How to choose shoes for hiking in the mountains?

This review will focus on travel shoes outside the city. Experienced travelers agree that there are things of primary and secondary importance. Shoes are, perhaps, an essential element. It ensures that you do not get your feet wet, do not rub calluses, do not knock down soles, get less tired, and therefore can fully enjoy your Adventure.

Shoes for Hiking in the Mountains

Many of us, going to a specialty store, face a difficult decision. The new assortment rolls over, and the eyes run wide – what to choose?

You can also check out this page to know more about How to choose hiking boots.

To begin with, we’ll deal with the main types of shoes for traveling in unexplored places. Always remember to keep your hiking boots dry. Typically, these types of foot activity are shared:

  • hiking (country walks)
  • light trekking (light hikes of short duration)
  • trekking (hiking on the most diverse terrain, usually multi-day)
  • hefty trekking (hiking on inaccessible terrain, far from civilization, in severe weather conditions, often with elements of challenging ascents)
  • and mountaineering (climbing mountains on challenging terrain, in terms of ice and snow, low temperatures, discharged air with rock climbing and ice climbing, also dizzying descents on a variety of surfaces)

Let’s analyze some features for a selection of boots, depending on the type of outdoor activities.

Hiking shoes

These shoes are for unhurried walks in rough terrain. It can be trails and paths in extensive parks, reserves, urban areas. Shoes for such places, depending on the temperature, can be trekking sandals or almost any sneaker. It is better when the sneakers are positioned by the manufacturer as designed for hiking or practicing on rough terrain – they are stronger, have a sole with well-developed grousers. If you plan to move in places with frequent rains, membrane sneakers, or lightweight trekking boots are best.

Couple hiking shoes

Shoes for Easy Trekking

A “transitional link” between hiking and trekking is the same as hiking, but more extensive, the terrain can be very rugged, with long ascents and descents. Hiking shoes are suitable, but if you are an inexperienced tourist without the ability to walk a lot and efficiently, we advise you to protect your legs with something more serious.

As a rule, light trekking boots are chosen for the tasks described, even if you have to move in a hot climate. Unlike sneakers (and especially sandals), shoes more reliably fix the foot, protect the ankle area from bumps, scratches, and slight dislocations, and prevent moisture from getting over the top, in such shoe dirt, sand, and insects get less.

Most boots for easy trekking are protected from getting wet with a membrane or, at least, with water-repellent impregnation, which needs to be renewed often.

Shoes for hiking and light trekking are not suitable for use in low temperatures and snow. It is either utterly incompatible with devices for movement on ice and snow (snowshoes, hiking skis) or is adapted to this with a big stretch.

If you still have to use light trekking shoes under challenging conditions, you can partially compensate for its shortcomings with special water-repellent impregnations, shoe covers (see below), including those that cover the boots entirely.

trekking shoes

Nevertheless, for more extreme loads of dangerous tourism, you should take a closer look at trekking shoes – the most universal for traveling.

Trekking Boots

Meet them on the feet of travelers around the world – from the tropical jungle to the polar lands. Hiking boots in this category are suitable for most types of travel outside the asphalt. Their versatility is a significant advantage. Yes, they weigh more than hiking and not as technical as climbing, but they give the owner the most considerable freedom of movement for a more or less reasonable price.

Almost all outdoor companies produce such shoes, which makes it possible to choose a design to your liking – from high-tech to classic.

The use of a membrane is still a debated and controversial issue, but manufacturers, as a rule, decide for us, and it becomes more and more challenging to buy hiking boots without a membrane every year. Marketing is an insurmountable obstacle, and shoes with smart technologies are more comfortable to advertise and cost more.

Convenient is rubberizing shoes around the perimeter, which significantly reduces wetting, in snow, in tall, and damp grass conditions where even a membrane does not always provide reliable protection. At the same time, the vapor permeability of shoes does not significantly suffer.

Trekking shoes, unlike the climber and heavy trekking shoes, have a more plastic sole, which allows you to feel the surface relief better and walk a substantial mileage with less fatigue. And the stiffness of the boot as a whole protects the ankle well from dislocation.

If necessary, trekking boots can be used in the snow, although it is difficult to call them full winter boots. As a rule, they do not have special insulation, but due to the materials used, they are quite warm. The combination of the upper layer with a lining or membrane inside the boot allows you to walk quite comfortably with one pair of warm socks to match up to -10 degrees.

Shoes of this class is a universal compromise that is perfect for beginner tourists for all occasions.

trekking boots

Heavy Trekking Shoes

Having heavy trekking shoes is a transitional stage between trekking and specialized climbing shoes. They differ from the previous group with a stiff “unbendable” sole, the presence of a rear welt under the cat (the so-called “semi-automatic”), thicker material of the upper of the boot. The line between them and mountaineering shoes is somewhat arbitrary.

An additional type of insulation makes these boot fully equipped for use in cold conditions. They are especially popular among mountain tourists, who, along with significant everyday crossings, have to make quite tricky technical climbing mountains.

