How to Choose Hiking Boots

The right hiking boots can make your time outside extraordinary—and the wrong ones can make you miserable. Finding the best boots for you can take some trial and error, but there are a few tips and tricks to help you start off on the right foot. It’s all about the basics: when, where and how are you hiking?

When?

For summertime treks you might want lightweight low-tops with lots of breathable mesh, while late-season and winter walks could require insulation and waterproof protection.

Where?

Trail conditions, elevation change and the type of terrain all have a bearing on your boot choice.

How? Will you be wearing your boots for backpacking or day hiking? Your intended use should help you choose them.

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Here’s What to Look For

Weight

The weight of your boot can affect comfort over the course of a long hike, so go as light as you can. If short day hikes and fast trail walking are your thing, consider low-profile hiking shoes. They’re lighter and more flexible, but they offer a little less support. If you’re hiking on tough terrain, for long distances or with a full pack you’ll want heavy-duty hiking boots, with enhanced traction and structure. You’ll be adding a few ounces, but it’s worth it to keep your feet feeling good.

Support & Stability

For rough, rocky trails or serious elevation changes, choose boots with more support. Mid-height boots can help avoid ankle twists, and they’re the best option if you have old ankle injuries. We build our boots with stiff stability shanks between the midsole and outsole—this adds midfoot support and helps balance the weight of your backpack. 

Comfort

KEEN shoes are known for out-of-the-box comfort. We use dual-density footbeds and molded midsoles that form to your feet, so every step is cushioned in all the right places. Our hiking boots are built to provide excellent arch support, cradling the natural contours of the foot. Every hiker has had sore feet at some point (and sometimes that can’t be avoided), but our goal is to get you to the end of the trail feeling as good as possible.

Fit

Finding the right fit is so important. You want a little extra room and a wide toe box—feet get bigger over the course of the day, and even more so when you’re doing lots of walking. But if the shoe’s too big your ankle might lift and rub the back of the boot, causing blisters. To get a feel for the fit before you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, try on your new boots later in the afternoon, wearing the same type of socks you plan to wear on your hike.

Waterproof Protection

If you do most of your hiking in dry, warm weather, waterproofing might not be necessary. But if you like to hike all year long and don’t want to worry about weather, it’s probably worth the extra weight to pick up a pair of waterproof hiking boots. We’ve developed our own waterproofing technology called KEEN.Dry, a breathable membrane that lets vapor out without letting water in. This is crucial to trail comfort—perspiration and moisture naturally produced by the body can escape while your feet stay dry.

American Built

Our American Built hiking boots are created for comfort, from the first step to the end of the trail. We’re proud to be a part of bringing footwear manufacturing back to the USA in one of America’s most modern factories, located in Portland, Oregon. We gather the finest materials from around the world and perform the final and most critical steps of assembly here in our hometown, so we have a lot of opportunity to innovate and learn. Not all of our shoes are manufactured here, but we plan to keep adding to the collection.

Last, But Not Least…

Once you pick your pair, wear them around the house a bit before hitting the trail. Even the most comfortable boot feels better once it’s broken in. Happy trails to you!

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