Buying basics: Hiking boots

How to pick the right pair of boots so you stay blister-free

Credit: David Masters

Ten boots. Zero blisters. The score sheet from our gear test tells you something about buying hiking boots in 2012. The right pair should feel good fresh out of the box.

Style: A pound on the foot equals five on the back, so don’t buy more boot than you need. The two big variables are the height of the boot and the length of the shank (the stiff piece of material in the midsole). If you never stray from the trail, a mid-height, half-shank boot is enough, but get a higher cut if you have weak ankles. For heavy loads and bushwhacking, a stiff and burly boot is best.

Materials: Nubuck and full-grain leather are the most durable. Synthetics are lighter and more breathable. A waterproof-breathable liner is a good choice everywhere except hot, dry places, where you’ll want lots of mesh instead.

Features: For rugged terrain, look for a wraparound rubber rand to reduce nicks. Scramblers will want sticky-rubber soles, while those who tromp a lot of mud should look for deep traction.

Fit: Take hiking socks and your favourite insoles to the store. There should be no heel lift, pinching or pressure points, and you should be able to wiggle your toes without feeling the end of the boot.

Seal the deal: Test drive your new boots for an hour or more at home. If you’re happy with your choice, apply a waterproofing treatment to your new kicks and plan some short hikes to break them in.