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Finding My Perfect Hiking Boot

What is in a shoe?

Your shoes are the one item essential for setting the tone for any given activity. With the wrong tone set your journey through your activity can be less pleasurable be it a simple walk, hitting the hardwood for hooping or hiking a mountain. If you are ill equipped for a journey your feet, aka your foundation, can become your worst enemy.

I have been traveling and hiking for the greater part of half a year now. I have done so with sneakers, which while a great choice for many of my activities sometimes miss the mark when it comes to more strenuous hiking. It was time to make a change as I prepared for possibly one of the most rugged terrains I have tackled yet, a visit to the great Rocky Mountains.

My criteria was simple: affordability, comfortability, effectiveness and the possibility of attractiveness.

Quickly I learned that attractiveness is not one of the qualities to which designers of these off road style boots consider. Of all the boots I viewed online or in person nothing stuck out as a stand out staple for style. In fact, I found it a little disappointing that nothing seemed to have personality befitting of my own personal style in appearance. A lot of grey and brown with highlights of various colors seemed to be the norm. And while it truly isn’t about the look of the shoe, it would have been nice to have seen something that visually drew me in as the other shoes in my life typically do when selecting.

I started reading reviews by fellow customers. I have found this to be one of the more accurate representations of a brand than a mere visual of the boots you are yet to wear and making assumptions. People can be brutal when they don’t like something or if a product does not live up to their expectations. Some of the reviews were so detailed that I just had to check out boots within the brand even though some of them honestly did not meet my affordability criteria. I wanted a base of comparison.

I decided that after seeing many more work-style boots classified as hiking boots to travel to Academy Sports and Outdoors. I always seem to find a deal here, many times on the same brands that you see more highly priced online. Online didn’t seem to be the place to get the boots anyway, I needed to try the on before purchasing so Academy just seemed to make sense.

The fit is the most important feature of the boots. You want to be able to put a thick wool sock on the foot and then still feel comfortable and while most people do not go to the store with a wool sock in tow or even realize they need wool socks for hiking when just starting out it is something you must consider. (Wool socks prevent slipping and blisters when hiking)

Comfortability is something which you simply know when you put on the right boot. I tried on several boots in each style because each boot truly does fit a bit differently based on others trying them on before you in some cases, manufacturing inconsistencies and sock thickness. I focused mainly on the Hi-Tech Skamania, Hi-Tech Bandera and Magellan Harper boots.

Each of these boots was slightly different in form, though two were from the same brand. The fit of each for this reason were differing and gave me a hard decision to make.

Both of the Hi-Tech boots featured a brighter color scheme so visually they seemed to have a bit more personality. They also used the basic same principles of design with a more padded ankle support and knobby base for gripping.

The Bandera boots were pink and cream, which while very feminine I could see getting very dirty very quickly. The ankle support fell just above the bend of my ankle and after being fully laced seemed to be comfortable. The shoe itself just did not seem to run true to size and finding a size which fit me was a bit more difficult. My typical size a 7.5 felt a bit cramped at the big toe but an 8 seemed a bit loose at the back. With lacing the boot tighter I could narrow that looseness along with a wool sock so I left these in consideration at $49.

The Skamania was perhaps my favorite looking boot with the grey and purple coloration. It had the most personality of the three. Retailing at $59 it was the ore expensive of the three but also had the highest ankle support, so there was simply more boot there for the price. That ankle support had a deep v cut in the back for maneuverability, ultimately this was the detriment for the boots on my fitting however as it seemed to rub in all the wrong places when I was bending and it seemed to put pressure on my Achilles. These were an easy no.

The Harper boots were typical of what you think of when you think of hiking boots, brown and black rugged looking off roading boots. I tried both a 7.5 and 8 and settled on the 7.5 because there was plenty of room when laced without being loose as opposed to the 8 which had a little to much rubbing room. The sole of the boot felt very different than the Hi-Tech brand, a little less bulky in appearance and the ankle support was more fitted to the actual ankle versus the super padding featured on the other two. This shoe seemed to fit at a good place on the ankle as a whole and gave support on the arches a bit better as well. The lowest priced at only $39 this was an in house Academy product which is probably why they are able to sell at a lower rate. I really liked this boot even though again it wasn’t the most attractive, guess this just proves that it isn’t always about appearance, though I would have liked it a bit more if it had just been black.

I put the Bandera and Harper on side by side and walked about the store a bit checking out the movement of each in comparison to the other. That padded ankle of the Bandera started to irritate me it slipped up and down on my ankle more and more despite being tightened while the Harper stayed exactly where it was supposed to be. The bulk of the Bandera also bothered me, it was like wearing a snowboarding boot almost in feel and while the Harper also was more bulky than my typical shoes, it was nothing in comparison.

It came down to the Harper!

Not only was it the most affordable but it seemed to have the most effective style for my foot. Not to mention it was waterproof, a major bonus for keeping my feet warm and dry on my upcoming trip.

After selecting this boot, I did try on two boots at the same time and change out several boots til I found the perfect two for my feet. Again, each boot fits slightly different so do not be afraid to dive into numerous boxes of the same size to find the perfect two.

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