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10 Tips for Picking the Perfect Hiking Boots for New Zealand

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What are the Best Hiking Boots for New Zealand?

Hiking: it’s a must-do when travelling New Zealand. Not only is it the perfect combination of seeing and doing among New Zealand’s wild and varied landscape, but it is almost always free!

New Zealand has a way of drawing even the most unadventurous types onto its hiking tracks, for that reason, you’d be a fool not to get yourself a good pair of hiking boots for backpacking in New Zealand! For this reason, we’ve put together this quick list for picking the perfect pair of hiking boots for New Zealand.

Although you don’t know what sort of hiking adventures you’ll go on in New Zealand, it’s important to understand the load you might be carrying, the weather you’ll be hiking in, and the type of terrain. In this article, we’ll cover all these bases.

Make sure you take a look at our hiking section of the website, so you can start planning the type of hikes you want to tackle in New Zealand.

1. What Type of Hiking are You Most Likely to be Doing?

Anything can happen in New Zealand, but most of us know if we plan to do a few multi-day hikes or if we just want to stick to short day hikes. Knowing what type of hiking you want to do determines what type of hiking boot you want to get, for example:

  • Short, easy hikes carrying no or light backpack: get trail running shoes for their lightness and breathability
  • Short to long-distance hiking with a light- or moderate-weight backpack: get hiking shoes for more support and often comes with features to resist the elements
  • Hiking with a heavy backpack (14kg+/30lbs+): get hiking boots for better all-round support and often comes with features to resist the elements
  • Hiking in high alpine environments: get mountaineering boots for skilled mountaineering (you guys know who you are).

For more information on the pros and cons of each of these hiking boot types, take a look at How to Choose a Good Pair of Hiking Boots.

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2. Try Shoes On at the End of the Day

Because you’ll be wearing these shoes a lot, you’ll want to make sure they fit perfectly. Most people’s feet tend to swell throughout the day, so the best time of day to try on some hiking shoes/boots is as late in the day as possible or after doing an activity on your feet.

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3. Make Sure the Front and Side of Your Foot Fit Well

When trying a pair of hiking boots/shoes on, you should feel plenty of space in the front of the shoe. You should not feel squashed on the forefront of your foot yet it shouldn’t feel too spacious either.

pexels© pexels

4. Does it Fit Well Enough to Avoid Blisters?

Blisters area hiker’s worst enemy! Make sure your shoes/boot fit well enough by taking for following steps:

  • Stand up-right in the unlaced shoes
  • Slide your foot forward until your toes touch the front
  • You should be able to comfortably slip your index finger between your heel and the heel of the shoe
  • Now lace the shoe
  • As you roll onto your toes, you should not feel your foot slipping forward to touch the front of the shoe.
  • As you walk around, you should not feel the heel slip.
Pexels© Pexels

5. Look at the Outer Sole

New Zealand’s hiking tracks are often well-maintained with boardwalks, gravel and rocks. On the odd occasion, there may be short muddy sections or river/stream crossings. As rocky terrain is your most common terrain in New Zealand, get an outer sole with a shallow tread for rockier terrains.

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7. Choose Material to Suit Your Needs

Hiking shoes and hiking boots come in different materials, mostly leather and synthetic fabrics. While leather tends to be super durable and protects against the elements like rain, snow and the cold, synthetic fabrics are lighter, more flexible, cheaper but only some protection from the elements. So choose a material to suit your needs.

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8. Make Sure They are Waterproof

There is nothing more miserable than hiking in soggy shoes. Make sure your hiking boots are waterproof, especially for hikes in New Zealand where the weather changes quickly and often. Labels like GORE-TEX, Outdry and eVen indicate that the boot has been treated to be waterproof. However, after your boot has been submerged in water a few times, your boot may need reproofing with waterproofing product that you can buy in outdoor stores all around New Zealand. The only downside of having waterproof shoes is that they are less breathable. However, it is more likely to rain in New Zealand than to be dry and hot, so if you only have one pair of hiking boots, waterproof hiking boots are what you’ll need. As for more hardcore hikes that may require river crossings, well, your hiking boots will fill up with water whatever you are wearing.

For more information on New Zealand’s weather, check out The New Zealand Seasons and Climate.

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9. Make Sure Your Boots Have Toe Bumpers

A lot of New Zealand’s hikes have some rocky terrain. When you accidentally kick a rock, you’ll be thankful that your hiking boots have toe bumpers or a study toe protector.

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10. Look After Your Hiking Boots Well

So your hiking boots last longer, look after them using the following tips:

  • Don’t rapid dry your boots (with a hairdryer or right next to a heater, for example). This can cause your boots to get cracks, split or the insoles to shrink.
  • To dry your boots, stuff newspaper inside and leave in a warm place. Don’t over-stuff your boots though or else they could be misshapen.
  • Clean mud and debris off your boots regularly. This is great for the New Zealand eco-system too in order to not spread diseases. Check out more in the 10 Ways to Protect New Zealand’s Forests and the 7 Ways to Protect New Zealand’s Lakes and Rivers.
  • Once your boots have been submerged in water a few times, reproof them with a little bit of reproofing product and regularly.
  • With leather boots, nourish them if then look dry.
 Zhao ! on Flickr© Zhao ! on Flickr

More Information About Preparing for New Zealand

Now that you have a better idea of what hiking boots to bring, here are some more things to think about when preparing for your trip.

For a complete list of things to pack for a trip around New Zealand, check out our complete New Zealand Packing List.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Robin C.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Robin, who is the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. With more than 15 years of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, Robin has co-founded three influential tourism businesses and five additional travel guides for South Pacific nations. He is an expert in New Zealand travel and has tested over 600 activities and 300+ accommodations across the country.

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