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The hiking footwear industry has developed vastly over the years to meet the growing demands of numerous hikers across the world. From the lightest pair of day hiking shoes to the burliest mountaineering boots, they have something to offer.
Nowadays, the majority of sports shoe brands are offering boots for hiking to cater the needs of those who love outdoor adventures. The demand for the best lightweight hiking boots urged manufacturers to adapt technologies from the average running shoe to the beefiest hiking boots. This growing demand led to the progression in varieties of hiking footwear.
Day hiking boots, per se, are known for being lightweight yet sturdy enough to provide ankle support and protection to its users. These boots for day hiking along with the many hiking footwear types create a tight competition in the market.
What are day hiking boots?
Best day hiking boots - June 2018
Hiking boots are footwear designed to protect the feet and ankles during a hike. For the serious hiker, selecting a hiking boot is an utmost concern as this can make or break their adventure. Hiking boots are categorized based on their specified use.
Day hiking boots bridge the gap between a low-top hiking shoe and high-top, heavy backpacking boots. These are your mid to high cut boots that offer the same comfort of a trail shoe and the protection of a backpacking boot. They usually require a minimal break-in period. Likewise, they are sturdy enough to tackle moderate terrains while carrying a light pack.
The price range of average day hiking boots ranges from as low as $70 to $250, depending on the brand and technologies available. Those greater than $250 are usually a crossover of a backpacking boot and typically made of leather.
Day hiking boots vs. Other Boots for Hiking
Day hiking is walking for long distances. Depending on the hiker’s pace, it usually lasts for a half to a full day, with minimal equipment. Footgear made for day hiking is your lightweight, mid to high cut boots. They usually weigh at around 1.5 grams per pair; this is considered to be their edge against other heavy boots available. Some brands incorporate components that make the day hiking boots compatible with crampons. Though not one of the most important feature you should be looking for a day hiking boot, it still is a plus, especially for serious hikers.
There are also a lot of day hiking boots made of mesh upper and synthetic fabric as these materials keep the weight of the boots light, thus giving more breathability to the user. They are combined with highly water resistant materials that protect the feet from getting soaked in water. Their traction is at par with heavier boots. They are indeed ideal for day hikes, and sometimes a good choice for short backpacking trips with a light load.
Backpacking is your multi-day trip that needs more thorough planning and often requires carrying heavy packs. If you are the type of hiker who brings a heavy load and likes to go on multi-day backpacking trips, day hiking boots might not be your best option. You should opt for backpacking boots instead. They are sturdier and more durable than day hiking boots. Backpacking boots are able to withstand arduous backpacking while carrying a load of more than 50 pounds. The upper is usually drafted with leather and their outsoles are thicker with more aggressive lugs. Undeniably, boots for backpacking are heavier and can be an overkill if you wear them for your day hikes. Some are also crampon compatible. Due to the materials and technologies used, backpacking boots cost more than your lightweight hiking boots.
Mountaineering involves overcoming the most difficult terrains which include climbing and traversing vertical rocks, snow and screes. It requires a huge amount of technical ability and experience. Mountaineering boots are considered to be one of the essential equipment in this activity. There are single, double and super gaiter mountaineering boots. Crampon compatibility is also an essential matter when it comes to selecting mountaineering boots. This type of hiking footwear is a lot stiffer and heavier than your day hiking boots.
Leather vs. Synthetic Day Hiking Boots
The upper is the part of your day hiking boot that wraps and protects the foot. It connects to the sole using different fabrics. Its structure correlates to the boot’s breathability, durability and water resistance hence, brands are still continuously developing different fabric combinations and constructions. Some of the most common materials used for the upper are leather and synthetic. The structure of this component, as well as the incorporated technologies, varies depending on the brands. There are trade-offs, so you just have to know which one works well for you.
The saying “one pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back” takes a toll on the reputation of hiking boots made of leather. The thickness of leather is determined by the ounces in one square foot of the material. Every ounce equates to sixty-fourth of an inch. The thicker the leather, the heavier and more costly it becomes. This is the reason why some hiking footwear brands indicate the thickness of the leather on the boot’s specifications.
Day hiking boots with a synthetic upper do a great job at minimizing weight. But when up against leather day hiking boots, they lose in terms of durability. Since they are not as sturdy as leather, they require less breaking-in period and deliver right-out-of-the-box comfort. Some of the most used synthetic materials for day hiking boots are nylon, polyester and Kevlar.
Take note that there are hybrids—leather and synthetic uppers. This combination is usually lightweight and offers more durability.
Leathers are known to be restrictive of ventilation due to their composition. However, they still have a natural amount of breathability in them. This puts day hiking boots with synthetic uppers ahead of those with leather uppers. Synthetics are able to manage a better airflow in and out of the hiking boot. They are also often made with mesh webbings.
