Learn About Backpacking Boots Before Your Next Trip!

Learn About Backpacking Boots Before Your Next Trip!

It’s a beautiful day and instead of going on a car ride and spending money, or going to the gym to get a workout, many people will decide to pack up a few things and go backpacking. Backpacking is a way to independently travel and you will carry your belongings in a backpack. Some of these items will include backpacking boots, extra clothing, a tent, sleeping back, and emergency kits – to name just a few. But, backpacking is much more than just going on a walk!

What Is Backpacking?

Backpacking is a form of traveling, but more importantly, it’s a way people can see and discover the world. For many people, backpacking is a way of life and not everyone is cut out for that kind of lifestyle. Some people approach backpacking as a way to garner some independence, but it actually takes the independence you already have and it changes into self-sufficiency.

Backpacking Lifestyle

What backpacking does is it makes you learn how to survive out in the wild, or even in an unfamiliar state, country, or even continent. It can be difficult and challenging, but that is part of the draw for lots of people.

Of the gear you need to go backpacking, a backpack is essential (it is where you’re going to put all of your worldly possessions, after all), but good foot gear is going to be just as important, if not more so.

Why Is Proper Footwear Important When Backpacking?

Of all the gear you will need to go backpacking, your footwear is going to be the most important because you’re going to be walking the majority of the day! When your feet hurt, you’re not going to want to go anywhere! The proper backpacking boots and socks will go a long way to making sure that your feet are good and happy.

If you wear the wrong boots (or even socks), you could experience a variety of injuries. They could be as “simple” as sore feet, blisters and bruises, but the wrong boots could lead to worse injuries like sprains and fractures, too.

Backpacking Problem

The right pair of backpacking boots will prevent your feet from getting blistered when walking, you won’t feel pain in your ankles or feet, and they can even prevent damage to the toenail. It’s important to understand that some boots will say they don’t have to be broken in, but it’s always a good idea to wear the new boots around a little bit before actually hitting the trail.

What Is The Difference Between Hiking/Backpacking Boots And Regular Boots?

The type of shoe that you choose to wear when you go hiking is going to vary from person to person, as there is no golden rule as to what type of shoe is the best. Many people who are just going to hike on an easy hike on flat ground can get away with wearing your average tennis shoe. However, there are shoes (backpacking boots) that are made specifically for more challenging terrains.

Some people may think that you can just wear a regular work boot and that will do just as well as a backpacking boot. After all, work boots can be pretty expensive so why not get double use out of them?  When you use the proper boot for backpacking, you’ll find that you’ll enjoy the activity more.

Here are the main differences between work boots and backpacking boots:


The biggest distinction between these two types of boots is that a hiking boot is going to be significantly lighter than a work boot. Work boots are usually outfitted with a steel toe because the work site can be extremely dangerous because accidents happen and your toes could be crushed!

Weight of Backpacking Boots

A backpacking boot is going to be significantly lighter because it doesn’t have that steel toe. The backpacking boot will still have some protection for you though, like rubber toe caps or bumpers because trips and abrasions are more likely.


 It’s true that on the work site, you will be doing quite a bit of walking and your boot is going to have some flex to accommodate that. The materials that are used in a backpacking boot is going to be specially engineered so that you can go longer distances and still be comfortable.

These boots are going to be more flexible so that you can go over uneven ground, but they will be sturdy enough to provide you with the right amount of ankle support.


 Backpacking boots will have a lug sole that will have deep grooves so that there is more stability and traction while you hike. A work boot, however, will have rubber outsoles that do not have such deep indentations.

These smaller indentations will provide a little bit of slip-resistance, but it isn’t going to be anything like what a hiking boot can provide. The right pair of hiking boots can allow you to traverse through rain, snow, mud, or wet conditions with confidence.

Tracktion for Boots

Note: Depending on who you ask, they may tell you that hiking boots and backpacking boots are one in the same. Others will tell you that hiking boots are best suited for short day trips, whereas backpacking boots are better for long excursions where you’ll be carrying heavy backpacks and you’ll be trekking off the beaten path. In our opinion, we believe that they are interchangeable and you’d be good with either option on your hiking trips.

