In the rugged state of Colorado, hiking boots are an essential piece of gear. Whether you plan to climb a fourteener in the front range or explore a canyon on the western slope, boots provide essential ankle support and traction that sneakers cannot match. Anyone visiting Colorado should plan to get a good pair of hiking boots to ensure they have a good experience. Without them, your chance of injuring yourself from a trip or fall is much higher, and you have pretty good odds of developing blisters. Here are some key factors to consider and three good options for Colorado hiking boots in 2023.
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Do I need Hiking Boots for Colorado?
If you’re wondering whether full hiking boots are really necessary, take a moment to think about the terrain in Colorado. Snow and ice are possible in any month of the year, even July, which can leave trails wet and slick. The trail itself is likely composed of loose, rocky surfaces that also require traction. At times you may need to scramble over larger rocks and boulders.
While hiking shoes or tennis shoes may work in less extreme environments, Colorado is an extremely rugged place. You should plan on getting a pair of hiking boots if you want to hike in Colorado.
How to Pick Out A Pair of Colorado Hiking Boots
Before we get to specific recommendations it is important to understand what’s important when it comes to picking out a pair of boots for Colorado. The most important consideration of all is the boot’s fit. If you pick a pair that is too big or too small, even slightly, you will have a very uncomfortable experience.
If you order your boots online, I recommend getting them from a store like REI that makes exchanging them for a different size easy and painless (I link to REI below for each of my recommendations). That way, if you find your usual size is a bit too tight, you can easily swap them out.
Here are some other factors to consider when choosing a pair of hiking boots:
- Warmth: How much insulation do the boots have? Are they for all seasons or summer?
- Weight: Heavier shoes provide more durability, but tire you out more quickly.
- Durability: Durable shoes last longer, especially on rough, rocky terrain.
- Comfort: Some brands make a point of focusing on comfort and breathability, while other boots treat it as an afterthought.
- Traction: If you plan to scramble or cross streams, look for a pair with superb grip.
- Cost: The more robust the boot, the higher the price.
- Water Resistance: Boots range from no water protection to water resistance, to full waterproofing. Pick what you think you’ll need.
If you don’t want to spend a fortune, I recommend figuring out what you care most about: Do you need something warm for snowy conditions? Or are you backpacking and in need of boots that will be comfortable and durable after four days of hiking? Once you figure out your priorities it gets easier to pick a boot that meets your needs. If you want a few ideas to get started, I shared a few specific recommendations below.
The Best Colorado Hiking Boots for 2023
I tested out each of the three boots below in 2023 and selected my favorite overall pair, my favorite pair specifically for the mountains, and my favorite value pair. Here are the three best Colorado Hiking Boots in each category.
Top Choice: Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex Boogs
The Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex Hiking Boots rise to the challenge, providing unrivaled support, durability, and comfort, perfect for the trails of the Centennial State from late spring through late fall. Designed for serious trekkers, these boots incorporate Salomon’s innovative All Terrain Contagrip® outsole for reliable grip on wet or dry, hard or loose surfaces, making them ideally suited to Colorado’s varied trails. The 4D Advanced Chassis™ ensures a stable yet smooth ride, allowing you to navigate rocky paths and high-altitude terrains with confidence.
The Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex also prioritizes foot comfort and support, essential for those long hikes. Its EnergyCell midsole, crafted from high-performance EVA foam, provides excellent shock attenuation, reducing fatigue on those challenging uphill treks. The SensiFit™ technology cradles the foot, offering a secure, snug, and virtually customized fit. These boots are crafted from full-grain Nubuck leather for optimal durability. A special water-repellent treatment paired with the tried-and-true GORE-TEX membrane keeps your feet dry, a must-have feature for unpredictable Colorado weather.
- Exceptional grip on various terrains
- Enhanced foot control and comfort
- Superior protection from the elements
- Durable and long-lasting
- Snug, customized fit
- Environmentally-friendly construction
- May require a break-in period
- Might be heavier than other models
- Potentially a higher price point
Best for Rugged Terrain: La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX Boots
Designed for technical terrain, the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX offers superior comfort and an impressively lightweight design. It’s packed with features like a Gore-tex waterproof membrane, aggressive rubber outsoles, and a high-frequency lacing system that ensure optimal performance in varying conditions.