Hiking shoes

Climbing Boots for a hike

These are at the top of outdoor shoes both in price and in technology. They use complex multilayer soles, often with steel reinforcements, special welts at the front and back for cat-machines, or ski mounts for skis. Usually, such shoes have additional insulation, sometimes multilayer, special protection from snow, and moisture in the middle, complex lacing systems.

Characterized by high gum and multilayer structures, consisting of an inner and outer boot, nested one into the other. Sometimes the upper boot is made of frost-resistant plastic. Less often, it has the form of a high shoe cover with a zipper. These shoes are high-altitude climbing in massive mountains. It is unlikely that a person who is not engaged in mountaineering will need such shoes to go through the usual routes.

Climbing boots

Shoes for Water Sports

It will come in handy if you are planning multi-day rafting on rivers and lakes on swimming vehicles, canoeing, and other activities in the conditions of constant contact with water. Many companies produce light-drying sandals, sneakers, and boots made of materials that are not afraid of continuous contact with water.

In this case, a waterproof membrane is unnecessary. First of all, you should take care of the acquisition of neoprene socks, and they will allow you to keep your feet warm with constant wetting.

Water sports shoes

Climbing shoes

The so-called “rocky shoes” are highly specialized shoes made of unique “sticky” rubber. It should cover the leg as tightly as possible. It allows you to climb challenging rocky routes, of course, if you have specialized training, but it is not suitable for traveling on level ground.

A particular compromise may be unique sneakers with an extended lacing up to the toes and a unique sole with a climbing area – they are comfortable to walk in and climb simple rocks. Such shoes are well suited for the problematic routes and allow new climbers to conquer steep rock massifs.

Climbing shoes

The membrane in Hiking Shoes

For several decades, the so-called membrane technology, well known to many in the production of clothing, have been widely used in the manufacture of shoes. Famous and expensive brands usually use a GORE-TEX membrane, while others use layers of their production or lesser-known brands.

The membrane is applied to the intermediate layer of fabric and forms a kind of “stocking” inside the boot, making it waterproof on the outside, but vapor permeable from the inside. Thus, the shoes do not seem to get wet, but at the same time allows your feet to breathe well.

It would seem ideal, but, unfortunately, this is not entirely true. Why?

Firstly, the waterproof membrane still gets wet after a time, which depends on various factors. One “very wet” day is enough. Also, sometimes water can penetrate the boot through the top.

Secondly, the breathability of a boot with a membrane, is still inferior to the same boot without it, which is essential when hiking in hot places. Wet membrane shoes are very problematic to dry in the field, and you have to walk in wet shoes indefinitely.

Therefore, with some reservations, you can recommend shoes with a membrane to those who move in not very humid conditions or have the opportunity to dry it from time to time in comfortable circumstances.

For absolutely wild multi-day or even multi-week trips, you can recommend shoes without a membrane with the highest rubber welt around the perimeter. In contrast, you can protect your shoes from getting wet with additional ointments and impregnations.

Another alternative to membrane shoes is membrane socks and is recently available in the market. It allows you to keep your feet dry and warm in wet shoes. Their minus is the high price and more weight compared to ordinary socks.

Shoe covers and leggings on a mountain hike

These are an extraordinary piece of clothing designed to prevent the ingress of water and dust, through the top of the boot. They are also additional protection against getting wet shoes. Sometimes they are made of membrane materials. On many trips, shoe covers will become an indispensable part of your clothing.

Usually, on profile sites, gaiters (often worn when using crampons, to protect the leg and ankle) are called products that cover only the top of the shoe, shoe covers – the entire shoe or its whole part.

In everyday life, all this is called the general concepts of shoe covers, so confusion is possible. Check with your retailer for points related to terminology. In most trips leggings are used, shoe covers are needed only for winter expeditions.

Shoe cover

Shoe care and fitting

If you have got your best shoes, then those shoes must be carefully looked after, and the more technologically advanced the shoes, the more care it requires. Before buying, consult with the seller in the store as to what care products should be purchased. Immediately buy your unique trekking socks, matching your choice with the intended travel region. Socks will protect your feet from scuffs and calluses. Carefully choose shoes in the store, spend at least 20 minutes trying on your new shoes, and in those socks which you plan to use.

Avoid buying shoes just before the trip – hiking shoes should not be new!

When choosing shoes for your travels, remember: in addition to your weight, it must support the weight of your backpack, and on long trips for men, it’s + 20-30 kg to its importance. You should especially pay attention to this when choosing light shoes for a hot climate – hiking sandals, sneakers, light boots.


We hope that this short review will help you choose the right shoes for your trip and enjoy your trip as much as possible, no matter how difficult your route may be. Currently, the adventure shoe market allows you to choose precisely your pair and what you need specifically. We wish to make the right choice!

3 thoughts on “How to choose shoes for hiking in the mountains?”

  1. Pingback: 10 Ways to Dry Your Hiking Shoes | Camping Shoes

  2. Pingback: How to Choose Trekking Socks or Hiking Socks | Camping Shoes

  3. Pingback: How to Choose Trekking Boots? 11 Tips for Life | Camping Shoes

Leave a Comment

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

Scroll to Top