Anatomy Of Backpacking Boots

When you go shopping for a pair of boots for backpacking (or hiking), you are going to find a variety of different sizes and shapes available. With that said, all boots will fall into three style categories:

  • Low Cut: These boots are designed for a casual hike or walk and they are best suited for areas like parks, maintained trails, or even walking around the neighborhood. These shoes are going to be lightweight and they aren’t going to be the best choice if you plan on lugging anything with you or if your walk is going to be more than an hour. The low cut boots aren’t going to offer you a lot of ankle support or protection from nature if you do go into the woods.
  • Mid Cut: Mid cut boots are going to provide you with a little more protection and support for your ankle. These boots will usually be made from materials that are going to be more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time, or if you are bringing a light backpack.
  • High Cut: A high cut boot is going to provide you with the most ankle support and they are also going to offer better balance, too. The high cut boot is going to be much more durable for those longer hikes and they are going to give you the most comfort while allowing you to carry heavier loads. The higher cut of these boots will also give you more support when you are going through snow, water, mud, or uneven and slippery ground. It is important that most high cut boots will need some breaking in if you are going on a longer trip.

​The height of the boot aside, key components of the backpacking boot include:

  • Upper: The upper is going to protect your foot against whatever you may encounter on your hike. It can be made from four types of materials:
  • Full Grain: Full grain uppers are incredibly durable and they are very resistant against abrasions or water. You’ll also be able to wear these when going on long trips, if you’re carrying heavy loads, or if you’re hiking on difficult terrain. These aren’t going to be the lightest option, nor are they breathable.
  • ​Split Grain: Split grain uppers are feature a rough portion of cowhide and is split from a smooth outer portion. These types of uppers are generally combined with a synthetic material like nylon to create a lighter boot that is going to be more affordable and is going to be more breathable. These boots are not going to be water resistant or offer you much protection against abrasions.
  • Nubuck: Nubuck is like full-grain because it too has been buffed until it looks like suede. This material is durable and can stand up to the elements. It will require some time to break in though.
  • Synthetics: Modern boots can be made from synthetic materials like polyester, nylon, or polypropylene. They are going to be lighter than leather, they will be easier to break in, and they often cost less. However, since these materials are usually externally stitched, they aren’t as durable as leather.

Boots will also have a midsole which can be made from a molded EVA and Polyurethane foam. These materials are going to located between the upper and outsole and they are designed to absorb shock while hiking, they’ll give you support, and reduce fatigue. Some boots will have TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) plates or shanks. These are going to act like extra foot bones that will give enhanced support for heavier loads.

There is also a rubber outsole that is going to have lugs which will give you traction while walking, but it also serves as foot protection from rocks and other hazards when you’re hiking.

Tongue gussets, membranes and rubber rands are all crucial for waterproofing the boot. An example of membrane technology includes Gore-Tex or eVent.

Popular Backpacking Boot Manufacturers

It’s always a good idea that when you are considering purchasing backpacking boots, you buy a pair from a reputable brand. Here are five manufacturers who have a great reputation of creating quality boots at a decent price.

KEEN Backpacking Boots

Keen is a company that was founded in 2003 when they first introduced the Newport Sandal. They have gone on to create hiking gear for men, women, and children. You can also find a variety of gifts and items for work, too. 

Logo Keen

Danner Backpacking Boots

The Danner company was founded by Charles Danner in 1932 and what started as a simple boot making business, it has grown into one of the most reputable brands currently on the market. You’ll find a wide assortment of boots for men and women, military personnel, law enforcement, and other clothing and accessories, too!


Merrell Backpacking Boots

Merrell has been helping people find their own path since 1981 with their line of high quality boots, clothing, and shoes. When you think of the classic hiking boot, you’re actually thinking about a Merrell boot that blends the American cowboy boot technology with the Italian boot making process.

Merrell Review

Vasque Backpacking Boots

Vasque is one of those companies that has been around for a while (founded in 1964) and they have continued to create innovations that changes the game year after year. Vasque footwear is designed with the intent on elevating your experience on the trail, and it must work, because people swear by their products!

Vasque Logo

Salomon Backpacking Boots

Salomon was founded in 1947 and their outdoor products have been seen in the French Alps ever since. The company wants to create products that enables people to enjoy nature and have fun! Not only can you find boots in their product line up, but you’ll be able to find a variety of outdoor gear like clothing, goggles, outdoor equipment, and so much more.

salomon logo

How To Care For Your Backpacking Boots

Once you’ve got your boots nice and dirty from a great backpacking trip, you’re going to want to clean them really well. Here’s how you can clean your boots well so they are ready for your next excursion!

