2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – Gear Guide 2012

Rip & Equip: Boots

First: Buy the right boots. Second: Keep them in tip top shape with these tips.

by: Kristin Hostetter

PAGE 1 2 3

Shop Smart
Ask yourself five key questions before buying new boots.

1. Where are you going? As a general rule, you’ll be more comfortable with the lightest boots appropriate for your planned terrain. Dayhiking on trails? A well-cushioned, flexible low-cut should do. Carrying 50 pounds off-trail in Alaska? You’ll want a high-cut, heavy-duty boot. Once you’ve picked a category, don’t fixate on weight: With footwear, fit trumps a few ounces.

2. Do you need more (or less) support? If you have weak ankles, choose higher-cut boots with maximum stability. The extra weight is well worth the joint protection. Likewise, if you’re prone to sore feet, opt for stiffer soles made for heavier loads than you typically carry. Conversely, some trekkers need less structure and can wear trail runners for ultralight trips or 2,000-mile thru-hikes.

3. Waterproof? You need weather protection for soggy trails, certainly, but don’t always pick a waterproof shoe for just-in-case scenarios. If you rarely hike in cold, wet conditions, you might be better off with footwear that’s more breathable and fast-drying. If you’re getting a low-cut boot primarily for summer use, an airy upper can prevent sweaty feet—and blisters.   

4. What size? Feet grow and change shape with age and mileage. Get yours measured on a Brannock device (gauges length, width, and arch length) by an expert salesperson who should be able to recommend specific brands and models well suited for your foot’s shape. To best simulate your on-trail shoe size, shop in the evening, when your feet will be slightly swollen.

5. Do they fit? Try on boots with the hiking socks and insoles you intend to use. If you can’t slip your index finger between your heel and the back of the boot, try a bigger size. Wear your top-pick boots for at least 20 minutes in the store, then answer these focused fit questions: Do your heels slip? Test movement on an incline board so you can check fit on ups and downs. Feel any pressure points? Do your toes feel pinched or bang the boot front? Remember: A boot may stretch in width, but it can never get longer.

Shopping Tips


Pressure points may not be readily apparent in the store. For a good visual, remove both insoles and stand on them. The more similar the shapes of your feet and the insoles, the better chance of a good fit. Red flags: Places where your feet overhang indicate likely snug spots. A boot may be too loose (a recipe for blisters) if its insole is wider than your foot.

Because manufacturers use differently proportioned lasts, stick with brands that you know fit well. ­If you’re unsure about sizing, order three pairs at once (your best sizing guess, plus a half size bigger and smaller) to compare. offers free shipping (on returns, too!), and and have no-questions-asked return policies. Be respectful: Restrict test-wearing to clean, indoor surfaces.

PAGE 1 2 3

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -


Jul 15, 2012

Wha is the name of the boot company?

Steve C
May 22, 2012

Here's a lesson I've learned for pairing up footwear to a specific hike: What are the condition of your feet? Just like your abbs, feet need strengthening. When I consider the category of hike I'll be going on and then consider the strength of my feet, that helps me determine what type of footwear I'll use.

When I buy new footwear, I often swap out the footbed insert with one that fits my foot.

Also, I can't say enough about the sock. A sock can make or break a trip. The interaction of a foot, a sock, and a boot can be synergy or agony. Pair up the right socks for the footwear and you will be going for miles in happy comfort.

May 18, 2012

A water bottle may not apply enough weight to hold the boot down while adhesive sets for a heel repair. I've used a block of wood in the boot, then placed the leg of a table in the boot on the block. If you cut the wood block to fit in the heel you'll distribute the weight where it's needed. Then add weight as necessary to the table corner. That'll clamp it down good.

May 18, 2012

The number #1 item I found in buying boots over the years is finding a Company who uses a "Boot Last" that conforms or matches my foot the best.

Many Companies, Many Lasts. I go to many stores and try on the boots and then I check the internet to find a better price which usually includes shipping.

A boot Last is the pre-made Form they use to build the boot on at the Factory. After trying many models, manufacturers and blisters I finally found one Company that fits me right out of the box with little breaking in needed and I can't say that I never had another blister but instead of many blisters I might only get two on a 40 mile multi-day hike over varied terrain, as in cross country hiking with a two month period maybe between hikes of this length. Once you have that problem sovled, then your pretty safe in buying any of that Companies boots. The Company I bought from I now have 4 pairs I wear from various uses from Fishing, Walking to multi-day hikes and work boots. And their made here in the U.S.A..


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Hiking on rocks
Posted On: Aug 28, 2014
Submitted By: GoBlueHiker
Finally going Backpacking!
Posted On: Aug 28, 2014
Submitted By: 92hatchattack

View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions