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When you've got the right tool for the job, tasks become much easier. Hunting deer with a derringer would be a wee bit more challenging than with a scoped .308 rifle, and nobody in their right mind would rather chop firewood with a Swiss Army knife than a sturdy ax. Footwear is no different, yet it's not uncommon to see casual hikers headed down a trail in a pair of sneakers … or even flip-flops.

If you want to avoid bruised, battered, blistered, and aching feet on outdoor excursions, a supportive pair of boots is a must. But as a quick Google search or trip to any local retailer will tell you, there's a seemingly endless array to choose from. On one end of the range, so-called “lifestyle” boots are usually intended to look fashionable and do little else. On the other end, high-tech mountaineering boots are probably far beyond what you need, unless you regularly don crampons and scale glaciers. The happy medium between these extremes is represented by hiking boots.

A trusty pair of hiking boots can easily handle short treks, weekend camping trips, and long-term bug-out situations. This footwear will reduce the risk of injury by protecting your feet from impacts and your ankles from rolling; comfort and support over rough terrain will be far superior to that of running shoes or cross-trainers. Most importantly, your little piggies won't feel like they're ready for the slaughterhouse after a few hours of walking with a fully loaded pack.

In order to track down some versatile hiking boots that meet these standards, we requested sample pairs from six leading manufacturers. These pairs were then evaluated by three of our staff members: this author, network manager John Schwartze, and former head editor Patrick Vuong. Our variations in height, weight, and foot size helped us gain perspective on this selection of footwear. Read on to see if these boots fit your backcountry needs.

Gray Man Shoes

While hiking boots are ideal for rough trails and steep inclines, they're not the best tool for everyday wear in the city. If you stomp around the office or grocery store in a set of mud-caked heavy-duty boots, you're likely to appear out of place and clearly broadcast your preparedness. So, in addition to the six boots we tested here, we examined six shoes that fit the “gray man” philosophy — footwear that won't appear unusual in urban areas, yet offers more toughness and capabilities than an ordinary pair of sneakers.

You can read our complete Gray Man Shoe Buyer's Guide online here

Breaking-In Your Boots

Ever wonder about the best way to break in your new pair of boots, avoid blisters, and maximize comfort? There's more to it than you might think. Contributor Andy Schrader addressed this topic by testing two new pairs of footwear: the Garmont T8 Bifida tactical boot, and the Le Chameau Condor LCX hunting boot. He also shared some initial wear tips from a boot designer, and used these tips to evaluate how each boot fared during the break-in process.

This guide is available now exclusively here.

Hiking Boots

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