Its thick, high appearance and rugged soles can quickly identify a hiking boot, along with its very padded tongue and reinforced shoelace eyelets. The better-quality boots will probably be made of leather or a synthetic substance that provides maximum protection against water and punctures.
The function of a hiking boot is primarily to provide traction for traversing outdoor terrain, while supporting the ankles for uneven situations. Many models are water- and oil-resistant, furthering their ability to keep a hiker comfortable and safe. The thick rubber soles also cushion the wearer from shock, providing for a more comfortable walk or hike.
A hiking boot is far more suited to the outdoors than any other boot, shoe or sandal. The lifted tread on the soles provide maximum traction for any terrain, and the sheer thickness of the soles provides shock protection and makes them good to kick with should you need to defend yourself against an animal. Ankle support is an absolute necessity when hiking or camping, and their water-resistant quality of hiking boots makes them perfect for wet weather or small stream crossings. They are also built extremely thick to prevent punctures from sticks, rocks and even animals like snakes. Some of the more extreme models even have places to attach Crampons, or spikes that allow the hiker to traverse icy terrain.
There are many types of hiking boots, and which one is right for you depends largely on the outdoor activities you engage in. If you find yourself camping and hiking extremely often, get the best-quality, waterproof, thickest mountaineering boots you can afford. If you are a weekend camper or off-road enthusiast, there are thinner boots built, sometimes called off-rail boots, which are built on a similar platform, with less water resistance (and possibly comfort). If you are the occasional trail walker and do not often find yourself in deep-wilderness situations, yet still require some traction and protection, hiking sandals or low-top boots called cross-hikers are available.
Choosing a hiking boot in the correct size is of extreme importance. They are offered in a plethora of sizes and widths to accommodate even the most irregular feet. If they slip at all or feel too tight, keep looking or try another size. Remember, you could end up covering miles of rough, nasty terrain in the boots you purchase, so make sure they are as comfortable and safe as possible.