The following is a guest blog by RVOPS:
So much planning goes into even a day trip to Great Smoky Mountain National Park that it's easy to forget a very important piece of the planning and preparation. Hiking means walking, and the most important piece of equipment a hiker has are the boots that are on their feet. Boots that fit well, are broken in, and in a good state of repair will go a long way towards ensuring your comfort and ability to complete the planned hike. You'll also need boots suitable to the terrain you intend to be hiking.
The sneaker-like-hikers that are gaining popularity as walk around town shoes work fine for easier terrain, and have a good grip to prevent slips on the occasional wet rock, but offer little true support for more rugged terrain to protect from a twisted ankle (or to even make it possible to get back if you do get a mild sprain). They also typically have little insulation for cold weather. The many ventilation holes that make for comfortable wear around town let in freezing cold water during a stream crossing, and can lead to frost bite if they are substituted for insulated wear in higher elevations in the winter.
Getting brand new boots and wearing them for the first time on a 7 mile hike is a recipe for a painful experience. Spend at least a week or two wearing new boots around the house or town to break them in before you attempt hiking in them. Carrying a set of old standby footwear in your pack is a good idea if the initiation of the new pair is going to be more than a mile or so.
For the experienced hikers with well broken in and comfortable boots there are still considerations. The water proofing on leather boots deteriorates over time. Take a few minutes to take care of the boots that have taken you so many miles. Apply a liberal coating of leather conditioning wax, mink oil, or leather conditioner every month or two. As well as keeping the boot waterproof, it will keep the leather supple and comfortable. The aerosol sprays make for a fast job but typically it is not as long lasting or beneficial to the leather. Remember to pay particular attention the stitching on the leather as this is where leaks begin and where deterioration or dry rot tends to make a good boot wear beyond use. New laces each season are a good idea as well. For other boot care ideas RVOps has some simple solutions to keep your favorite boots serviceable for years.
Hiking in the Smokies