Whether you’re looking to start hiking or expecting to evacuate at a moment’s notice, you need a good pair of boots. I know shopping for most guys is a mini-SHTF event but those boots are important so you’re going to have to take the time to find a good pair.
If you’re forced to bug out for hours, days, or even weeks on end, a good pair of boots could mean the difference between do or die for you.
If you’re forced to walk for dozens of miles on country roads or even on a highway, you need boots.
If you’re gonna work the garden, fix your house, or many of the million and one things you’ll be forced to do post-collapse, you need a good pair of boots. So instead of blindly throwing your money away on something that looks nice, or even worse, going with your gut, let’s see what really matters when buying hiking boots.
The Ideal Hiking/Backpacking Boot
One word; quality. Sure, hikers will tell you you don’t need to pay extra unless you hike a lot, but we know why we’re doing this. Even if your plan is to bug in, you should still invest in a good pair of boots.
If your feet are cut, punctured, or get too cold, your mobility and maybe even your health will suffer at a time when you need to be in top condition.
The ideal hiking boots should:
- fit you like a glove (this can be a problem depending on the shape of your feet, some people have wide feet),
- provide good support for your ankles,
- have good insulation,
- be water resistant,
- have steel riveted lace holes,
- be made of leather (though some people prefer synthetics because they are lighter and dry faster, the downside is they don’t last as long as leather boots),
- have a stiff mid-sole (this is useful during prolonged hikes or bug-outs on uneven terrain)
- and (optional) leather uppers to protect you from cactus and snakes
What you don’t need:
- You can do without steel toes on your boots. In fact, it’s recommended. Steel toes are just going to weigh you down. The only reasons to get them is if you plan to spend a great deal of time in the wilderness (cutting wood etc.) The other scenario is when you need work boots but you don’t want to spend the money on a second pair. However, if you plan to hike a lot (for days on end), you’ll quickly realize this feature is NOT what you need.
Tips For Buying Hiking Boots
Let’s talk about fit for a moment. There’s a myth when it comes to shoes which says that, if they’re a little tight, they’ll eventually loosen in time. While this is possible, it’s not something you want because you’ll just end up with blisters and this will considerably slow you down during a bug-out.
Try as many pairs as you want until you get the right one. Walk around in each of them and notice how you feel. If you feel any discomfort at all, the pair is not right for you.
Think about it, if you feel uncomfortable in them after a few seconds, how will you feel after a few hours? The same thing happens with bug out bags, you feel fine when you stand with a 30-pound backpack on your back but if you walk with it for a few miles, you might not even make it.
One more thing, make sure you’re wearing thick socks when you go shopping. Wear the exact ones you intend to pair with your boots, otherwise you’ll have to return them.
Should you buy online? Sure, but not before you try them on in a real store. Another option for online shopping is to measure your feet and send them the measurements, but make sure they have a return policy in case they’re still not a perfect fit.
If you have no way of trying them on but you really want to purchase online, check their return policy before buying. When they arrive, make 110% sure they fit you and if they don’t, promptly ship them back for a refund or a different size.
Disclosure: This post has affiliate links, so I may get a commission if you buy through those links. See my full disclosure for more.
Are there any alternatives to hiking boots? Maybe, but none of the alternatives can replace boots for every situation. Some people hike with trail running shoes and that’s fine, for hiking in good conditions.
There’s an ongoing debate about this and I won’t go into the details. I’m just gonna recommend you get hiking boots because the terrain you might be forced to cross as you’re bugging out can be snowy or muddy. Running shoes just won’t do in these two scenarios.
Also, if your bug out bag is heavy, you definitely want a boot that’s able to support all that weight.
Now, there’s a difference between hiking and backpacking boots. Backpacking boots are optimized for heavy loads (your BOB or INCH bag) on your back. Hiking boots assume you have a lighter bag on your bag. So you may want to get this kind but, in the end, it’s about the ones that you feel more comfortable in.
Note: some of these labels are nothing more than marketing schemes, so unless you know what you’re doing, you probably don’t want to pay extra for a pair of boots that has this or that “amazing feature”.
Well, for one, don’t forget the socks. You can’t wear the same ones you’d wear with dress shoes with boots, right? You need a thicker pair unless you want to get blisters really fast.
Another thing you may find useful is having a couple of insoles such as these. With them, even trail runners will feel good and allow you to carry a heavy backpack on your back. This way you’ll end up better off if you can’t afford to pay for high-end, expensive boots.
Also, if you have problems with your ankles or knees, you should definitely see your doctor before spending your hard-earned money on new boots.
They may have certain recommendations for you that are not necessarily in line with this article (please keep in mind I’m not a doctor). For example, you may need a hiking pole or even two if you if you previously sprained your ankle.
Taking care of your boots. This is a must. You should read how the manufacturer recommends you take care of them, then buy the protective sprays and cleaning brushes. Make sure you thoroughly clean your boots after each hike.
Probably the best way to take care of them is to not use them unless you need to. For example, you might want to keep an extra pair of trail runners handy when you’re bugging out and use those when you have to cross a river.
Hiking boots can withstand small amounts of water if necessary but after an initial test to make sure they’re water resistant, there’s no point in getting them wet if it’s not absolutely necessary.
If you skipped through the the article just to get to the recommendations, I get it. However, if you’re gonna use the links below to buy online, I strongly advise you at least try them on in a brick&mortar store before you do it. You have to make sure they fit, otherwise there’s pain and blisters for you ahead.
Here are my top recommendations:
Even though you chose the right pair, you still need to break them in. One way of doing that is to try them on at the end of the day, when your feet are swollen.
That’s exactly what will happen after a long hike and you need to make sure your boots will still fit you like a glove. Make sure you wear the rights socks, too. If you don’t feel comfortable, you should return them and get something a little bigger.
As for your first hikes, with new boots, keep it short, 3-4 hours max. Do this a few times to allow a “gentler” breaking in period.