When your feet aren’t happy, you aren’t happy. Keeping your feet dry and comfortable is imperative to an enjoyable hike. Of course the distance and type of hike you are embarking on determines what kind of boot or shoe you will need.
For short distance, flat terrain day hiking, you obviously won’t need as much support as you would for more rugged mountainous terrain. Less mountainous hiking on softer- and even sandier- soil requires more low ankle support, given ankle rolling is much less of a risk in these kinds of scenarios.
Light hiking shoes perform more like bulky running than hiking boots. Insole support isn’t really an issue for light day hikers because they aren’t really built for use over an extended timeframe. For shorter hikes, you may also want to look into mesh-toe options, perfect for water trekking and airing out your labored feet on longer walks.
When embarking on mountain hiking to conquer legitimate peaks of 3,000 vertical feet or more, you will need more support and comfort. More cushy insoles which can slow you down on shorter day hikes are actually beneficial to the long distance climber. They will let you hike longer with happier, more comfortable feet.
Climbing hard, irregular rock surfaces is also very hard on your feet, especially compared to sandy riverbeds. More cushy supportive insoles are something to look for, even if you are on a flat hike across rocky terrain.
A rule of thumb to keep in mind is the lower the cut, the less ankle support shoes offer. This means less resistance to ankle rolling and balance, something you may not need when hiking the South Carolina Lowcountry or exploring the sandy Florida Keys. But ankle support is something to definitely take into account when your excursions take you on rugged high peaks with long distance ascending and descending.
Wearing the right boot for the right type of hiking is imperative to enjoying your experience. Making sure you are comfortable and properly prepared (not over OR under prepared) for any expedition you’re planning is the first step. Keeping your feet happy means happy memories of a day in the woods or mountains without any pains or injury.