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The traditional choice in hiking footwear is boots. They are also my personal favorite for most hiking because my feet stay warmer when it is cold and stay drier except when crossing larger streams or rivers. They make it easier to cross snow fields, give more support, typically come with good hiking tread designs, and are more durable than shoes.
A comprise boot that has become popular with many hikers are ones constructed of a combination of leather and mesh panels. They offer the some of the advantages of hiking shoes such as being cooler and lighter than most all leather boots while still offering more support and better protection than most shoes. But they don't offer the moisture protection or durability of all leather boots.
For really wet conditions there are boots, both all leather and combination leather and mesh that are lined with a waterproof breathable liner. Personally I don't care for these because they don't breathe as well as unlined boots and once they get wet inside (as they will if worn while crossing a stream deeper than they are tall) it takes them much longer to dry because the liner holds the water in.
Alternatives to boots with liners for really long stretches of wet trail hiking are waterproof/breathable socks, such as Sealskins, that can be easily removed once drier conditions prevail again. These are not however quite as comfortable as having the liner built into the boot. The waterproof/breathable barrier typically does not have the stretch we are accustomed to in most socks. Hence the fit is often poorer.
In Western WA there are often significant stretches of moist foliage and streamlets and mud to contend with. This type of boot does an excellent job of keeping this level of moisture out and being relatively easy to clean at the end of the day. Mud can be difficult to clean out of a mesh shoe or boot.
The most popular type of hiking boot are those that come up just above the ankle - a compromise between weight, support, flexibility and protection. If you are dealing with lots of small streams or moisture laden vegetation after a rain or heavy dew boots with a tongue attached at both sides most of the way up will stay drier.
For extreme conditions such as those requiring the use of crampons for compact snow and ice fields a heavy, stiff, mountaineering boot will be more satisfactory, but will be considerably less comfortable for general hiking conditions.
With heavier and stiffer footwear such as boots vs. shoes or sandals the selection of socks becomes more important.
Online Shoes offers a great selection of hiking boots and socks.
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