Choosing Your Best Outdoor Footwear

hiking shoes

Last Updated on September 8, 2021

While all outdoor wear is important,  footwear could arguably be the most essential part of outdoor attire. The search for the right footwear can seem like a never-ending process. There is a huge range of outdoor shoe styles, materials, tread, and sizes. This decision can be downright overwhelming. To make the choice easier, there are many factors to consider when choosing the best footwear for your next journey. After trying many different outdoor shoes, researching the best designs for the foot, and enduring too many blisters, I’ve found my favorite brands and styles of outdoor shoes. I share with you some tips in tricks to lace up in footwear that will make the outdoors that much more enjoyable.

Fit it First

As much as we all wish we could fit into those hiking shoes on sale, purchasing outdoor footwear in the correct fit is a better choice in the long run (trust me I’ve done it)! These shoes will be the home for your feet for many expeditions, and naturally your foot will feel the consequences of shoes that do not fit well. Many times finding the best fit starts with simply trying on shoes. Start with shoes that are about a half size larger than your normal street size because your foot will naturally swell after walking long distances. Immediately, the shoes you put on should feel amazing. If you regularly struggle with foot pain, consider having a professional assess your arch type, ankle strength, and foot width. If you are unsure about which shoes to use, an expert at a local hiking or outdoors store can help you with finding the right shoes for your feet.

Outdoors Shoes: Choose Correctly for the Terrain

Man HikingBefore you head out on the hiking excursion, the terrain in which you will travel across must be taken into consideration. High-rise boots are a smart choice on paths that are rocky because they protect your ankles from rolling.  Muddy terrain or water crossings call for waterproof footwear. Low cut hiking shoes are useful as a lightweight option if the trail is smooth and dry. The terrain for the hike can also change according to the weather.

Watch the Weather

A start to any good outdoor trip is to check the weather and note the climate you will be facing. Choosing the best footwear for the outdoors is no different. Use your research on the weather and climate to clothe your feet when preparing for your journey.

Wet or Cold Conditions

Waterproof, leather shoes are perfect for cold or wet conditions. While leather can be heavier, it does a great job of keeping your feet warm and dry. Just be sure to not get water on the inside of leather shoes. The leather takes a while to dry out, and wet leather shoes become very heavy to walk in. If you are concerned about the weight of leather hiking shoes, choose a waterproof hiking shoe and wear extra thick wool socks to stay warm.

Hot and Dry Conditions

A hot and arid trek will be best to tackle in lightweight and ventilated shoes. The ventilation allows your feet to breathe, releasing any confined sweat or heat. Hot conditions can also cause your feet to swell a small amount.  As stated before, it is important to consider the possible swelling when choosing your correct hiking shoe size. I prefer wider toe box shoes for this very reason. If my feet swell, the shoes allow some room for comfort, without having to size up.

Your Safety Pads

No matter the shoe, it is important to pair them with a nice set of socks. Padded socks will prevent blisters and protect your feet for a long hike. I prefer wool socks in most climates because of the extra cushion they provide. However, when hiking on the extremely hot days in Arizona I opt for lightweight socks like the Injinji Trail Midweight Mini Crew Toe Sock.

Injinji Trail Midweight Mini Crew Toe Socks

My husband wearing the men’s Injinji Trail Midweight Mini Crew Toe with wide toe-box Altra Shoes.

Trekking Over Terrain

Rugged Routes

You may notice that several hiking shoes, specifically boots have a mid or high ankle covering. These designs are great to protect your ankles from rolling on uneven ground. If you know you will travel over ground covered with tree roots, rocks, and other uneven elements, choosing a higher ankle shoe is a wise choice.

Smooth Steps

If you normally travel over even pathways, or cleared out trails, prepare for smooth sailing with a more limber hiking shoe. A lighter weight shoe with good traction will fit to your foot well and keep you going for miles.

Don’t Forget the Slips

Depending on the length of your adventure, a lightweight pair of slip on shoes or sandals are a comfortable choice to bring along. After a long day of trekking, these slip-on shoes make it easy to travel around the camp site, beach, or simply to give your feet a little more ventilation.

Start off on the Right Foot

Your feet are the vehicles in which you trek across the trails. It is important to choose hiking shoes that are comfortable to optimize your journey and enjoy more of the outdoors. fit and durability will be the most important elements in picking out a hiking shoe. For everything else,  remember the information above to get you off on the right foot when it comes to choosing the best footwear for your outdoor adventures.


Check out a list of the top reviewed hiking boots here

About the author

Mariah Swigart

Mariah Swigart is often found camping, climbing, hiking, and kayaking in her home state of Arizona. She loves exploring new locations for her outdoor hobbies, and believes each trip is an opportunity to try a new piece of outdoor gear. Check out to read about her most recent adventures.

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