe protection on your boot or shoe helps safeguard your toes from impact and preserves the integrity of the boots. They can be integrated or a visible band around the front of the shoe. They are generally made from materials such as rubber, thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), and other synthetic/hybrid materials. Having toe protection will ensure your boot lasts longer and helps keep your feet more pain-free when you accidentally kick stones, tree roots and rocks while walking.

Toe bumper for toe protection

Toe bumper for toe protection

Some boots also come with a rand, a band of reinforced material, often rubber, around the bottom of the boot, just above the sole.

Toe protection on a hiking boot

Toe protection on a hiking boot

Ankle support

Ankle support helps prevent injuries and provides stability on uneven terrain. A hiking boot with ankle support offers enhanced stability and protection to the ankle, reducing the likelihood of ankle sprains and other injuries. It restricts ankle movement and aids in sustaining correct foot alignment while hiking.

Varying levels of ankle support across eight pairs of hiking boots, hiking shoes, trail shoes and fell shoes

Varying levels of ankle support across eight pairs of hiking boots, hiking shoes, trail shoes and fell shoes

It is a preference, though many people, especially in summer or on shorter walks, prefer a shoe to a boot, as the former is lighter but comes with no or very little ankle support. I've worn fell and trail shoes for many years, and they are my preference for most of my walking from April to October.

Stiffness and stability

A hiking boot or shoe's stability generally comes from a piece of rigid or semi-rigid material between the midsole and the outsole, known as a shank. It can be made from plastic, nylon, or thin steel, providing rigidity across the boot and a level underfoot impact protection. Some are designed to align with the foot's metatarsals, allowing the foot to move naturally while still providing support.

Generally, heavyweight boots are much stiffer, but a flexible, lightweight boot should be fine for day hikes, especially on less technical terrain.

The sole on a stiff, rigid leather walking boot and the sole on a more flexible synthetic hiking boot

The sole on a stiff, rigid leather walking boot and the sole on a more flexible synthetic hiking boot

The midsole is the part of the boot underneath your insole and should absorb and dampen some of the impact as you walk. Midsoles are made from different materials and come in various thicknesses, with some even offering energy return.

Caring for your hiking boots

Proper care and maintenance of your hiking boots are essential for prolonging their lifespan and ensuring they remain in top condition for your walks. Regular cleaning, conditioning, and storage can help extend the life of your boots and keep them looking their best. Cleaning and waterproofing your shoes will help keep your feet dry, thus potentially eliminating one of the causes of blisters.

If you can, clean off any loose mud and dirt from your walking boots as you approach the end of your walk on long grass. Then, wipe them with a cloth before putting them away or back in your car. Once at home, remove the laces and insoles, as this makes cleaning easier.

How you clean your walking boot depends on the material it is made from. There are different cleaning techniques, cleaners and proofers for full-grain or split-grain leather, synthetic, nubuck and suede.

You need to work through and clean the outside and inside of your boot before moving on to waterproofing or reproofing. For the proofing, what you need to use again depends upon the type of material your shoe is made from. Many different waxes, creams, gels, sprays and liquids are available especially for this job. If you wish, you can clean and deodorise the insoles from your walking boot before drying.

The most effective method for drying your boots is to let them air dry naturally. Hang them upside down in a well-ventilated area away from direct heat sources to prevent damage to the material.

For more detail on how to clean the different types of hiking boots and shoes, the various cleaning materials to use on them, the different kinds of available proofers, how often you should clean and reproof, how to dry your boot, how to use your banana boot and what not to do when cleaning walking boot, check out our guide on how to clean, dry and care for your hiking boots.

Customising your boots

After you have found your best walking boots, customising them with aftermarket insoles, lacing techniques, and socks can significantly enhance comfort, support, and performance during your hikes. An off-the-shelf or custom-made insole can provide additional or reduced volume, improve the fit under the arch, and increase or decrease cushioning and shock absorption.

