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There are as many kinds of hiking boots as there are hikers. The specific things to consider when choosing your hiking boots will depend on the kinds of hiking you are planning to do. In this article, I will classify hiking boots (or hiking footwear) into four main types, corresponding to four main types of hiking.

The four types of hiking boots that we will discuss are:

1. Hiking shoes and sandals. For short walks in the outdoors, for knocking around in camp, and for use during easy interludes in an otherwise serious hike.

2. Day-hiking boots. For moderate hiking, such as day hikes or short hikes in very rough country.

3. Backpacking boots. For more serious hiking, like multi-day backpacking expeditions.

4. Mountaineering boots. For the most serious hiking, mountain climbing, and ice climbing.

There is some overlap, of course, and a good deal of mixing.

Most people who use anything beyond hiking shoes also use something in one of the lower categories. For instance, when I go camping, I bring both my day-hiking boots for the all-day hikes and my hiking shoes for the less-serious treks with the grandchildren. As another example, I often see ice climbers arriving at Arethusa Falls wearing day-hiking boots, then switching to mountaineering boots for the actual climb.

For the most part, it will be okay to buy a more serious hiking boot than you need. One exception is that if you really don’t need mountaineering boots, you would probably find them uncomfortably heavy on a little day hike. Don’t go too far upscale. Even the additional cost of buying “more boot than you need” might actually work out to be a savings in the long run, because a better quality boot will likely last longer.

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