The right hiking boots are a necessity for hiking and scrambling up Colorado’s 14ers. While you can use either shoes or boots, I recommend hiking boots for 14ers due to their superior ankle support. However, there are a lot of options and things to consider. Here are my thoughts when it comes to choosing the best hiking boots for 14ers, along with my top six recommended pairs.
Using Hiking Boots for 14ers
Hiking boots are a better choice than approach shoes or tennis shoes because they provide ankle support. Scrambling over rocks is a big part of most 14ers. If you climb enough peaks, you’ll inevitably trip or twist your ankle at some point. Hiking boots reduce your chance of injury thanks to their support. They also help keep sticks, dirt and snow out from the trail.
Some people prefer hiking shoes because they weigh less, or approach shoes which provide better grip for climbing and scrambling. However, all things considered, I still prefer hiking boots for 14ers due to their superior ankle protection. Here are several other considerations to keep in mind when choosing 14er footwear of any kind.
Wet socks are miserable socks. Waterproofing will help with creek crossings and snowfields to keep your toes nice and dry. Gore Tex shoes are the best as they let your shoes breath.
Shoe Grip and Traction
When crossing wet rocks or working your way up a scree-covered slope, boots with solid grip is key to avoid a slip or fall. Look for composite rubber materials and technologies.
The heavier your shoes, the more quickly you will tire while wearing them. Sleek hiking shoes cut down on weight, but sacrifice other features to make it up and provide far less insulation and warmth.
Some boots are just warmer than others. Bulkier materials with more insulation, and high ankle boots that trap in warmth are better for hiking in snowy conditions. That’s important on 14ers where snow is possible anytime of the year.
The most important factor in getting the best hiking boots for 14ers is ensuring a proper fit. If you order online, use a store that has a great return policy so you can test your shoes and and find another pair that does fit. Your boots should just barely be snug, and you shouldn’t slide around at all while wearing the hiking boots.
Breaking In Your Hiking Boots for 14ers
It takes time to break in your boot to your feet (and vice versa). Wear your boots around your home and on short walks to get started. Start several weeks before your climb, increasing your hikes until you reach 5+ miles. Heading out to climb a 14er with a pair of shoes or boots you just bought is a really bad idea, but can be done if you have no other options. Just prepare for a lot of blisters when you’re done.
The Best Hiking Boots for 14ers: My Recommendations
Based on my research and experience, here are my 6 recommendations for the best hiking boots for 14ers. They’ll all help you reach the summit safely and successfully.
My First Choice: Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX
These lightweight hiking boots are ideal for the Colorado 14ers. They’re waterproof with gore-tex material making them breathable but able to stand up to snow and creek crossings. They provide top-of-the-line traction for scrambling over rocks and slabs and have a great cushion for mid-length hikes. They’re one of the most comfortable hiking boots I’ve ever tried. They are more expensive than other options here, but they’re worth the premium price, and they are my personal boot of choice.
Second Choice: Danner Mountain 600 Hiking Boots
Danner is a well known boot designer, and the Mountain 600 series is one of the most popular pairs available. These lightweight shoes have great traction for slippery rocks and a stylish look that Danner is known for. They come in a men’s and women’s style for a better fit for each. Danner recommends sizing down half a size from what you typically wear, so keep that in mind when you buy a pair. If you purchase it through REI you can take advantage of their no-frills return policy to find the right size.
Third Choice: Timberland Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots
These Timberland hiking boots are the most affordable pair of boots on this list, but they’re still among the best hiking boots for 14ers, thanks to their sturdy construction and waterproofing. They are a no-frill pair of boots that will do the job well, especially if you only plan to summit a handful of peaks. They’re an excellent option for casual peak baggers.
Fourth Option: Zamberlan Vioz GTX Hiking Boots
The Zamberlan hiking boots are top-of-the-line footwear, legendary for their high-quality Italian construction and material. They’re the most expensive of the best hiking boots for 14ers, with complete grain leather design and GORE-TEX seam waterproofing. Their sole can also be replaced over time as it wears, lengthening the boot’s lifespan significantly.
Don't Forget a Good Pair of Socks & Liners
While you’re shopping for a pair of hiking boots for 14ers, be sure you grab a few pairs of good hiking socks and liners. These socks from REI have good padding for long hikes, and breathability. These silk liners, worn underneath, help prevent blisters – especially if you are wearing relatively new boots. They’re both on my standard 14er clothing list.
The 3 Best Hiking Boots for 14ers: Now You Know!
Ultimately, the choice is yours on using hiking boots, shoes, or approach shoes. However if you do go with boots, I hope you’ll consider one of the options above. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages, mostly a balance between price and quality. However any of these six pairs of the best hiking boots for 14ers will do the job and help you reach the summit. Safe travels on the trail!