A good consideration that can help you decide on what upper best suits you is the condition of the outdoor environment during your hikes. If most of the time you are hiking in a hot climate, a full synthetic or synthetic with mesh webbings might serve you well. Remember that there are also uppers that combine leather and synthetic. As with weight and breathability, a day hiking boot with a hybrid upper (leather and synthetic combination), can be more beneficial to you.
Leather stands out when it comes to durability. Day hiking boots with leather uppers are known to be durable and sturdy. They work their magic thru time as they become more eye-appealing and pass the test of durability. However, leather day hiking boots require a longer break-in period compared with synthetic day hiking boots. Most of the leather hiking boots can be resoled too unlike those day hiking boots with synthetic uppers that have a limited lifetime.
Indeed, a few considerations should be taken when caring for your leather hiking boots to further maximize its durability. Also remember that leathers are more expensive than synthetics.
Hiking boots are often termed as an unappealing footgear. Leathers are made from an animal’s hide and undergo tanning, splitting or finishing before being used on a product. The traditional look of leathers has been accustomed to a majority of the hiking boots available. Nowadays, with synthetic uppers, hiking footwear brands are able to play with colors. Some companies do an excellent job by combining leather and synthetic to make it more aesthetically enticing.
The style of your day hiking boot depends on your preference. Some hikers prefer bright colors while some prefer a more tone down and low profile look.
Technologies of Day hiking boots
Day hiking boots, whichever brand you look at, are equipped with technologies that work together to bring optimum performance to the consumers. From their lacing system down to the outsole, each brand has developed their patented technologies while some partner with other companies to get specific components.
When looking at the specs of day hiking boots, you may wonder why some brands include the footwear closure or the lacing system of the product. This is because it has a significant impact on each user especially when they are hiking. It is vital for you to be able to lace your day hiking boot correctly. Remember that lacing issues can hinder your enjoyment on the trail. Lacing it too tight can impede blood circulation while lacing it too loose can cause blisters.
With different lacing technologies, manufacturers of day hiking boots allow the user to customize the fit of their hiking boots. Some brands divide the boots into zones thus allowing users to personalize the fit on the instep then on the shaft. You may also see a combination of eyelets. There are open and closed hooks, D-rings, metal and webbed eyelets.
The upper considerably impacts the breathability, durability and waterproofness of day hiking boots. Brands have been very keen on developing a combination of materials that are beneficial to most hikers. Such combinations will have varying levels of comfort and flexibility. Uppers should also be able to protect against abrasions and other elements on the trail. Typical materials used for the upper are leather and synthetic. Some have mesh uppers too.
Brands have been using a variety of foams available in the market to provide cushioning and comfort to their consumers. Some outdoor gear companies have their patented technologies for the midsole. There are also development teams of hiking footwear brands working with mountaineers and hikers to get insights, work on the lapses and offer an improved version of a boot.
The midsole of day hiking boots functions entirely the same across brands. It addresses shock absorption, minimizes impacts, renders cushioning and improves gait. The most common materials used in midsole are polyurethane (PU) and ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). These two can be mixed with various polymersƒ to form new compounds.
An outsole is the part of your day hiking boots that comes in contact with the ground. You might be wondering why they have different shapes and sizes. These patterns determine how slip resistant your boots can be and how grippy they are on terrains. There are chevrons, triangular, square and round shaped lugs and all these shapes has varying levels of traction to it. You may also notice that they are not pointing towards the same direction. This is to prevent water from getting stuck in the boots that may cause slips and falls.
Day hiking boots are usually equipped with shanks to provide more arch support to the user. It varies in size and shape depending on the manufacturers’ design. They are usually placed at the center of your hiking boots, inserted between the midsole and the outsole. There are steel, plastic, fiberglass and Kevlar shanks. Sometimes, a combination of these does the trick in providing support to your feet. Each material offers different levels of flexibility and weight to the user. Nylon shanks are known to be the lightest yet supportive.
Brands have been manufacturing day hiking boots with a default, removable insole or footbed. But most of the time, hikers find the default insole in their day hiking boots inadequate when it comes to providing arch support. Therefore, they look for aftermarket insoles.
There are numerous technologies known that are fused with insoles for enhanced performance. Having an insole that will fit and suit you best prevents having foot fatigue especially on long hikes. A good insole should be able to wick away moisture from your foot and should have a breathable layer. Some default and aftermarket insoles are incorporated with an anti-microbial technology, too. They help maintain the freshness of your day hiking boots. There are also insulated insoles to assist you when hiking in cold climates. Insoles are washable.
Getting the right insole for you promotes proper gait and prevents overpronation and supination. Some are shock absorbent and offer a good amount of cushioning.
What is foot volume?