Its Impact Brake System X-Axis provides stability and confidence on steep and loose terrains, while the synthetic mesh offers lightweight performance and durability. This boot is ideal for swift navigation and conquering challenging terrains like 13ers, 14ers, and other scrambling in the Colorado high country. The only downside is its durability and support, which left a little to be desired for.
- Great comfort and lightweight design
- Superior traction with aggressive rubber outsoles
- Durable and suited to diverse terrain types
- Sizing may run small
- Less durable than full-leather options
- Waterproofing may struggle with higher snow levels
Best Budget Option: Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof Boots
For budget-savvy adventurers eager to hit the trails across Colorado, the Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof Boots make an excellent choice. Known for their exceptional comfort, these boots come with a water-resistant suede construction and require virtually no break-in period. Their solid underfoot construction offers great support, making them a perfect pick for both novice and seasoned hikers. The Moab 3 scores high in comfort, with a suede leather and mesh upper, easy-to-adjust lacing system, and the Merrell Air Cushion for extra underfoot comfort. A molded rubber toe bumper provides extra protection, while the breathable mesh panels enhance ventilation.
Merrell’s Moab 3 employs a unique combination of a molded nylon arch support and Super Rebound Compound to create a secure mid-foot structure, offering a solid platform for hiking. The Vibram rubber compound used in the outsole offers great traction on both wet and dry trail conditions. Despite a few limitations such as a heavier design and the tendency for the lugs to clog up with mud, these boots offer fantastic value. With their waterproof feature, comfort, and support, the Moab 3 ensures that affordability doesn’t mean compromising on performance.
- Exceptional comfort with virtually no break-in period
- Solid underfoot construction providing great support
- Good traction in both wet and dry conditions
- Design is a bit heavier than other lightweight boots
- Lugs may clog up in muddy conditions
- Waterproofing might suffer during prolonged submersion
Breaking in Your New Colorado Hiking Boots
Once you buy your new pair of boots, you need to take some time to break them in before you head out to the trail. Breaking in your boots just means wearing them down a bit so conform better to the unique shape of your foot. While there are many ways to do this, it comes down to wearing your boots but not overdoing it, so you stretch them out without hurting your feet. Here are a few ways to do this:
- Wear them around your house while doing chores like picking up and cleaning.
- Take short walks around your neighborhood wearing the boots
- Go for easy hikes, no longer than 1-2 miles
If you push yourself and find you are getting blisters or raw spots on your feet, you likely need to slow down and take more time to break in your boots. Whatever you do, never go out and buy a pair of boots without taking this time or you will end up with very painful feet and a lot of blisters.
Remember the Right Hiking Boot Accessories for Colorado
Don’t forget about some important accessories to compliment your new hiking boots. Here’s what I recommend for anyone visiting Colorado for hiking, scrambling, or backpacking adventures.
Merino Wool Hiking Socks
Good quality socks are critical. Look for moisture-wicking, breathable, and quick-drying options. They should ideally be made from merino wool or a synthetic blend to prevent blisters. I recommend these REI Co-op COOLMAX EcoMade Midweight Hiking Crew Socks for the trails and ridges of Colorado. Don’t forget a pair of these silk liners for extra blister protection.
These can provide an additional layer of protection against dirt, moisture, and snow. Gaiters can be particularly useful in Colorado’s varied terrain and weather conditions, especially if you are visiting in the spring or fall months. I recommend these Outdoor Research Helium Gaiters, which are waterproof and full-length, yet comfortable and lightweight.
These are a key accessory, especially for winter hiking or traversing icy and snowy conditions that are common in Colorado. Microspikes slip onto your boots to provide extra traction on icy trails, helping to prevent slips and falls. They’re compact and lightweight, making them easy to carry in your pack when not in use. Kahtoola microspikes are the industry leader.
Colorado Hiking Boots: Now You Know!
