If you’re typing this question on Google or asking a sales assistant, the sheer quantity of information can seem overwhelming. You’ll have to push your way through unfamiliar terms and material names before making your choice.
And choosing isn’t a breeze either. You’re not going to make an “informed” choice if you’re weighing between details you don’t quite understand.
So here’s the industry secret:
You can choose the best walking boots by reading all these terms and features through the lens of your needs. We advocate this principle in all of our articles, and we’ll explain how it works below:
1. Your Purpose
Of course, you’re here for walking boots, but what sort of walking will you be doing? Do you need them for day hiking, dog walking, or doing errands?
Choose the proper walking boots according to your purpose:
You can choose low to high-cut boots depending on how rugged the terrain is. Remember to look for flexible and supportive footwear. You want your shoes to cushion your steps but also to flex with your feet when you’re walking. Grippy soles are another critical issue to consider when you’re hiking.
If you’re doing some running in your walking boots, get a flexible pair with maximum energy return. That way, your feet won’t get sore after a long run with your dog, for instance.
The sole has to be slightly concave if you’re running to ensure this energy returns. By comparison, walking boots for hiking have flatter soles with prominent lugs and heels.
If you’re taking your dog through marshes or wet grass, you want waterproof walking boots. We’ll discuss some waterproof materials below, but you should also make sure your feet can breathe inside these boots.
Walking boots for errands need to be comfortable for long periods and stylish enough to wear them around town. You won’t need to focus as much on grip and 100% waterproof materials. Instead, your primary focus should be cushioning and comfort.
If you’re prone to chronic foot pain, look for walking boots that contour your arches and remove pressure points. If most footwear gives you blisters, pick breathable boots that fit correctly. Consider pairing them with cushioned insoles and moisture-wicking socks.
Choose suitable materials for your needs and budget. Although a pair of walking boots can have a perfectly ergonomic design, they’ll feel uncomfortable if they’re not quality. Besides, the materials account for your boots’ overall weight, breathability, and resistance.
Walking boots uppers come in a wide array of materials and combinations. However, the most common choices are:
- Full-grain leather is durable, water-resistant, and abrasion-resistant. This choice is better for backpacking on rugged grounds, but you’ll need to set aside some break-in time.
- Split-grain leather boots are well ventilated because they most likely feature nylon and mesh. Although they’re not as resistant to water and scuffs, they’re quality budget walking boots.
- Nubuck leather looks like suede, so it’s very stylish for running errands. This material is very flexible and lasts a long time, so you can also use Nubuck boots for day hikes and dog walking. The problem is that, just like with full-grain leather boots, you’ll need to allow some time for breaking them in.
- Synthetic boots are made from materials like nylon, polyester, or even false leather. These boots are quick-dry, light, and affordable. On the downside, they’re not highly durable.
When you’re deciding on materials, you should also consider:
- Waterproof boots if you’re tackling wet terrain. Walking boots with the famous Gore-Tex or eVent membranes ensure high water resistance, but they also insulate your feet. That means these types of boots aren’t ideal during summer.
- Insulated boots if you’re wearing them in snowy terrain or cold weather.
- Vegan-friendly boots don’t feature any animal-based materials.
Midsoles are essential for impact absorption. They cushion your feet and are critical if you have chronic foot pain or are walking for long hours.
Midsoles can be stiffer or more flexible, so you should choose according to your purpose and pre-existing foot conditions.
- Flexible midsoles like EVA offer more cushioning and are lighter. You can also find plenty of cheap walking boots with EVA midsoles.
- Stiffer midsoles from polyurethane offer more firm support, and they’re also more durable. If you’re walking for long hours on rugged terrain, these midsoles will keep your feet stable and sore-free. Besides, they resist better during these treks.
- Shanks: These inserts make your midsole’s stiffer and thus keep your feet’s bones aligned in a neutral position. The result is they alleviate chronic pain and offer more support during rough hikes.
- Plates: If you’re hiking for long hours, choose a pair of walking boots that feature plates. These inserts protect your feet from injuries on rugged terrain.
The majority of walking boots today feature rubber outsoles because this material is grippy and durable. Some models infuse rubber boots with carbon, especially if they want to attract an audience of backpackers.
Here’s what to consider when it comes to your boots’ outsoles:
- Lug pattern: Boots with prominent lugs are better for traction on ice and slippery terrain. If you’re walking through muddy grounds, make sure your boots’ lugs are wider apart. If you’re walking on dry or wet pavement, prominent lugs aren’t essential.
- Heel brake: If you’re walking on steep slopes, you’ll need boots with defined heels that act as brakes. Besides, this sort of design puts less pressure on your toes and arches during your ascent and descent.
3. Walking Boot Fit
Walking boots should fit you snugly without being too tight or too wiggly. A lot of people ask Google about a common myth:
Should you go up a size in walking boots?
The short answer is no, but here are some tips:
- Make sure that your toes have some wiggle space, but not too much.
- Try the boots on with the type of socks you’re planning on wearing most often and your orthotics.
- The best time to try on new footwear is during the evenings. That’s because most people’s feet swell slightly and, even though this swelling is imperceptible with your naked eye, it can affect your boots’ fit.
- Walk in your boots after you’ve tried them on. Bounce on them and find an inclined ramp to check how they feel in different situations.
All of the details that we’ve discussed in this article boil down to one major factor: your needs. So, decide where you’ll wear these boots, what pre-existing foot conditions you have, and your style.
Your budget isn’t crucial, contrary to what most people believe. You can find plenty of cheap walking boots made with quality materials that feel incredibly comfortable.
Related post: What to look for in walking boots