The best hiking boots for your hiking trip will depend mostly on where you are going and what you plan to do while you’re there. Lighter hiking shoes will work for easy day hikes, while glacial conditions and serious climbs require heavy-duty boots that accept crampons. Of course, price will factor into your decision; hiking gear can get pricey, so shopping around or buying an older model may help you get a better price. However, your life may end up depending on your gear, so don’t sacrifice safety for the cheapest price.
Do you like to travel light and plan to avoid intense trails and bad conditions? If so, pick up some light hiking shoes or some low-cut light boots. These shoes are often beefed-up running shoes. Some are closer to true shoes, some are closer to boots. There are even minimalist options for those people who enjoy the “barefoot” feel. When shopping for light shoes, remember that they often don’t provide the ankle support and traction of the heavy-duty hiking boots. They are not made to carry heavy loads, so if you plan to carry a large pack, you should move up to medium shoes. Light hiking shoes are rarely made completely of full-grain leather. Instead they are usually made of split-grain leather and synthetic materials. Synthetics dry faster than leather but may show wear more easily. Split-grain is light and cheap, but is not as waterproof as full-grain leather.
Are you planning to carry a pack and travel off the beaten track? Are you hiking for more than one day? If so, you need backpacking boots. These shoes are durable and offer significantly more support than the lighter shoes. They are higher at the ankle to protect it from rolling on uneven terrain. If you carry a light pack, choose a shoe that straddles the divide between a light and medium boot. These hiking boots are much more expensive than their lighter counterparts ($250 to $300 versus $85 to $125). With that comes more expensive materials and more durable construction. These boots are often made of leather, waterproofed, lined in Gore-Tex and chock full of extra support. Asolo and Zamberlan are two notable and well-respected brands for backpacking boots.
Are you planning to travel in glacial conditions and carry a very heavy pack? Mountaineering boots are the shoes you need. These boots are extra-tough, often constructed with leather, durable midsoles and Gore-Tex lining. They protect your feet and ankles from impact and abrasion. Mountaineering boots are extra-warm and cushioned for long journeys and cold weather. Wearing them allows your body to better support and carry a heavy pack over long distances. Most importantly, these boots accept crampons to give you added traction and make it possible to hike even under the worst conditions. Pairs of these boots are among the most expensive on the market ($300 to $400), but they are necessary for safe mountain hiking.