Foot volume is a three-dimensional measurement that includes width, length and instep height in the equation. Issues with foot volume are usually resolved with insoles. Those with high volume foot opt for an insole that offers plenty of arch support and cushioning to get the right fit on their day hiking boots.
Depending on the brand, day hiking boots are able to offer a remarkable level of protection. There are brands with toe and heel protection that safeguards the foot against bumps and screes. Some heel caps also provide lateral stability, depending on the technology. There are rubber rand overlays that reinforce the upper while rendering additional boot protection.
The tongue of day hiking boots also offers protection to an extent. Some are gusseted, which protects the foot against debris. Padded tongues are also able to provide comfort and cushioning to the foot.
Most of the day hiking boots nowadays are hydrophobic. Brands ensure that the hiking boots they offer have a level of water resistance to it. Some are made water resistant by treatments available in the market.
You may have bumped into Gore-Tex which is one of the most popular linings that is waterproof and breathable, as they claim. Some hiking footwear brands also have their own waterproofing system. This feature of a hiking boot is relevant as it can contribute to your enjoyment on the trail. An issue with fully waterproof hiking footwear is its compromised breathability. You would want to consider the type and condition of the terrain to decide on the level of water resistance you need.
Manufacturers of day hiking boots usually offer many sizing options. They use a variety of lasts that accommodate various foot sizes and shapes. Lasts are a representation of the human foot that brands use when building the shape of the shoe. However, there are only a few brands that offer day hiking boots shaped from different lasts. Some brands provide additional sizes that have smaller increments with the usual half size.
Crampon Compatibility and Insulation
Some brands offer day hiking boots that are crampon compatible and moderately insulated. These boots, however, take their insulation from the lining and are not recommended on extreme temperatures. If this feature is your priority, it would be wise to re-evaluate if day hiking boots are what you need.
Men’s vs Women’s Day Hiking Boots
There are times when brands and retailer sites do not have day hiking boots of your size. If you are a lady with quite wider and longer feet, you can try on a men’s variant. That goes the same for guys who seem to have a narrower foot and men’s version are always too wide for them.
Keep in mind though, when trying day hiking boots for the opposite gender, there will always be a variance when in it comes to fit and weight. The last used for women is usually narrower and shorter than men’s. So if you're a man who's trying out a women’s day hiking boot, you may want to remove the insole and observe if it fits you well. Volume is a matter of consideration.
A female’s foot is slimmer and shorter than a male’s. And if you're a woman trying on men’s day hiking boot, pay attention to the heel and toe area. Heel lift or slippage can cause you blisters. On the other hand, having day hiking boots that are too tight develops foot fatigue and diminishes comfort.
One of the innovations brought about by the growing demand for hiking boots is the development of hiking boots that are made from women-specific last. In the past, hiking footwear was based on men’s sizing. Hence, women were obliged to wear men’s boots.
What to look for in your future day hiking boots
Knowing the technologies available for day hiking boots can help you decide on what to look for on your next above-the-ankle hiker. Without getting into the specific parts of the boots, look out for the following qualities.
In selecting your next day hiking boots, make sure to consider the comfort. How comfortable are you going to be on that pair of day hiking boots? Ask and research.
Some hikers have already developed a liking for a particular brand based on comfort. Do not forget that hiking boots differ from hiking shoes and hiking sandals. Some technologies work well when used in hiking sandals but are not compatible with day hiking boots.
Many day hiking boots offer the same support as with backpacking boots. However, it does not mean the support you get is what you need. Sometimes, too much support (wearing something more than what you need) can be inconvenient.
Check the boot's specifications. Research and then try the day hiking boots on the store. Do not forget to bring the socks you are going to use with the boot. Observe the flexibility of the boot. Does it bend too much? Is it too stiff?
There are brands that use their own traction technologies; others partner with or get supplies from outsole manufacturers. If you have a day hiking boot in mind, check for reviews online. This is one of the best ways where you can have a glimpse of the boot’s performance when used on different ground conditions.
Take note that those lug depths and tread patterns all have their significance in providing traction. Some users blame the outsole for not being grippy enough on certain surfaces. Little do they know that the compounds in these outsoles are also made for specific use. Some boots use an outsole developed for backpacking, hiking, trekking and mountaineering. Of course, these all have a different amount of traction to it.
Familiarity with your next outdoor adventure can help you determine the amount of protection you need. Are there a lot of screes? Streams? Dirt trails? If so, weigh if you need day hiking boots that are fully waterproof or if a more breathable boot is preferable. Check if toe and heel caps are significant in your venture.
Unless one had used the boots for years, that is the only time one can attest to the durability of their day hiking boots. Some loyalists are attuned to their tested brand. Check reviews of those who have used the same day hiking boots you are looking at. Weigh their opinions and decide. Sometimes, you just have to trust your gut feeling.
