Be absolutely sure that you buy the right size for your feet. This sounds obvious, but it is not uncommon to buy a pair of shoes and get them home only to find that they are actually half a size too small. You are likely to be wearing your hiking boots or walking shoes for long periods of time and often in extreme weather conditions. If you are buying your shoes in a shop, take time to try them both on properly and to walk around in them.
If you are buying your shoes in a shop, be sure to wear proper hiking socks, in order to replicate the walking experience as far as possible. If you wear ordinary cotton socks to the shop, your shoes will feel uncomfortably tight when you come to wear them with thicker walking socks.
Once you have your shoes, you must make sure that you buy the correct socks for your boots. Walking and hiking socks come in lightweight, medium weight and heavyweight ranges, and each type of shoe supports the foot best in combination with one of these three varieties of sock. If you are not able to find out online or in your shoe shop which sort of sock you need, ask a qualified outdoor equipment sales assistant, or try contacting the manufacturer direct. It is all very well buying top-quality shoes, but their comfort and support will be negated by socks that are too tight or not breathable.
Think about in what sort of terrain and weather conditions you are most likely to want to wear your hiking shoes. The likely conditions will affect your choice of material: do you need durable hard leather, lightweight leather, flexible Gore-tex or heavily padded winter boots? Make sure your boots are waterproof; even if you are only a fair-weather walker, you may need to cross streams or muddy ground. Wearing the wrong shoes for your purpose may result in discomfort and blisters.
Don’t skimp on quality and choose the cheap option. Cheap shoes are a very different thing to bargain shoes, and there really is no point in buying low-quality cheap shoes that will fall apart after a couple of walks.
Find out how to look after your shoes. This will depend on the materials from which they are made. For instance, leather will need to be waterproofed with a special leather cream, which can generally be bought in shops or on shoe websites. You should apply this after every lengthy use of the shoes, and especially after wearing them in wet conditions.