A great pair of boots can be the difference between a mountaintop view and a slow limp to the car. While looking pretty is always nice when shopping around for new gear, when it comes to your feet, performance should always come first. Here we explore some things to look for when shopping for your next pair so you can actually enjoy your next adventure, and take a look at some companies that give you both performance and looks at a great price.

Get the Right Fit
Finding the right fit sounds like a no-brainer, but most minor foot injuries during hikes occur from people pushing on in boots that don’t fit. The foot is a nuanced surface, with subtle curvatures that changes in shape as you step. The fact is, not all companies design footwear with all the necessary details included. Cutting corners for reduced manufacturing costs to increase profits isn’t an uncommon accident- It’s the norm.

Stable Insoles
Taking your time to find a product that took care in designing their insole shape and density is always worth it. This reduces the likelihood of buying something that is too tight in some places or too loose in others. And it doesn’t stop there–the supports around the insole are just as important. There are few things worse than an insole that slips around as you walk because it isn’t stabilized in the boot effectively. Stiff plastic supports to the structure of the shoe around the insole can have a harsh edge. Without adequate padding, this edge begins pressing against your foot through your stride.

Durable Materials
Materials are a major focus here too. Everyone likes leather, and it’s great. But leather has limits. Quality manufacturers use a combination of multiple, advanced materials in their boot designs to really shine. Some synthetic materials bring breathability, waterproofing, strength, weightlessness and comfort that leather alone just can’t do. Be wary of anyone that claims to make the perfect boots that are 100% leather. They may be great at some things, but they just don’t bring the same performance and versatility that premium designs do.

Boots Are Tools
Just as important as materials is function. Yes, you plan to walk in your boots and they should be able to handle that fine. But when searching for a pair of boots, start thinking of them like a tool. There is a job you plan to do, and you should be picking the right tool for the job. That is where tactical boots come in. Boots labeled as tactical often take all the qualities I mentioned above to the next level. Tactical boots take your footwear from being designed for walking to being designed to hike 10 miles through damp brush and mud without missing a step. Here are some of my favorites and why:

Our Favorite Boots

Chinook Footwear Scorpion II Heavy Duty boot

Chinook Footwear has been making boots in the Pacific Northwestern United States for 25 years, and in that time they have really gotten what they do down to a science. Their Scorpion II Heavy Duty boot is a masterpiece of tactical construction. It features shock resistance, molded ankle support, a waterproof breathable membrane, fully cushioned antimicrobial footbed, oil and slip resistant, ultra grip sole, and much more. All this weighing in at about 2 pounds. [$150]


Magnum Boots Stealth Force 8.0 Side Zip Waterproof boot
Magnum Boots Stealth Force 8.0 Side Zip Waterproof boot

Magnum Boots have a lot to offer when it comes to tactical footwear. Since their start in 1982, they have grown to a large line of military and law enforcement footwear, as well as boots and shoes designed for other demanding professions. Their Stealth Force 8.0 Side Zip Waterproof boot is one of their best. Loaded with all the comfort, lightweightedness and durability you could ask for in a protective and affordable package. [$140 to $160]

Danner Tanicus Sage Green Dry Non-Metallic Toe boot
Danner Tanicus Sage Green Dry Non-Metallic Toe boot

Danner Boots has been in the boot making business since 1932, and are crafted in Portland, Oregon. With a wide range of options, all supported by hand-crafted workmanship, Danner boots are sure to please. Their tactical boots are a joy, and they have some higher-end options as well. A classic, simple line of tactical boots from Danner called Tanicus will settle in as a more affordable, but still Danner quality option. [$150]

While there are a lot of companies making boots out there, the number that make quality, handcrafted, tactical boots right in the United States is much smaller. If you’ve been buying something else in the past, it’s time to try one of these three for your next pair. You will be amazed at how big of a difference the care and ingenuity of manufacturers like these make for your feet, and how much easier it is to hang in through testing situations with a pair of these on.