While hiking boots aren't bedroom slippers, and aren't designed for comfort, they should never be actually uncomfortable.
Hiking boots should be a trusted partner that helps protect and support you, and if they are uncomfortable, it can take the pleasure out of even the easiest trail.
If your hiking boots are uncomfortable, here are some things you can do.
Consider Your Type of Hiking Boot
Leather hiking boots are more durable and more weatherproof, making them a great choice for rugged and difficult hiking conditions. However, they aren't known for being very comfortable.
Choosing hiking boots made of split-grain leather or suede, or nylon and other modern materials, results in hiking boots that aren't as durable, but that are more lightweight, flexible, and breathable Light hiking boots are usually preferred by casual hikers because they are more comfortable to wear than full-grain leather.
Get a Good Fit
Getting the right fit is the most important aspect of comfort. Hiking boots should fit comfortably, without excess movement or shifting, but also without binding or pinching, from the moment you buy them.
Try on hiking boots and walk around in them before buying them, to get the best possible fit.
Break Them in Properly
Even when your new hiking boots fit properly, they may still be stiff and inflexible, and therefore uncomfortable.
Breaking in new hiking boots takes time, but will help them to conform better to your motion and make them more comfortable.
Consider Using Insoles
If your hiking boots fit properly and are well broken in, but are still uncomfortable, consider using a pair of insoles.
Soles without arch support may not always cause foot pain and discomfort, but, even worse, they can cause back pain and leg fatigue. Insoles provide additional arch support and shock absorption, and can also improve the fit and breathability of hiking boots.
Good insoles can make your hikes more comfortable and enjoyable, and also ease recovery and reduce soreness afterward.
There are a wide range of insoles to choose from, many of them specifically designed for hiking, and they can make your hike and your recovery more comfortable.
Look to Your Laces
There are literally dozens of different ways to lace hiking boots, and many of them are specifically designed to make hiking boots more comfortable.
There are lacing techniques to prevent heel slippage, relieve pressure on the top of the foot, give more room in the toe box, hold narrow feet more tightly, reduce pressure on the ankle cuff, and more.
Believe it or not, simply re-lacing your boots can make them much more comfortable, and gives you the freedom to make as-needed adjustments, even if you are in the middle of a hike.
If your hiking boots aren't comfortable, or if you need to adjust your fit as your feet get larger late in the day, or to relieve pressure points, study different lacing techniques.
Choose the Right Socks
Hiking socks can add warmth or breathability, as the weather requires. They can also have extra cushioning, arch support, or you can choose compression socks that reduce swelling and may help you stay comfortable over long hikes.
High-quality hiking socks can also be made of anti-microbial materials that fight foot odor and keep your pack fresh.
It's always a good idea to hike with several pairs of socks, so you can change to fresh, dry socks when needed. Socks are as critical a piece of footwear as hiking boots, and can go a long way toward improving your comfort.
Try a Little Heat
If you have a stiff area or pressure point in your hiking boots, you may be able to use gentle, targeted heat to loosen a particular problem area.
Use a cedar shoe stretcher or wear your hiking boots (along with your insoles and socks), and then use a hairdryer to apply gentle heat to the tight area. Heat with pressure can help hiking boots relax and stretch to improve fit or fight a problem area.
If your hiking boots are very uncomfortable, and make your feet or legs sore, or give you blisters, you shouldn't wear them on long hikes.
Make sure you break them in slowly and gradually, or try stretching them with heat.
If you've tried several different types of hiking boots and find them all uncomfortable, you may need to consider insoles or even a visit with a professional to see if you have foot problems.
Hiking boots need to be your trusted, supportive partner on the trail, and should never be a source of discomfort.