How To Choose The Right Outdoor Boot

outdoor boot outdoor boots

When it comes to choosing the right outdoor boot for your bug out or outdoor adventures, you should approach the decision-making process as just that, a process. Looking at just one factor like fit, price, or purpose nets limited results, meaning you might find a great shoe, but not the one for you and your purposes. As well, this process doesn’t end with the purchase of the boot. Rather, getting the best mileage out of your boots means that you break them in and learn to take care of them so that you get optimal use out of them.  This article will show you how to do all of this and by the end, you will be able to pick out the right footwear for your personal survival situation.

outdoor boot outdoor boots

The Fit Is King

A shoe that doesn’t fit and isn’t comfortable causes all kinds of problems that no amount of money can solve. For example, improperly-fitting shoes cause back problems and stress on the tendons and joints as well as the possibility of blisters and other foot maladies on the trail.  Imagine trying to carry your bug out bag over broken terrain with your feet in agony – not a recipe for survival.

The best way to ensure a proper fit is to buy boots in the afternoon; the feet swell during the day. Also buy the shoe that fits your larger foot — everyone has one foot that is slightly larger than the other. Also make sure that your ankles and arches get the support they need to rough it on the trail.

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Ouch! Don’t let your boots rub you the wrong way.

Additionally, some problems, like blisters on the heels, which are caused by too much room in the heel area, need to be addressed by other means. Thicker socks usually solve this problem. When you’re buying your boots, make sure not to skip out on a few new pairs of socks.  It is smart as well to try your boots on with the type of socks you expect to be hiking in.  Don’t try them on with normal cotton socks (which are a terrible idea for hiking anyway) if you are going to be walking in thick hiking socks.

outdoor boot outdoor boots
Avoid painful blisters by choosing an outdoor boot with the right fit.

What Terrain Are You Likely To Face?

Not all boots are created equal, and actually, that’s okay. The type of terrain you are going to be traversing when bugging out or hiking should determine what boot you buy (after you consider fit). In other words, if your whole goal is to take a bunch of day hikes on well-defined trails, then hiking shoes will do you just fine.  

outdoor boot outdoor boots
Hiking shoes are a lightweight option for day hikes.

Hiking and Backpacking boots, on the other hand, count as the big daddy (most of the time) of the boot world. Don these boots when your hiking goals include heavy packs and long treks through the woods or mountains over the course of several days.

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For longer treks into the wilderness with a heavy pack, you will appreciate the extra support and durability of hiking boots.

Special Boots, Material Types, And Other Considerations

Time to get more specific. You’ve taken the first steps you need to in order to find the right boot for you. The previous two steps in this guide outlined your initial goals and helped you narrow your focus. Additionally, some conditions, like extreme or alpine hiking, require an even heartier boot than a backpacking boot. The best boot for this occasion is usually a mountaineering boot.

outdoor boot outdoor boots
Choose an outdoor boot suited to the terrain you are most likely to encounter.

You should also think about the materials that your boots are made from. Full-grain leather boots offer you the best protection in wet conditions and count as a must for extended trips. Other leathers like nubuck leather or split-grain leather offer benefits — in the latter case, a cost savings.

However, each has some drawbacks. Nubuck requires a good deal of breaking in time, whereas the split-grain leather will resist water to a point. As well, you need to make sure that any boot you buy, whether it’s synthetic or leather, allows for breathability.

Getting Laced Up

The laces of your boots are an important component that are often overlooked.  They are essential to keeping your boots on in rough or swampy terrain and help ensure a good fit.

outdoor boot outdoor boots
Opt for strong durable laces that won’t fray, such as paracord.

If you end up with a pair of boots that have poor quality laces you will want to replace them ASAP.  Paracord can be a good option for this as it is inexpensive, strong, and rot-resistant.  

If you want an even better option you can upgrade your boot laces to Fire Laces. These are high quality laces that are made of 550-pound paracord and integrate hidden fire starting Ferro rods into the lace tips.  It is a smart way to eliminate the problem of leaving your fire starting kit at home when hiking, camping, or bugging out.  You can learn more about Fire Laces by clicking here now.

outdoor boot outdoor boots

Breaking Your Boots In

Even the best boots will tear up your feet if you don’t break them in properly. The best way to start breaking in your boots is by wearing them around the house for short periods of time. When you do this, act as if you’re getting ready to head outside, meaning wear the socks you’ll wear for your hikes, lace them up properly, and walk around. They’ll feel stiff in the beginning, but eventually, the materials will relax to the shape of your foot.

outdoor boot outdoor boots
Don’t dive right into adventure with a new pair of boots! Be sure to break them in slowly.

That’s the time then to go out for shorter treks around town. If you need to stop for milk or go to the post office, put them on. These short distances give you the chance to notice any discomfort and spots that don’t fit right. And finally, don’t be duped into trying a quick fix. Heavier boots require a longer break-in time. You may be taking short walks for several weeks until your shoes and feet can handle the trail comfortably. Don’t skimp on this process.

outdoor boot outdoor boots
Short excursions will help to shape new boots for the optimal fit.

Taking Care Of Your Outdoor Boots

Boot care is a constant process, meaning that starting from when your hike ends until you hit the road again, you should do something to care for your boots. Start with something simple. Read what the manufacturer has to say about the best way to care for your particular boot. That should act as your guide above all else.

outdoor boot outdoor boots
Different materials require different care. Read up on the manufacturer’s guidelines to keep your outdoor boots in great shape.

That said, outdoor boots last longer with a bit of waterproofing. You can find this usually in the can and just spray it on before using your boots. After that, ensure that your boots stay snug; shoelaces should be intact and not frayed. Eyelets should still have their protectors if they came with them.

Basically, you need to check for anything that might fall apart on the trail. If you can fix it yourself, do so. Otherwise, a trip to the shoe-repair shop is in order before you head out on the terrain.

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A small problem can grow quickly so check your boots thoroughly before heading out.

Finally, make sure that you clean your outdoor boots after each trek outside. Get the grit and grime out of the soles. Remove inserts to allow for extra breathing and to aid in the drying-out process.

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Cleaning the soles after every use can help prevent cracking.

If your boots have gotten wet during your excursion put them someplace to dry for at least 24 hours. More is better. And remember that your boots don’t like extremes in heat or cold. No putting them outside in sub-zero temperatures or allowing them to dry in the sun. This eventually breaks them down.

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The sun’s UV rays deteriorate your outdoor boots so set them to dry in the shade.


Although all of these steps represent the best practices when it comes to buying your outdoor boot, the truth remains that there may not be a very best option, only the best option for you. Therefore, these guidelines are just that. Guidelines. That’s why boot-buying is a process. The best way to find the right outdoor boot for you is to take your time and shop around. Further, the best pair of boots quickly become a pain without the proper care and breaking-in period. In short, go through all the steps for the best chance of success with your new boots.

Your Thoughts

Do you have any boot care tips or buying advice? Have you owned a pair of awesome outdoor boots? Tell us about them in the Comments section below, thanks!

About the Author

Alex Park runs He and his team of writers offer unique perspectives from their experience in the wilderness. Alex appreciates quality brands of durable boots that are specialized for different objectives, and his goal is to help you quickly identify the differentiators of each boot. Alex’s mission is to express his passion for quality tactical gear in the form of tips, reviews, updates and news.


Chris Ruiz

My name is Chris and I created this site to help ordinary people prepare for the uncertainties of the modern day world. I believe that a well-prepared society is the best safeguard against any natural or manmade disaster.

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