Selecting Your New Hiking Boots


I recently spent some time at our local REI store getting some new boots for the Chief Scout. The people there were very helpful in narrowing down our selection then helping us choose the correct boot.  With this post,  I’ll share what we learned.

Types of Hiking Footwear

First,  there are four general categories of boots:

  • Hiking Shoes – these are cut like shoes and thus provide no ankle support.  They are lighter and great for fast hiking with a light pack (like a CamelBak).  I wear a pair of these everyday (Keen Targhee II Waterproof Hiking Shoes), but not usually for serious hiking.
  • Hiking Boots – These are a bit heavier and are typically mid-height so they offer some ankle support.  These are great for day hikes and short backpacking trips (2 or 3 nights out) where the pack isn’t as heavy as it could be and the trek is generally on trails.
  • Backpacking Boots – these are heavier and higher so they provide great ankle support as well as protection from rocks and other hazards.  These are best for longer backpacking trips and for off trail hiking.
  • Mountaineering Boots – these tend to be higher yet and heavier.  They are designed for  climbing mountains, crossing glaciers and other heavy duty, off trail travel.

Choosing a Type

We are planning more day hikes and some short backpacking trips.  This dropped us solidly in the “hiking boots” category.  There were several brands and styles to choose from, so we discussed the Chief Scout’s feet.  She has a wider forefoot, so that led us to the Keen brand that tends to have a wider toe box.  She also likes more support for her ankles.  Some boots have two eyelets at the top that help clamp around the ankle and hold it in place.  Some boots have a waterproof liner that I have found to be very helpful particularly when walking in wet grass.

The Selection

With that sorting process,  she ended up with Keen Durand Mid WP Hiking Boots.  Not only do they have the wider toe box, but they have the double eyelets at the top and they are waterproof.  They were also more comfortable for her than the Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boots that don’t have the double eyelets.


For sizing, she brought the inner sock liners and wool blend socks she plans to wear on the trail.  We thought she might also need a stronger arch support, but we were advised to try the boots on first.  After trying a couple of sizes by walking around the store for quite awhile, she decided to go with a pair that were 1½ sizes larger than her normal shoe size.  This size accommodated the heavy socks and also provided space for her feet to expand as feet typically do while hiking.  The boots come with removable, dual-density footbeds that serve the same purpose as the $50 arch supports we were looking at.  She decided the special arch supports were unnecessary.

I tried on the same boots and decided that I would need one size larger than the Keen Targee II shoes that I wear everyday, to accommodate the heavier socks I wear when hiking.  I didn’t buy a pair for myself as my Danner Combat Hikers (now Crater Rim GTX) still have some life in them.


This little exercise made selecting the appropriate footwear quite simple.  We came into the store  thinking about either Keen or Merrell boots and ended up with the Keen’s.  It was the combination of the double eyelets at the top and the wider toe box that best served the Chief Scout’s needs.  Obviously your choice may differ, but this process should help you quickly get to the boots that are best for you.   As usual, it’s best if you can go to a store to try on the boots, but these days, most online stores will let you return boots if you need a different size or otherwise don’t like what you get.

Please Share

@keen #hiking #hikingboots



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy

Pin It on Pinterest