Four Questions to Ask When Buying Hiking Boots

Previously I wrote a post about buying a tent and the important questions to ask during the process. Zach and I recently received our REI refund so we decided to buy some hiking boots since we are hiking more than ever. There are obviously a whole list of questions one can ask when shopping, but these are the ones that seemed at the core of the process for us.

Do I need ultra-light?

The type of hiking matters when buying boots. Some people enjoy ultra-light thru-hiking and prefer to not wear boots at all. For those hikes, trail shoes are lighter and better for ultra-light. However, if there isn’t a need for ultra-light weight then boots might be a better option. Be sure to ask the sales rep in your local hiking gear store what he/she recommends for hikes planned.

Do I need ankle support?

I personally have weak ankles. On our hike up to Avalanche Peak, I rolled my ankle 3 times on the decent but was very lucky that I wasn’t injured in the process. If I had been wearing boots with ankle support I wouldn’t have had such a fear-induced experience on my first hike and would have felt more confident in climbing the rest of the way down.

That being said, not everyone needs ankle support. Just be sure to know what limits need to be acknowledged during the shopping process. Needing ankle support vs not needing it will determine which boots work best for the needs at hand.

Do I need waterproof?

When first looking for boots we were still in the South. We went to Texas to ask questions about boots, but we couldn’t pull the trigger knowing we were considering leaving the region. We had our boots picked out with the sizes we needed, but we weren’t sure if we would need waterproof. In the South it’s better to have more breathable shoes, and waterproof boots don’t offer as much breathability. However,  Seattle and the PNW in general is wet all the time. Waterproofing is advised and strongly encouraged in this climate. Knowing where the majority of hikes will take place will determine just how waterproof boots need to be.

How do my toes feel in the toe-box?

The “toe-box” is the area at the tip of the boot where one’s toes are supposed to move around. When buying boots it is super important that the toes don’t touch the top or very tip of the boot when walking downhill. This can cause blisters at best and loss of toenails at best. When trying on boots, be sure to use the mock hill at REI to walk up and down… and up and down. Try it with eyes closed if need be in order to see if the tip of the boot can be felt by any of your toes. It’s much better to find out the boot doesn’t fit in the store, rather than out on the trail.

Loving my new La Sportiva boots at Discover Park in Seattle, WA!


  • It takes walking for about 50 miles to break in new boots.
  • Pay attention to hot spots and if they don’t seem to get better, ask a sales rep about them. A different style or size may be needed.

After doing our research, Zach and I chose different boots from REI and we love them so far. We can’t wait to go on more hikes in the area with our new gear!

What do you enjoy hiking in?

Much love,


Author: Chelsea Yell

I write for fun and to keep up with memories I make with others.

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