How to Buy Hiking Boots


I am going to do some hiking and backpacking in Costa Rica in a few weeks and i need to get a good pair of boots. I’ve actually never had any hiking boots so I’m not entirely sure what to look for. I went to rei today and tried on a couple but had to leave after a bit plus the salesperson wasn’t helpful at all.

Its going to be hot down there so I’d like something thats somewhat breathable. Its also the rainy season so waterproof boots are a must. I’d like something that i can use for a long time after this trip, so i don’t think a light hiker would be in my best interest, but i don’t need anything as rugged as a mountaineering boot.

I tried on a pairl of Asolo which were really comfy. I also tried on a pair of rei which were cheaper and more rugged feeling but heavier and less comfy. I don’t really know what i should be looking for i guess. the rei boot had a noticeably thicker sole, which i guess would be good if i were to step on a jagged rock, but i felt like it limited my movement. Plus, even though the Asolo’s were lighter, i felt like they really gripped my foot better and gave me better ankle support.

I plan to go back and try on many more pairs. I tried a pair of Vasque as well but they were kind of loose above the ankle and dug into my legs. Should i just go with what feels best? or should i maybe give up a little bit of comfort for stuff like thicker soles and a more rugged boot?


Breathable + waterproof is going to be hard

How to Buy Hiking Boots

How to Buy Hiking Boots

I would go more for breathable down there, just take off your boots at night and you should be fine light weight isn’t always a bad thing, each pound on your foot is like 7 on your back, or some hogwash i’ve had the same pair of heavy leather columbia’s for 7 years now, and i love them. you’ll be best off going with what is comfortable to you, but remember they will feel better after they’re broken in.

First rule of buying boots is buy what fits and is comfortable

Make sure you go to the store with polypro liners and wool/smartwool socks (or whatever you generally wear) and stand on an incline. I know some stores have a little incline board so you can feel how your feet sit.

I would suggest your standard, middleweight Goretex boots. Its not totally breathable but its pretty much as good as it gets for waterproof boots. DO NOT buy any boots that are made with a ‘proprietary’ waterproofing, except for the leather boots.

Full grain leather, heavier boots last forever. They are very tough and will last more than 10 years if you take care of them. I know plenty of people whose leather boots have been going strong for many, many years with proper care (cleaning leather, applying waterproofing (if they are not Goretex), maybe even a resoling or two). But, I personally wouldn’t want to buy a set of these.

I prefer (and probably better for your situation) the cloth/synthetic Goretex boots. They wont last as long, but they will be fine. They are generally lighter too.

Make sure you get a decent (maybe a little more $) set of boots. I have a pair of Asolos (95 GTX i think) and they are great. I’ve had Columbia and LL Bean (the day hikers, not the cresta boots) and there is no comparison. A good set should run you about $150 or so. Vasque, Asolo, Garmont, Lafuma, etc are all top brands.

One last thing. Make sure the toe box is not too big or too small, that can be a real pain.

Photo by LollyKnit.

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