I've read some of your previous columns regarding women's hiking boots, but I don't feel confident in choosing a good boot. I'm a novice hiker looking for a women's hiking/backpacking boot. My plans are to travel all over the U.S. and live most of my time in the outdoors, forests, deserts, etc. I need a good hiking boot for year-round, long-distance, constant use. I don't plan on climbing any major mountains quite yet, though. Rebekah Appleton, Wisconsin
Asolo Stynger GTX
However, a little care up front can ensure that doesn't happen. What you want is a midweight trail bootsomething that's sturdy enough to stand up to rough conditions and all sorts of terrain, but not one that's designed for mountaineering or exceptionally heavy loads. Fortunately, a whole slew of boots meet these criteria. One excellent choice: Asolo's Stynger GTX ($160; www.asolo.com), a comfortable but rugged boot that coincidentally is shaped specifically for a woman's foota little narrower in the ankle and lower in overall volume than the men's equivalent. Another good choice is the La Sportiva Trango Trek ($195; www.sportiva.com), a boot that's based on La Sportiva's trail-to-mountain Trango but that's de-tuned a little for extensive trail use. And, L.L. Bean's Cresta Hiker in the all-leather version ($169; www.llbean.com) has been a standout boot for yearsvery comfortable, and designed to fit nearly any foot.
But you get the idea: you want to spend between $150 and $200 on a boot that's much more than the light hikers so prevalent today.
Then, take time to find a good fit. Go to a store that has a wide selection of outdoor boots, and try on at least three or four different models. Ask for the most experienced boot-fitter, and make sure he or she measures both feet. Talk about any foot problems you've had in the past and what the boots are for. Chances are you'll end up with a boot that's a half size larger than your sneaker size, but don't follow that guideline slavishly as every maker's boots fit a little differently.
Once you've settled on a boot, take it home and wear it in the house for a day or two to ensure it still feels good (that way, they're nice and clean if you need to return them). Then start wearing them on hikesa mile or two, then three or four, and so on. Within a week or two the boots should be nicely broken in and you'll be ready to go!
Check out Outside Online's Gear Blog for a review of La Sportiva's Trango Trek boots.