What should I get, a shoe or a boot?
I guess the question should be, do you need ankle support or don't you? The boot style will definitely give you more support than a shoe will, but if your just using hiking trails and running around the neibourhood, then the shoe will work just fine for you. The shoe is more comfortable and easier to slip on and off, whereas the boot when laced up snugly, (not too tight) will give you much better ankle support when you're climbing up and over some pretty rough terrain, like the side of a mountain or steep terrain and over blow-down. Once you pick your battleground, you'll be able to pick the right footwear.
How long does it take to break in hiking boots?
Myself, I don't believe you need to 'Break in Boots'. When you put your boots on they should feel comfortable right from the start. If they don't, you got the wrong pair of boots. I've had many pairs of boots and have never found the need to break any of them in. Mind you I've bought all mine from a store where I could go in and try them on first to make sure they fit correctly before I left the store.
This reminds me of the time I was getting a pair of prescription eye glasses, and when I put them on everything was kind of blurry and the clerk was telling me that my eyes had to 'adjust' to them. What a crock, when you put them on you should see better, not worse, needless to say the glasses stayed and I left. Same with boots, they must be comfortable and fit properly right from the start or bring them back.
Just make sure when you're trying on your boots that you're wearing the same socks that you would wear when you're hiking, it being wool, polyester, cotton or whatever your preference is.
Do I need waterproof hiking boots?
It all depends on what kind of terrain your going to cover. If your in a desert or only going to go hiking when it's warm and dry out, then you will not need to have waterproof boots. If your going to be wading through creeks or water up to your knees, you probably don't need waterproof boots either.
Most of the waterproof boots now are breathable, allowing moisture to escape while keeping moisture from entering, keeping your feet fairly dry though-out the day. Some times there might be dew on the ground or a sudden shower shows up when you least expect it, that's when it's good to have waterproof boots. Believe me, your feet will thank you.
What's the best kind of socks for hiking?
The best kind of socks for hiking has to be wool. Wool socks will help keep your feet dry and they offer more cushioning than other socks. There are different weight of wool socks, the heaviest are best for the coldest of temperatures. Wearing these in the summer would not advisable, it would be like wearing a parka in the heat of the day.
At one time, wool was very itchy especially if your socks were made from raw wool (really good winter socks), but now they are mixed with some synthetic material that re-leave that itch, dry faster and allow the socks to last a lot longer.
Polyester and nylon are also synthetic blends that offer longer lasting and faster drying socks. Normally, you'll find a combination of different material, some natural, some synthetic to make up a good hiking sock. Look for socks that provide cushioning and expel moisture for the right season that you're hiking in. If your feet are happy, you'll travel a lot further, a lot faster.
Is one of my feet bigger than the other?
Yes, a lot of people have one foot bigger than the other. My right foot is a size 9.5 and my left foot is a size 9, so I always buy boots in the bigger size. You can compensate the smaller size by adding a thin liner or extra socks if your going on a very long hike.
Have your foot measured by standing on a piece of paper and tracing your foot on it, do this with both feet. Then measure from the back of your foot to your longest toe, and then measure the widest part of your foot. See which one is bigger. Using your biggest foot, look up a foot chart to see what the exact size your foot is.
I've read where some people have a size or two difference from one foot to the other, if this is the case with you, you'll need to buy two different size shoes in order to have a proper fit.
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