Breaking-in your day hiking boots
Now that you have a pair of day hiking boots with you, the next thing you should work on is breaking them in. This helps your feet adjust to your new footwear. For some, this is a gruesome process as they experience blistering, but some are lucky enough not to have even one hot spot with their new boots. Do not hasten this process as you might risk yourself having blisters on your hiking trip.
When breaking-in your boots, start in small distances. It is also a good idea to wear them while doing household chores. In an unnoticeable way, your day hiking boots are gradually learning the contours of your foot. Once you feel that you are comfortable indoors, you can wear the boots to the park or the grocery store. In doing so, you let your feet work with your boots as moisture, heat and sweat come in. Do it a couple more times until you feel that the boots are ready to take the next level of adventure. For day hiking boots that have stiffer midsoles, you may want to avoid walking on flat, hard surfaces. These areas require more flexing and your boots are not made to walk on pavements.
Some experience foot pains not because of the day hiking boots but because of how they lace the boot. It is good to do a little experimenting with the lacing while observing how loose or snug you want the fit to be. Some brands have their recommendations on how you would lace the hiking boots to let it perform to the best of its ability. Try these techniques and see which one works best for you.
Keep in mind that if a boot does not fit you well, you might end up still having blisters after months of use. Having too much space in the toe and heel area can also cause you blisters. Before you purchase your day hiking boots, make sure that you have tried walking on a slant surface, walk upwards and downwards and observe. Check for heel lift, slippage and toe bumping.
Breaking in your boots for the first few days may be wearisome but once you have overcome this period, you can enjoy your boots to the extreme.
Taking care of your day hiking boots
When you know how to care for your boots correctly, you are also working on its durability. Hiking footwear brands recommend cleaning your day hiking boots after every use. This prevents dirt and mud from sticking on the outsole of your boots. Slightly bang the boots against each other to remove loose dirt. Use of soft bristled brush is also common rule among manufacturers. This is to avoid too much friction that damages the material of your day hiking boots.
When caring for your boots, make sure that you follow what your manufacturer recommends. Never dry them using a heat source as it can weaken the boots' construction. Remove the laces and the insoles to facilitate faster drying. You may also use a fan. Ensure that the insoles and in-shoe environment are thoroughly dried by stuffing newspapers or cloth that absorbs moisture.
Storing your day hiking boots
Caring for your boots does not stop when you are off trail. In times when you are not wearing or using your pair of day hiking boots, it is imperative that you still pay attention to it. Store it in dry areas that are not directly exposed to sunlight. Avoid putting them in a plastic bag as this can build up moisture and make your boots stink. To keep the shape of your boots, you can stuff cloth in it especially if you are not using it for a long time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use my day hiking boots for backpacking?
Day hiking boots are ideally used for day hikes and short backpacking trips with light loads. If you are embarking on a multi-day backpacking trip and carry a load of more than 50 pounds, opting for backpacking boots is a better choice. These can give you the support, ground stability and protection you need.
Why do I need technologies in my day hiking boots?
Technologies are features developed by brands to deliver excellent performance to their consumers. There are numerous technologies available and you have the option to choose which works well for you. It may not seem like it, but once you learn how to use those technologies, you can enjoy your hikes with your new pair of hiking boots. Just bear in mind that sometimes there are trade-offs.
When you purchase your next pair of day hiking boots, ensure that you have carefully evaluated the price. Take time to study the technologies brands have incorporated on the boot. Remember that not all technologies are compatible with the contours and other unique characteristics of your foot. Try to ask fellow hikers if you have foot problems or read reviews about the product you're eyeing on.
How do I condition and waterproof my leather day hiking boots?
In conditioning and waterproofing your leather day hiking boots, it is best to consult the manual that comes with the boot or with the manufacturer. In cases where you used a treatment that is not compatible with the material, instead of enhancing its performance, you might end up ruining the boot.
Your new pair of hiking boots takes time before it needs a reapplication of waterproofing treatment. Some hikers reapply when the water drops do not bead up on the surface of the shoe. For those day hiking boots lined with a waterproof lining, you do not need treatment as it can impede the boots’ breathability. Just be careful not to puncture or damage them. Conditioning is applied to leather day hiking boots to maintain its appearance and life.
Are there vegan-friendly day hiking boots?
Yes! Just remember that some boots are made out of synthetic, but the glue or adhesive used contains animal products. The best course of action to confirm is to contact the manufacturer.
15 best day hiking boots
- Hanwag Alta Bunion
- Merrell Ontario Mid Waterproof
- Adidas Terrex Free Hiker
- Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
- Danner Mountain 600
- Timberland Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof
- Vasque Breeze III GTX
- Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof
- Scarpa Terra GTX
- Vasque Talus Trek UltraDry
- Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX
- Merrell Moab 2 Mid GTX
- Adidas Terrex Swift R2 Mid GTX
- Timberland White Ledge Mid Waterproof
- Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof
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