A hiker’s guide to fall foliage footwear

Today is the first day of our annual east coast road trip. But instead of sticking to the streets we decided to change things up this year and add a little more outdoor adventure to the mix.

Last year we enjoyed the fantastic flash of fall colors from the safety of our Hertz rental.

This year, we’re hiking.

Our first stop is in Macon, Ga., where we’ll walk along the Trail of Tears, check out the Ocmulgee National Monument where we’ll check out ancient indian burial grounds and visit the Tubman African American Museum named for one of the best known conductors of the underground railroad.

And that’s just our first stop. Wait until we get to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and New York’s Catskill Mountains.

So, how do you prepare for the hiking event of the year? You go shopping!

The adultsare avid hikers and adventurers – the kids are a bit more reluctant. Still, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about how technology advances have improved hiking gear. I figured the best way to get my nerds to step away from Minecraft and into the “actual” woods was to talk up the tech.

And it worked. I convinced the family to come with me and visit a variety of adventure outfitters where we tried on the latest “state of the art” styles to see what we liked best. If I happened to pick up a few pair for myself, well, bonus for me!

Here’s a quick list with a few of our favorite hiking boots and socks, and why we like them:

Lowa Boots
Over the past three months I’ve been breaking in a pair of Lowa Women’s Renegade II GTX LO Hiking Boot. They are ideal for light-load day hiking and short-haul, weekend backpacking. Lined with Gore-Tex, the low cut boot gives you lots of climate comfort and waterproof protection. The slightly stiffer nylon shank has enhanced performance for hikers who tackle more rugged trail. Underneath the Renegade, a Vibram Renovo outsole offers sure-footed traction in a variety of terrain. I’ll need it of we end up headed to Utah again next year

Ecco Boots
The Ecco Women’s Torre Semi Mid GTX Boot is an all-around light hiker that’s built for serious adventures. With a Gore-Tex lining the shoe is completely waterproof, the mid height on these boots offers excellent traction lugs for stability on variable terrains and the outsole cleats provide excellent traction for river crossings or skree scrambles. My personal opinion is that these shoes are ideal for slippery spring hikes, yet still light enough for fall foliage fun.

Salewa Snow Boots
Since we’ll be visiting Colorado this winter, I wanted to be sure we looked at a few boots that were well insulated. The Salewa Women’s Snow Trainer Insulated GTX Boot perfect for cold weather hiking and trekking because its soles are made with Icefriction patented technology for a sure grip on ice and snow. The boot also features Gore-tex insulated comfort plus a Suede upper and integrated waterproof gaiter.

Keen Boots
The Keen Women’s Targhee II Waterproof Hiking Shoe The Keen brand is very well known in the hiking community and has a pretty good reputation. These shoes have been revamped and upgraded with eVent waterproof barrier technology to keep feet dry and even more comfortable. The outsole of the Targhee has 4mm lugs to bite into the terrain, providing extra traction. A tri-density footbed cushions the foot more in the areas that need it for an extra comfortable hike. I recommend this boot for the infrequent hiker because it is the best buy for the price.

Smartwool Socks
I was introduced to Smartwool socks when I learned how to ski in Vermont. All their socks are made with New Zealand Wool which is naturally antimicrobial to fend off odor; temperature regulating to keep cold feet warm and warm feet cool; and wicking to provide moisture management for dry comfortable feet. For fall hiking I prefer to use their Smartwool Trekking Heavy Crew Sock because the design of the sock adds extra support to the arches of your feet while also providing good shock absorption and support when you’re carrying heavy loads.

Darn Tough Socks
One of my new favorite sock brands is Darn Tough. As the name implies these socks can hold up to a lot of friction. I have a pair of Darn Tough Vermont Women’s Boot Cushion Socks that are made with Merino wool which is soft to the touch, doesn’t itch, and delightfully breathable. But best of all these socks are packed with high density cushioning on the bottom of the foot, which can mean big comfort on your way back down the trail. After months of use my toes haven’t managed to break through and the heel covering is still thick and cushioned instead of worn thin.

Wigwam Socks
The Wigwam Women’s Hiking Pro Socks, formerly know as Ultimax Hiking/Outdoor, are stitched with a moisture-absorbing acrylic fiber that exhibits antimicrobial properties. Say goodbye to stinky boots! When you wear them, your whole foot feels protected and cushioned. Special attention is paid to reinforce the socks at the heels and toes, where activity tends to wear these areas bare in other brands. Though they advertise as a good all-season sock, I think this pair is ideal for Spring hikes.

Injinji Compression Socks
As I mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of shoes with toes. This prejudice, however, doesn’t extend to socks. I’ll admit my initial experience with Injinji socks began with their yoga toesocks but because of their great comfort and fun colors I took a chance on their full-toed designs. The anatomical 5 toe system forms to every contour of your foot and allows proper alignment of toes for better posture, gripping, and balance. And because they’re made with a CoolMax, Lycra, and Nylon mix for superb moisture control

I added the Injinji Performance Compression Toesocks to the list because I wanted to highlight a pair of compression socks. Injinji uses a graduated lower leg compression system to enhance circulation in the foot, shins and calves which is known to accelerate recovery of muscle force capacity and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.

If you haven’t tried compression socks or leggings yet and you often experience fatigue, cramping or muscle aches after exercise, you should consider making the investment. They can make all the difference in the world, especially when trekking long distances over an extended period of time.

You’ll note that all the links lead to a women’s style shoe. In every case there is a similar men’s boot available. If you have trouble finding them, don’t hesitate to email me for the links.

If you have a preferred pair of hiking shoes or socks, please make a note in the comments or post a picture to our facebook page. Chris’ favorites were the Ecco and Keen mid-high boots. I am the proud owner of the Lowa low-height and Salewa mid-height snow boots.