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Choosing a Pair of Shoes

Looking down on a sturdy pair of leather hiking boots.

Footwear varies widely between hikers based upon personal preference. Most people like a solid pair of leather hiking boots that provide good traction, protection from abrasion, and support against rolled ankles. Others prefer an ordinary pair of runners or shoes because they dry quicker than boots and tend to give fewer blisters

You will probably find that no matter what footwear you choose your feet will still get wet. Rain, puddles, sweat, and water crossings make it very difficult to keep your feet dry all day long. In fact, gaiters only tend to make your feet even hotter and sweatier by trapping damp air. Whatever your choice of footwear may be, make sure that it is comfortable enough to wear long-term and provides good traction.

Choosing a Pair of Socks

Good socks will make a world of difference when hiking. They keep your feet snug and warm, and help to protect your feet from blisters. Wool socks are a good choice because they provide warmth even when soaking wet. Even in summer, wool socks are a good choice. If you are trying on a new pair of boots, be sure to wear your socks to ensure a proper fit. Many people like to wear a "liner sock" under their wool socks; polypropylene socks are excellent for this purpose -- they wick away moisture, and lessen friction which decreases incidence of blisters.

Bringing Camp Shoes

Some hikers carry a pair of light-weight shoes (such as Crocks, runners, sandals, or water sandals) just for use in camp. This allows them to putter around comfortably whilst their boots dry. Again, this is entirely a personal preference. In either case, make sure that you remove the insoles from your wet shoes so that they can dry out quicker.

The Blister Issue

Many people develop painful blisters from hiking. The best remedy for blisters are actually those gel-filled cushions sold at pharmacies (i.e. Band-Aid's Blister Block). They work best if applied preventatively on dry skin when a so-called “hot-spot” is first felt. Mole skin can work too, if applied early enough; however, it tends to fall off often and aggravate developed blisters more.

Band-aid's blister block works great on blisters.

The shoes you wear every day will affect your chances of getting blisters during a hike. If you normally wear work-boots or shoes like these, you probably won’t have any problem with blisters. However, if you wear runners or sandals, then you will almost certainly end up with sore feet. It takes a few weeks for the skin on your feet to thicken up to hiking boot standard, so be prepared to battle a blister or two.

Polypropylene liner socks (worn between the skin and wool socks) are useful in blister prevention.