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Selecting the right hiking footwear is perhaps the most important gear choice. The range of footwear for hiking is quite amazing - from bare feet to boots.
Hiking Footwear Options:
Selecting Hiking Footwear
While hiking in bare feet eliminates the need for shoes and socks and puts the hiker in touch with the trail in a way shoes cannot, most of us will not be comfortable hiking barefoot. As an experiment on a soft, rock less trail or sandy beach you might give it a try. There are those that hike extensively shoeless and seem to enjoy it. But for the rest of us some form of hiking footwear will be our most comfortable choice.
Many dedicated ultralight hikers and backpackers prefer sandals or lightweight running shoes to boots. Keeping your hiking footwear as light in weight as possible makes sense because the effort it takes to carry a pound of gear on your feet is approximately five times the effort to carry the same pound on your back. So the first rule of thumb for selecting your hiking shoes is to keep them as light as practical. At the end of a long day's hike our feet and legs will thank you.
But weight alone is not the only consideration. There are several other factors to consider when selecting appropriate hiking footwear: comfort based on support, tread design, and protection from sticks, roots, rocks, mud, water, heat, and cold. Study the pros and cons of each type of footwear then experiment. As with other gear a little experimentation will help you find which type of hiking footwear is the most comfortable for you.
What I Use
For easy trails in warm weather on day hikes or on short, lightweight, overnight hikes I sometimes use hiking shoes. For anything else I prefer lightweight, low, leather boots. I've tried sandals, but haven't enjoyed them as much as others seem to. If you are uncertain which hiking footwear to start with, I think light leather or fabric/leather boots are a good place to start.
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