What to wear on your feet during hiking

Hiking shoes

Footwear is one of the most essential elements, which can make our experience on a route pleasant or a real torment. Characteristics of hiking shoes:

  • Side shields
  • Toe protection
  • Heel protection
  • Abrasion-resistant outer material (preferably waterproof and breathable membrane)
  • Sole with the heel, of sufficient thickness and semi-rigid (low torsion)

Boots or sneakers ?. There are specific hiking shoes that meet those requirements. It is not a good idea to go hiking with sneakers (athletics for example) since they do not have adequate heels and the sole is very flexible: we will have many possibilities of hurting our feet.

In general, if we do not have much experience in hiking, it is better to start with medium boots, since they will serve us for practically all types of routes and for any condition of the terrain (mud, grass with dew, presses, etc.). The foot is well secured; they protect our ankle from possible bumps and even sprains and offer us a very stable footprint.

Later, with more experience, with the most reliable foot, and knowing the terrain through which the route runs, you can choose hiking shoes (mountain shoes) that are lighter and allow better perspiration, especially in summer. 

The high boots offer extra stability at the foot and also protect better from the cold. But they tend to be more rigid and even somewhat more cumbersome. They are perhaps more suitable for crossings of several days where it is loaded with a more massive backpack.

If you can, choose boots made with the membrane (Gore-Tex fabric or similar). This fabric is waterproof but allows perspiration of the foot. The shoes that include Gore fabric are usually marked as ‘GTX’ or directly Gore-Tex. There are other similar membrane fabrics: M Select Dry, Dri-Tec, Dry-Line, etc. In general, those who wear Gore tend to be better in terms of perspiration because it is a company dedicated exclusively to the investigation of materials (the other fabrics are created by the footwear manufacturers themselves).

The advantage of the boots transpired is that they keep the feet drier and minimize the risk of blisters and chafing, as well as the sensation of overheated feet that is quite uncomfortable and can cause injuries.

If a membrane boot is going to budget, it is at least waterproof. And for hot summer outings, we could have a separate set of hiking shoes.

Some brands of boots recommended:

  • Merrell. It is a manufacturer that offers excellent value for money. It usually uses its own membrane system (M Select Dry).
  • Salomon. Another brand with excellent value for money. Some of its models are manufactured with Gore-Tex membrane (GTX).
  • The North Face. One of the reference brands in the world of hiking and mountain sports. Some models may be a bit more expensive, but they are of excellent quality. Most models are manufactured with Gore-Tex (GTX) technology
  • Salewa. Also a good brand of hiking shoes.
  • Chiruca. A Spanish brand that manufactures high-quality hiking shoes.

Hiking socks

The socks are the second skin of the foot, which protects it (cold and chafing) and that allows transmitting the movement to the boot in a smooth way.

Even if we wear functional boots, with some non-suitable socks, we will end up with blisters, foot wounds, feeling cold or just more tired from forcing the tread.

Characteristics of good socks:

  • They always have to have the cane higher than the boot
  • Preferably they are made of synthetic fiber since it breathes better and does not retain moisture like natural fiber
  • They have to have an elastic component so that they fit the foot without forming wrinkles. Sock wrinkles are the main enemy of the foot in a hiking
  • They can have reinforcements in the toe and heel, which are the areas that generally support the most efforts during the march

The thickness will logically depend on the weather conditions; that is, there are winter socks, designed especially to isolate the foot from the cold. And socks for summer, thinner and lighter.

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