What to Look For
When you walk, your feet are your body's shock absorbers. You should look for a shoe that matches your walking style and the shape of your feet. Check the wear on shoes you already have. If they are worn primarily at the balls of the feet or on the inside rim, you need extra support for your arches in your shoes. If the wear is primarily on the outside edges of the shoes, you need extra cushioning and flexibility. You want boots that correct flaws in your particular gait, not boots that accentuate those flaws.
People often think that a boot they like that is uncomfortable at the fitting will adjust to their feet as it breaks in. Remember that your feet are adjusting to the boot, as well. Initial discomfort will usually either be magnified or transferred to another part of your body -- like your lower back. The right boot should feel good on you from the first time you wear it.
Where to Buy
If you are not sure of what your walking style is, you can try a local boot store where sales associates specialize in fitting the boots to your gait. But for quality, selection and price guarantees, on-line shopping has become the way to get boots. Zappos.com has become the monster of the boot industry, offering about 7,000 types of women's and 2,000 types of men's boots. Shipping is free. If you try the boots on and do not like them, return them for free and get another pair. RockyBoots.com is another great site that features specialty outdoor and industrial boots.
The price of boots varies wildly depending on what you want. Simple western boots start at about $50 and can go up to around $1,000. Basic work boots start at $50 but more commonly range between $100 to $200, especially with steel toes. There has been a boom in popularity for the ultra-comfortable Ugg Boots made in Australia. They range from $120 to $300 for adult sizes and $50 to $150 for children's sizes.
It is important to match the boots you buy to how you intend to use them. A reinforced steel-toed work boot is great on the job but will quickly become a burden on your feet and your back if you use it for extended hiking. The western-style, or cowboy, boot was the original all-purpose American shoe. Keep in mind that cowgirls rode horses, though, so western boots are still not the best for hiking. Sexy high-heeled women's boots offer a distinctive look, but will be rough on the back if worn more than at the occasional party.
Insole cushions and shoe inserts can adjust boots to fit your foot and reduce back pain. Hiking boots come from the manufacturer with a water-repellent coating, but it can quickly wear off with use. Various waterproofing products are available at any outdoors store. Leather treatment oils should be applied regularly to leather boots to keep them from cracking and fading.
Before you put insole cushions in your boots, make sure they help correct your gait style. The wrong insoles can aggravate the problem. A podiatrist can tell you the best insole for you. Dr. Scholl's stores use a machine that maps your feet and quickly determine the type of insole cushion you need. If you waterproof your boots, spray-on products rarely last very long. A waterborne wax is easy to apply and will usually last for a season. Beeswax is more difficult to apply but is very long lasting.