Purchasing the correct hiking or walking shoes requires analysing your intended use and choosing from the many types of shoes on the market. A hiker that plans to scramble up rugged, talus-strewn terrain will require an entirely different type of shoe than someone that plans to walk flat, smooth nature trails. Once you've identified the type of shoe you need, turn to expert and amateur reviews to get the right shoe.
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Hiking shoes are lightweight and low-cut designed primarily for day hikes. They lack the ankle and foot support of larger, heavier backpacking boots, so are best limited to day hikes or short overnight hikes. Elements to consider include ventilation, outsole traction, lacing system and materials.
Outside magazine chose the Garmont Zenith Mid GTX as its 2011 Gear of the Year pick for "light hiking" because of its lightweight, breathable versatility. While Outside tested the mid-cut version, the Zenith also comes in the low-cut Zenith Trail GTX.
As their name implies, approach shoes are a specific hiking shoe designed for approaches--hikes to the base of rock climbs. They typically combine elements of hiking shoes, such as support and stability, with elements of climbing shoes, such as sticky soles and nimble build.
National Geographic Adventure chose the Scarpa Dharma Pro as a 2010 Gear of the Year pick for its mix of climbing and hiking features including flexible sole, full lacing and sticky soles.
Best Casual Walking Shoes/Sneakers
Unlike hiking shoes, walking shoes are used for less off-the-beaten-path walking, such as on sidewalks and paths. They don't need the same types of traction and support as hikers and are typically lighter than hikers. Good Housekeeping chose the Brooks Sports Defyance as its number one "Best Walking Shoe", citing plenty of cushioning and support as things to love.
Best Dressy Walking Shoes
Like casual walking shoes, dressier walking shoes provide plenty of comfort and support for prolonged walking. However, they have a dressier leather build that looks a more formal. These types of shoes make versatile travel shoes because they're comfortable enough to log miles in during airport jogs and city tours, but formal enough to wear to dinner with khakis or dress trousers. Anya Clowers, a nurse consultant and comfort specialist in the travel industry, suggested the Ecco Berlin Gore-Tex in a post on her travel blog "Jet With Kids."
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