There are thousands of hiking boots available on the market in 2023, but there’s no need to be overwhelmed. These three options are among the best and work for almost any situation. Whether you are looking for a versatile boot that works for any environment, something suited specifically for the mountains, or a value option that won’t break the bank, you have the answer here. I hope these recommendations help make the choice a little easier for you. Safe travels on the trail.
Colorado Hiking Boots: Additional Resources
Looking for more information about the ideal pair of Colorado hiking boots? These guides and resources were helpful for me while researching and writing this article. If you have your own suggestion for hiking boots or resources on the web, share them in a comment below and we might just add them to the article in our next regular update.
Frequently Asked Questions
A: Hiking boots are crucial in Colorado due to its rocky, steep, and unpredictable terrain. They provide ankle support, stability, and protect feet. Waterproof or water-resistant materials keep feet dry in various weather conditions, including rainstorms, snow, or crossing streams. Thick socks help prevent blisters, while sunscreen, water, and appropriate clothing are necessary items to bring. Proper preparation and equipment ensures a safe and enjoyable hiking experience in Colorado.
A: When hiking in Colorado, it is important to have footwear that is supportive, durable, and comfortable. Hiking boots or shoes are recommended over sneakers or sandals due to the rugged terrain. Look for shoes with sturdy soles, good traction, and ankle support, which will help prevent injuries and provide stability on rocky trails. GORE-TEX or other waterproof and breathable technologies are ideal for hiking in Colorado, as the weather can be unpredictable and trails can become wet and muddy. Finally, it is important to break in your shoes before you go on a long hike to ensure they fit well and are comfortable on your feet.
A: The three types of hiking boots are hiking shoes, day hiking boots, and backpacking boots. Hiking shoes are lightweight and designed for easy day hikes or short trips on smooth terrain. Day hiking boots offer more support and protection than hiking shoes, making them a better fit for tougher terrain and longer hikes. Backpacking boots are the heaviest and most durable type, with stiff soles, high ankle support, and a design suitable for rough terrain and extended trips with heavy loads.
When choosing the right hiking boots, consider the trail conditions, the length of the hike, the weight you’ll be carrying, and your personal preferences and physical capabilities. Always try on boots before purchasing them, as the fit and comfort level are critical to a successful hiking trip.
A: It is recommended to wear hiking boots while hiking in Colorado Springs, as the terrain can be rocky, steep, and uneven. Proper footwear with good traction and ankle support can help prevent injuries and improve your hiking experience. However, the type of footwear you need may depend on the specific trail and your personal preferences. Always consider the weather conditions, duration of your hike, and difficulty level of the trail when selecting your hiking footwear.
A: When selecting a suitable pair of boots to wear in Colorado, you should carefully consider the weather and activities you intend to engage in. For instance, if you plan to hike in the mountains, it would be preferable to choose boots with excellent ankle support and traction. Moreover, waterproof boots are a necessity during wet and snowy weather, while insulated boots will be ideal for the colder temperatures.
If you are someone who prides themselves on their fashion sense, you can still find stylish boots that meet the functional requirements for the climate. In essence, it is crucial to prioritize comfort, durability, and ensuring that your boots are suitable for the environment in which you’ll be operating.
A: Yes, it is highly recommended to wear hiking boots while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. The park has a variety of trails with different terrains ranging from rocky and uneven to muddy and wet. Hiking boots provide more support and protection for your feet which can prevent blisters and injuries. They also have better traction which is particularly important on steep and slippery trails. Additionally, be sure to break in your hiking boots before your trip to ensure maximum comfort. Remember to pack other essential hiking gear such as sun protection, plenty of water, and warm layers as the weather can change quickly and unexpectedly in the park.
A: Yes, it is advisable to wear hiking boots when visiting Red Rocks, as the terrain can be rough and rocky. Hiking boots with sturdy soles provide better traction and support for your feet and ankles. They also protect your feet from sharp rocks, cacti, and other potential hazards on the trail. Additionally, wearing comfortable and supportive hiking boots can enhance your overall hiking experience by reducing fatigue and preventing injuries. So, make sure to wear appropriately sized and comfortable hiking boots with grip on the sole for hiking at Red Rocks.