The Ultimate Boot Buyer's Guide

The Ultimate Boot Buyer's Guide

Posted by Tyler Gatlin on 22nd Aug 2022

With the weather cooling down and people everywhere spending more time outside, boot-wearing season has officially kicked into high gear. But shopping for a new pair of boots can be a little overwhelming – there are an endless number of styles, materials and sizes to consider and it’s easy to get lost with all of the options.

We’re here to help you sort through it all to find the perfect pair of boots for the boot-wearing season!

Start with Style

There are several different styles of boot – ranging from lightweight trail shoes to boots you could climb Mount Everest with – and each serves a unique purpose. When starting out your boot-buying adventure, it’s always best to figure out what your needs are first. Depending on those needs, different features may be prioritized over others and a specific style may be what you’re looking for. Let’s take a look at the different styles:

Light Hiking or Trail Shoes: Low-cut trail shoes like our Sierra Trail Runners are similar to a burly pair of athletic shoes. Because the low-cut style doesn’t offer much ankle protection, they are usually better suited for well-maintained trails or paths.

Men's Trail Runner Active Shoe - Sierra Gray/Blue

Day Hiking Boots: With a mid- to high-cut design, day hiking boots like our Ariya Hiking Boot are an excellent choice for day hikes, backpacking trips with light loads, or hiking on trails that are poorly maintained or full of debris. The higher cut of the boot affords ankle protection and extra support.

Men's Ariya - Hiking Boot - Black

Backpacking or Mountaineering Boots: These boots are designed to handle multi-day trips with heavy packs, a variety of terrain both on and off the trail, and a full range of weather conditions. For the average person or weekend warrior, boots like these may be overkill.

Work Boots: For a pair of work boots like our Biomechanical Boots , the name of the game is support and comfort. They’re made to handle long periods of standing while keeping the foot protected.

Casual Boots: Boots like our Logan, Paige or Hudson boots are designed with style and comfort in mind. Since it’s likely most casual boots will be worn around town and rarely go off road, certain features that may be common on hiking boots can be given a lower priority.

Women's Paige Boot - Black

Get Materialistic

Next, it’s time to think about materials. Just like different styles of boots come with different tradeoffs, so to do materials. Let’s take a look:

  • Synthetics and mesh: Often nylon or polyester, these fabrics are light weight, break in easily and are the most breathable. This can come at the expense of water resistance, but if they do get wet, they generally dry quickly. In addition, synthetics and mesh aren’t the best at standing up to the abuse of rugged terrain.
  • Full-Grain Leather: On the other end of the spectrum lies full-grain leather. It’s rugged and durable, which means it can take a beating from rough terrain or off-trail hiking. Plus, it’s much more water-resistant and looks good, too. The downside? It needs to be broken in and it may not be as breathable as synthetics or mesh.
  • Nubuck Leather: Nubuck is a full-grain leather that has been buffed to resemble suede. Our Sierra Trail Runners use nubuck leather in combination with synthetics. Like full-grain leather, it’s also water-resistant and can stand up to abrasion, and it also needs to be broken in.
  • Suede: It’s the most fashionable option by far, which is why our Paige boots, and many other casual boots, are made of suede. You generally don’t see suede out on the trails, though, and that’s because rain, snow or mud can really do a number on the material. But gosh, it looks and feels great, doesn’t it?

Depending on what you’re planning to do with your boots, the materials may not matter. On the flip side, the materials could matter a great deal. If, for example, you’re looking for a pair of comfy boots to do yardwork and landscaping in, you’ll probably want something made of full-grain leather. But if you’re looking for a comfy boot to wear around town, synthetic mesh, leather or suede can all get the job done.

Size ‘Em Up

Once you get style and materials figured out, it’s time to start thinking about size and fit. We have talked before about the need to consider all three dimensions of fit – length, width and depth – but here’s a quick refresher:

When most people think of size, they are only thinking about the number that corresponds to the length of the boot or shoe. But that’s only part of the equation – there’s also two other dimensions, width and depth. For help finding your size, you can check out our nifty sizing guide. And we cannot stress enough that you need to get the sizing of your boots spot on: typically, we ask much, much more from a pair of boots than we do a pair of shoes.

Finally, one last thing to consider when thinking about size and fit: socks. If you’re planning to wear your boots in the winter, and with thick socks, you may have to size up in length or width or add depth to the boot by removing the depth insert that all Apex shoes come with.

Final Things to Consider

Style, materials and size are the big three when it comes to choosing a new pair of boots, but there are a few final things to keep in mind:

  • Break-in: Boots, by nature, are sturdier than shoes and therefore may need a bit more time break in. We recommend breaking in your boots by wearing them around the home for a few days before taking them out.
  • Looks should come second: Obviously you want your boots to look good, especially if you’re in the market for a casual pair to wear around town with jeans. But those looks should never come at the expense of comfort and support.
  • Consider an insert: Inserts provide additional comfort and support to any pair of shoes or boots they’re used in and they can be the perfect complement to a pair of work or hiking boots.
  • Care and maintenance: Just because your boots may be built to stand up to the rigors of the trail, that doesn’t mean they don’t need a little TLC from time to time.

Looking for the perfect pair of boots? Shop now!