Trying different lacing techniques and socks can help you achieve the perfect fit and ensure your boots stay secure during your hikes. Customising your boots enables you to create a walking boot that provides comfort and support while walking outdoors.


Hiking boot insoles connect your foot and boot and can make or break a walk. Choose correctly, and they can provide comfort, stability, and support and help correct any biomechanical foot issues, relieving painful feet, ankles, and knees.

An insole, also known as a footbed, is the part of a shoe or boot that lies under the sole of your foot. In walking boots and shoes, many insoles are removable, but some are attached and cannot be removed.

Besides choosing an insole that helps with foot problems, you may have to look for an insole that matches the shape and volume of your walking boots. Consider trying different walking insoles to find the best combination for your needs. Some insoles come in 3/4 length, allowing more room around your toes.

There are various types and lengths of insoles, including foam, air cushioning, gel, and carbon fibre, and insoles that can be purchased 'off the peg' or custom-made.

The correct insole can improve fit and prevent blisters. It can also help with arch support, comfort and cushioning, stability and alignment, durability and longevity, and moisture and odour control.

We have compiled a detailed article on choosing insoles for comfort and support, along with our list of the best hiking insoles for 2024.

Hiking socks

It's crucial to pick the right hiking socks. Ill-fitting socks can cause blisters and discomfort, turning a delightful hike into a painful walk. Considering the average person takes around 2,000 steps per mile, that's a significant amount of rubbing between your sock and foot. Hence, selecting the most suitable socks for your feet is vital to ensure your hike is as enjoyable and comfortable as possible.

People spend a lot of time and money choosing walking boots or shoes, but socks, insoles and laces are the connection between the boot and the body, so choosing the right ones is essential for a comfortable and blister-free walk. Much like walking boots and shoes, no one sock covers all types of hikes, walking seasons, and the weather in the UK, so why not add a range of socks to your hiking gear?

The best walking socks for your hike should feel comfortable on your feet, wick moisture away from your skin, provide cushioning to high-impact areas and help regulate foot temperature to avoid excess sweating. We have put together a detailed article on the best hiking socks and the best walking socks of 2024, along with the key factors to consider when buying them, including material, thickness, fit and sizing, construction, cushioning and support of the walking sock.


You may never have given a second thought as to how you tie your hiking boots or shoes, as many people lace them like their day-to-day shoes or trainers, using the technique they learnt as a toddler. But, with so many factors to consider, such as boot type, foot shape, terrain, and personal preferences, it's essential to understand the different lacing techniques and their benefits.

You spend a lot of money choosing your walking boots and socks, so to get the best out of them, you need the correct insoles and tie your laces to suit. The right combination of walking boots, socks, insoles, and lacing patterns is key to your feet being stable and comfortable in your walking boots or shoes.

A good lacing system is essential for achieving a secure fit and helps prevent blisters during long hikes. Different lacing techniques can address fit issues such as blisters, heel slipping, pressure points, and toe discomfort, ultimately providing a more comfortable and secure fit. The lacing system on the boot itself can impact the fit. Some of the more single-pull type lacing systems are mainly found on hiking shoes rather than boots, and whilst quick to 'tie', I've found they are not customisable.

Some of the more popular lacing techniques include:

  • Surgeon's Knot lacing
  • Criss-cross lacing
  • Heel-securing or heel-lock knots
  • Window lacing

Along with these techniques, you can lace differently for wide feet, narrow feet, high arches, wide forefeet, high midfoot, toe relief and more. Experimenting with these techniques on your footwear can help you find the perfect fit and ensure your walking boots remain securely in place throughout your walk.

If you need to know more, we've put together a how-to-lace hiking boot and shoe guide that will walk you through the different techniques for keeping your feet happy on your walk.


In conclusion, choosing the perfect pair of hiking boots involves understanding your personal hiking needs, analysing various boot types and their benefits, and considering essential features such as material choices, waterproofing, and fit. By exploring all these factors, you can make an informed decision and select the best hiking boots for all your adventures.

Happy walking...

April 2024