How To Choose The Right Outdoor Boot For Survival (2022)

How To Choose The Right Outdoor Boot For Survival (1)

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.

How To Choose The Right Outdoor Boot For Survival (2)


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  • The Fit Is King
  • What Terrain Are You Likely To Face?
  • Special Boots, Material Types, And Other Considerations
  • Getting Laced Up
  • Breaking Your Boots In
  • Taking Care Of Your 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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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.

How To Choose The Right Outdoor Boot For Survival (4)

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.

How To Choose The Right Outdoor Boot For Survival (5)

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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How To Choose The Right Outdoor Boot For Survival (6)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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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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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.

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Your Thoughts

Do you have any boot care tips or buying advice? Have you owned a pair of awesome outdoor boots? Tell us about themin 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.


How do I choose outdoor boots? ›

Hiking boots should fit snug everywhere, tight nowhere and offer room to wiggle your toes. Try them on at the end of the day (after feet swell) and with the socks you plan to wear. Know your size. It's best to have your foot's length, width and arch length measured on a specially calibrated fit device at REI.

What shoes are the best for survival? ›

The Georgia Logger boots are a top contender for the best all-around survival boot. The only downside is that the steel foot protection does make them stiffer and heavier than other boots – something that's always going to be a trade-off.

How do I choose the right boot? ›

A good boot will grip the heel just right so you can walk comfortably. You should also test the flexibility of the outside and top of the boot, as both parts also affect comfort. The test can be done in several ways, namely bending the toebox, or the front of the shoe where the toes are, in an upward motion.

What do I look for in a hiking boot? ›

Good hiking boots need to offer a balance between light weight, support, and stability; cushioning and functionality; stiffness and breathability. They must also be durable, protect your feet, and provide comfort. And above all, they need to fit. Fit is closely related to comfort.

What is the difference between hiking boots and backpacking boots? ›

Hiking boots are those designed for day-hikes and shorter trips when carrying lighter loads; backpacking boots are those made to deal with the rigors of long-term, long-distance backcountry travel with heavy loads.

What brand of boots does the military use? ›

Current manufacturers include (but are not limited to) Altama, Bates, Belleville Boot, McRae, Rocky, Warson Brands/Converse and Wellco. The US Air Force used a sage green suede combat boot with its Airman Battle Uniform, although a tan version was authorized until 2011, when the green boot became mandatory.

How do you make survival shoes? ›

Making Primitive Survival Shoes - YouTube

What is the best law enforcement boot? ›

Compare Best Tactical Boots
1. Rocky S2V Predator - Best For Most People9"Leather/Synthetic
2. Salomon Quest 4D - Best For Military6"Leather/Synthetic
3. 5.11 A.T.A.C. - Budget Pick8"Leather/Synthetic
4. Thorogood Gen-Flex2 - Full Leather Waterproof8"Full Leather
3 more rows
Jul 26, 2022

What boot height is best? ›


The point at which the top of the ankle boot hits your leg will affect how flattering they are. The general rule is that the most flattering height of boot is one that cuts you across a narrower part of your leg.

How do I know my perfect boot size? ›

Most men find they must size down 1/2 to 1 full size from their athletic shoe size to get the proper boot fit.

Should boots be a size bigger? ›

You should also not try to size up in regular boot sizes, because even if larger boots fit the width of your foot, the boot will be too long and will cause blisters, chafing and heel slippage. Instead, try on boots that naturally come in wide sizes like Chippewa, Rocky and Wolverine. 2.

What footwear is more advisable to use for longer treks with heavy loads? ›

For longer treks carrying heavy loads, backpacking boots are more advisable.

How heavy should hiking boots be? ›

The average running shoes weigh around 1 ¾ pounds and the average hiking boots weigh about 3 ¾ pounds.

What is the difference between hiking and trekking? ›

Hiking involves a long energetic walk in a natural environment on hiking trails or footpaths for a day or overnight. Trekking involves a long vigorous hike in wild natural environment for multiple days. It can be done off hiking trails.

Should you buy hiking shoes a size bigger? ›

Many hikers suggest that a pair of right hiking boots should be a half or full size larger than their normal shoe size or even the hiking boots that fit you perfectly.

Why do hikers have sticks? ›

Trekking poles (also known as hiking poles, hiking sticks or walking poles) are a common hiking accessory that function to assist walkers with their rhythm, to provide stability, and reduce strain on joints on rough terrain.

What would be the best footwear to use for well defined trails? ›

If most of your hiking is done on relatively smooth, well-maintained trails (e.g. the Pacific Crest Trail), then road running shoes can be a viable footwear option for backpacking. In rugged and/or off-trail conditions, most hikers find that trail running shoes are worth the fairly minimal weight penalty.

What is the ideal type of shoes to use when hiking or trekking? ›

You need to wear sturdy shoes, and they should provide your foot with support and protection from rocks, as well as give you traction on dry and wet surfaces. Available options are backpacking boots, hiking shoes, trail running shoes, and sandals. If you're going for multi-day hiking, hiking boots are the way to go.

How do I choose a soccer boot? ›

Foot shape

To play at your best, you need football boots that fit you perfectly, so each touch of the ball is accurate and powerful. If you have wide feet, make sure to look for suitable designs. Otherwise, you'll feel uncomfortable within seconds of kick-off (typically, Nike and Adidas are good for wide-fittings).

What is the best brand of boot? ›

What's the best brand of boots? Dr. Marten's, Grenson, Red Wing, Timberland, Ariat, Helm, Danner, R.M. Williams and Clarks are among the best men's boot brands. Other good boot brands are Belstaff, Hunter, Fracap, Frye and UGG.

What are the different types of booting? ›

There are two types of the boot:
  • Cold Boot/Hard Boot.
  • Warm Boot/Soft Boot.

How do you shop at boots? ›

How To Buy Boots That Will Last Forever - Boot Guide - YouTube


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