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Guide to Outdoor Footwear

by Alicia MacLeay
October 10, 2005

With thousands of outdoor footwear reviews by hikers, mountaineers, climbers, and trail runners who've tested their boots and shoes in the field, Trailspace's Gear Guide to Outdoor Footwear has you, and your feet, covered.

Be sure to read our users' reviews before buying that next pair of hiking boots, plastics, or trail runners. It just might save you a blister (or two) and some cash.

Along with users' reviews, you'll find product information about hundreds of models of outdoor footwear, from mountaineering boots to rock climbing shoes, hiking boots to sport sandals.

Know that you need new shoes, but don't know where to start? We've divided outdoor footwear into nine categories so you can search by your favorite activity:

  • Mountaineering Boots
    Also known as ice climbing boots and sometimes plastics, these boots have rigid soles, tons of support, and are crampon-compatible.

  • Backpacking Boots
    Heavy-duty boots, often made of full-grain leather, backpacking boots are built for carrying heavy loads, covering rough terrain, and hiking and backpacking off-trail.

  • Hiking Boots
    These mid-weight boots have a mid to high cut and are suited for serious day hikes and some off-trail hiking and light backpacking.

  • Day Hikers/Trail Shoes
    These light hikers tend to be low cut for less weight, more flexibility, and greater comfort. They are best suited for day hiking with light loads on maintained trails.

  • Approach Shoes
    Comfortable enough to hike in, true approach shoes have soles with sticky rubber for varying degrees of climbing ability.

  • Trail Running Shoes
    Trail runners are running shoes specifically designed to be used on trails. They tend to be more supportive than road running shoes and offer better protection from weather and trail conditions.

  • Climbing Shoes
    Climbing shoes, with their sticky rubber soles that increase grip, are specifically designed for technical rock climbing.

  • Sport Sandals
    The ultimate in ventilation with straps of adjustable nylon or leather or even sculpted foam, sport sandals range from the classic watersport model for navigating slippery rocks to ones with running shoe comfort that blur the line between trail shoe and water sandal.

  • Water Shoes
    Whether they’re hydro shoes, reef walkers, water booties, or water shoes, these are designed for quick water drainage, great traction when wet, and complete foot protection. Some amphibious models are designed to work as well on land as in the water.