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Not much is required for hiking – a day pack, maybe a walking stick, and of course, a good pair of hiking boots. Hiking boots are essential because, obviously, you’re feet are doing all the work and thus should provide you with comfortable support and traction that will hold up on even the most rugged terrain.

Picking out the right pair of hiking boots is essential to your outdoor adventure. What may look (or feel) good in the store can leave you miserable by the second day of your trip. Listed below are some tips that will help you pick out the best hiking footwear possible, making your next wilderness journey a safe and comfortable one.

1. Ask yourself why

Before you even leave for the store, consider all of the factors of your upcoming trip and why you need hiking boots in the first place. Will you be walking on the relatively flat trails of a state park for a weekend or embarking on a 10-day backpacking trip through Europe? What sort of back will you be carrying with you and how much weight will that add? Weather and temperature of the hiking area should also be taken into consideration, as this will aid the store salesmen in finding you what you need.

2. Size matters

While at the store, be sure to wear the socks that you will be wearing on your hiking trip. Obviously, thick wool socks will have a vastly different fit than, say, thin cotton socks. In addition, don’t pay a great amount of attention to the sizes on the hiking boots as they differ slightly from sizes of tennis shoes or dress shoes. Try on at least a size smaller and a size bigger than you normally wear to find which actually fits the best. It may also be beneficial to have your foot measured while at the store.

3. The lighter, the better

When shopping, find the most lightweight boots you can for the type of hiking you’ll be doing. After a day or two of hiking, heavy boots will make you feel as if you have concrete blocks strapped to your feet.

4. Have some sole

A sturdy sole is an essential quality of a good hiking boot. When hiking, you don’t want to feel every last branch or rock you step onto, and a thick, sturdy sole should leave you comfortable throughout your trip.

5. Just the right fit

Once you find a boot you like, lace them up as if you are on the trail and kick the floor with your toe. If your foot moves a great deal in the boot that means that means it is a size too large, which can cause blisters. You will know you have the right pair when you walk and the heel of your foot and the heel of the boot move in perfect harmony, with the boot not feeling too snug or too loose.

6. Walk a mile

After you think you’ve found the right pair, try wearing them at least a few days prior to your trip, if not a month ahead of time. Wear the boots as often as possible to get them broken in and feeling good. This will not only help you get comfortable in the boot, but also help you gauge how durable they will be out in the field. Never wear your new boots for the first time on your hiking trip.

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