For the last 7 years, Rick, Johnny and I have hiked a National Park every summer. This past summer we the glaciers of Banff National Park in Canada and the terrain and elevation gain proved to be the most difficult of all. However, my new hiking boots were amazing!
I think I've owned almost every single hiking shoe and boot on the market so I am a bit of an expert on hiking shoes and socks. I require a shoe with excellent arch support, superior tread and because I do a lot of mountain and unstable terrain trials, I wear an ankle boot for the support. I also prefer that my boot be waterproof because wet feet = blisters. But waterproof boots tend to not breath and sweaty feet = swollen feet. Sore feet will ruin your hike and kill your desire to hike quicker than any other factor you encounter in the Great Outdoors. Ask me how I know.
I don't actually like the restrictive feel of an ankle boot but I broke my foot 7 miles in hiking the Napali Coast in Kaua'i and since the only way to access that trail is on foot, I had to hike back out on a broken foot. I was wearing this Keen. Since that terrible experience, I will never again compromise myself by wearing cheap shoes on rugged trails. In fairness to Keen, I actually like them for gardening, yard work, light trails and easy hikes, but their ankle boots are very, very uncomforable.
I've tried many ankle boots: Merrel, Keen, Vasque and Solomon. My hiking boot? Lowa Renegades. I love this boot! I can put these boots on at 6am and at 6pm, not even know that I've hiked all day.
Socks? Same story, between Rick and I, we have worn all of the top brands. The brand that we all wear? Smart Wool. Don't be put off or fooled by the word "wool", these socks are amazing. Rick and Johnny prefer the thinner sock, but I like a thick sock.
If you take long hikes (6+ hours) I suggest that you get your hiking boots 1/2 size bigger, because feet do swell. Choose the thickness of sock by how long you plan to hike, and the terrain. Thinner socks are nice for short treks on hot days, but thicker socks will go the distance and provide nice cushioning. Lastly, always, always carry an extra pair of socks in your daypack.
Next up: What to pack in your Day Pack & Sunglasses