  • ​Take the shoes outside and shake the sand, dirt, and gravel from the shoes. Use a cloth or a brush to remove any dried on mud or debris that still remain. If you have rocks stuck in the lugs, remove them.
  • ​Remove the laces from the boots and wash them by hand in the sink with soak. Remove the insoles (if you can), scrub them with a boot cleaner (don’t use bar or dish soap!). Let them air dry in a place that is not near a heat source. The high heat will break down the adhesives and will age the leather prematurely.
  • ​Use a vegetable brush or a boot brush and scrub the outside of the boot with a boot or footwear cleaner. If your boots have mold on them, you can use a mixture of 20% vinegar and 80% water.
  • Always rinse the boots thoroughly with water.
  • Never put the boots in the washer or the dryer because you could damage the boots.

​If you have full grain leather, you will want to use a leather or boot conditioner when the leather begins to look dry or if it looks like it is going to crack. You can also apply conditioner to a new pair of boots if you want them to break in quickly. You don’t have to worry about conditioning the boots if they are made from suede, nubuck, or synthetic materials.

Note: Don’t use mink oil or something similar because they are designed for industrial boots and will over-soften the leather.

5 Tips For Taking Care of Your Feet When Backpacking

Forget a car or bike, when you’re hiking, your feet are going to be the way you’re getting around, so you’re going to want to make sure that you take excellent care of them! It doesn’t matter where you plan on hiking or how long you intend to hike, here are some tips that will help you keep those puppies happy!

Wear Boots That Fit

This should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many people will go on a hike and wear ill-fitting boots – or boots that aren’t broken in. To make sure your boots fit well, you want to put the heel of your foot as far back to the heel and make sure your toes has a bit of wiggle room.

Wear Boots That Fit

If your foot moves around inside your boot too much (like side to side, or forward and backward), then your boots are too big. If your boots are too tight, you won’t have wiggle room in the toe box, which could be very painful when going downhill. Your best bet is to go to an outdoor gear store and be fitted by a professional.

Lace Your Boots Properly

You could have the best boots in the world, but it would all be for naught if you don’t lace them correctly. The main idea of lacing is to keep your foot held firmly in place, but not have the laces so tight that it’s cutting off circulation.

Use the Right Socks

Being on your feet all day is going to produce some sweat, regardless of how cold it may be. You are going to want to wear moisture-wicking socks and then slip on a pair of wool socks. You can then use a fabric “gator” to wrap around the top of your boot and the leg so that there isn’t a gap. This will prevent any moisture or water from getting into the boot.

Air Out Your Feet Periodically

If you do get sweaty feet while hiking, don’t be afraid to stop and take a break. You will want to take your boots and socks off so they can air out. If your feet feel hot (and you aren’t hiking in frigid temperatures), dip your feet in a body of water and elevate them. If you don’t want to put on the same pair of socks, you may want to bring extra socks for you to change into.

Pay Attention To Hot Spots

Before you start your hike, walk around in your boots (if they are new, that is) and take note of where the boot rubs on your foot. Before you actually begin the hike, apply some kind of barrier like duct tape, moleskin, or medical tape to these hot spots.

Hot spots Boots

This will prevent blisters from forming. If at any time during the hike you feel another hot spot forming, take off your boots and socks, dry the area, and tape up that spot. You’ll find that these preventative measures will keep you from being in pain later.


Preparing to go on a hiking or backpacking trip can be a lot of fun. What’s even better is when you can introduce a loved one to the activity and they absolutely love the idea! However, if they are serious about doing it, you’re going to want to press upon them how important it is to have the right backpacking boots, especially if you are going on a long trip!

There are a lot of different boots currently available and trying to choose which is going to be the right one for you can be a bit of a pain. We’ve created a buying guide that will help you find the best backpacking boots, whether you are a man or woman. In the guide, we provide you with six mini-reviews of boots (three for men and three for women) that we think are pretty good and definitely worth taking a look at!

We also go over some key things you will want to look for when choosing a boot if you want to do a little more comparisons before you make the ultimate decision.

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