Hey Bootleggers, Mags here!
Throughout the years, I’ve had my fair share of hiking boot misadventures. Blisters, sore feet, you name it. I’ve got calluses, but my feet are as sensitive as they come. Moleskin never did the trick for me, and I’ve tried every blister prevention hack in the book. So, I’m here to share my insider tips on finding the perfect hiking shoes or boots, specifically tailored for Arizona’s diverse terrains and challenging conditions.
Understand Arizona’s Varied Terrain: First things first, you’ve got to consider the landscapes you’ll be conquering. Arizona’s hiking trails are as diverse as they come, from the jaw-dropping Grand Canyon to the rugged Superstition Mountains. Your choice of hiking footwear should match your adventure. Whether you’re exploring the desert, tackling mountainous terrain, or hitting the high country, each Arizona trail demands a slightly different type of footwear.
Know Your Foot Type and Arizona’s Climate: Your unique foot type matters, and so does the desert climate in Arizona. High arches, flat feet, or somewhere in between – understanding your foot type is the foundation of your footwear choices. If you have wider feet, try out a brand with a wide toe box. Just keep trying on different shoes until you find something that allows your foot to walk as naturally as possible for you. Arizona’s climate can be a challenge too, with intense heat and rocky trails. Choose shoes that provide proper support and breathability to tackle these demanding conditions.
Choose Arizona-Appropriate Materials: Let’s talk shoe materials. Arizona’s conditions require some specific considerations. Leather might provide durability but can get a little toasty in the desert heat — same goes for waterproof shoes. Synthetic materials offer breathability but might not be as tough. Take into consideration pokey plants (that catclaw does a NUMBER on synthetic shoes especially) and whether you’ll be crossing creeks. One time I wore waterproof boots and then had like 20 knee-deep creek crossings…kept having to take my boots off and dump the water out. Would not recommend that — I would rather have worn lightweight trail runners or sandals and had wet feet. Picking the right materials based on where you’ll be is the key to comfort on Arizona trails.
Prioritize Support and Comfort on Arizona Trails: Arizona’s terrain can be rugged, so ankle support is recommended. You can do that one of two ways — you can strengthen your ankles or you can buy shoes with ankle support (or both). Tip: the stiffer the sole, the more supportive your boots are. If you have sensitive feet or are carrying heavy weight (like backpacking or rucking), consider hiking shoes or boots that provide excellent cushioning, particularly on those rocky paths. Arizona’s heat adds an extra layer of complexity – your footwear should keep you comfortable, even when the temperatures are soaring. When you try on those shoes, do it in the socks you’ll be hiking in, just to make sure they’re a perfect match.
(Disclaimer – I hike in minimalist sandals from LUNA sandals, and I love them! Remember, always pick what works best for YOUR feet!)
Optimize Traction for Arizona Trails: The state’s diverse terrain requires excellent traction. From the red rocks of Sedona to the sandy trails in the Sonoran Desert, the right outsoles, tread patterns, and rubber compounds can make or break your hike. Look for hiking shoes that offer superior grip and stability on a variety of terrains. My favorite sole is Vibram rubber (lots of brands use them), but there are plenty of good soles out there (La Sportiva’s Bushido II’s are some of the grippiest shoes I’ve worn).
Replace Footwear When Needed: Your hiking shoes or boots have a lifespan, and Arizona’s challenging conditions can speed up that process. Keep an eye on your midsole – it usually shows wear before your traction goes. On average, you might be looking at around 350-400 miles for hiking shoes, but it can vary based on the terrain and your weight. Stiffer boots often go the extra mile, so consider the type of hiking you’ll be doing and plan accordingly.
Invest in Quality Socks for Arizona Hikes: Socks matter more than you might think. I’m a huge fan of Merino wool performance socks like Smartwool and Darn Tough. They’re moisture-wicking and keep your feet thermoregulated, which means they’ll stay cozy in the dry heat and cool when you start sweating. And when you’re hiking in Arizona, you can also try toe socks like Injinji or Creepers. I wear them with my LUNA Sandals to prevent blisters, and they come in both regular and liner styles.
Troubleshooting Blisters: If you’re still finding blisters, especially on your arch or the soles of your feet, consider insoles. Brands like Superfeet offer a great selection, and their online insole finder can help you pick the right one for your unique needs. And if you’re hiking in BFE Arizona, and blisters strike, make sure you’ve got some Adventure Medical Kits Glacier Gel bandages with you — They’re the bee’s knees for a quick fix. As someone who’s had lots of blister issues (hence trying all different types of shoes), I have a whole blog post on this here.
In a place as breathtaking and challenging as Arizona, the right hiking shoes or boots can make or break your adventure. Take your time, do your research, and choose footwear that matches your unique hiking style and the conditions you’ll face. Your feet will thank you. Lace up and hit those Arizona trails, and as always, happy adventuring by foot! 🥾