Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Welcome to the forum!
Since the most important thing about shoes is fit, fit, fit (the same is true of packs, BTW), and everyone's feet are different, I really can't recommend a specific model or brand. The best shoe for you is the one that fits you!
On the other hand, I switched from boots to trail runners a few years ago and will never wear boots again. The trail runners are both more comfortable and more supportive. I'd suggest seeking out a good running shoe store to get fitted.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Loc: Portland, OR
Since you are "totally new", I will add a bit to what OM said.
A trail runner, in case you did not know, is billed as a running shoe and also built like one, but a good trail runner has a tread that is designed to be much knobbier so it can grip uneven or slick surfaces better. It should also be a bit more rugged to withstand more abuse. Regular running shoes are built for tracks or streets, not trails.
The differences in fit from one shoe company to another is based on how each company views the "ideal" foot. Because everyone's feet are unique to some degree, there is no "ideal" way to build a shoe. Some feet are wider, some taller, some have stubby toes, others lengthy toes ... well, you get the idea.
So, you just have to try on a variety of shoes in the same size from different makers. It helps if you can wear them around the house for a couple of days and return them in like-new condition, if things don't feel right. Ask about returns before you buy. Wear the same socks you would wear on the trail, too.
You don't need a pair of massive boots on your feet in order to hike. They don't have to be all leather or built for mountain climbing. If the salesperson tells you this, ignore them. Lightweight shoes or boots don't last forever, but they are more pleasant to hike in and you expend less energy over the course of many miles.
Since you are completely new, you aren't likely to be hiking long distances. Often, you can find a decent shoe on sale at a store like Sports Authority or Big 5. They aren't the best for a thru-hike, but you will likely get about 500 miles or so of wear out of them. They can always graduate to cutting grass later.
A hiking sole will get a better grip than a running shoe on slopes. I haven't used trail runners, so I have no opinion on those.
In my opinion, socks are as important to comfort as shoes. The two brands I recommend are Smartwool and Thorlos. One of them should be available in the box stores. They are made from wicking wool and will keep your feet dry from sweat. However, they can get soggy if you walk in the water. I'd suggest getting the socks before the shoes so you can try on the shoes with the socks you will be wearing.
Some people have great success with a thin synthetic sock-liner. If you are not susceptible to blisters, this can work out well as these socks dry quicker than wool. You will likely need a 1/2 size smaller shoe for these socks, though.
One thing to look for is the design of the shoe in the back. It is better if it looks like this ^^ (rounded.) Then the shoe won't be as likely to wear a blister on the back of your foot.
If you have any foot problems which may require an insert, I'd suggest going to a Red Wing store if you have one near you. They have a platform you can stand on and a computer will analyze the pressures on your feet.
Im sold on Merrell products(I am on a budget!!) I have 3 pairs of Merrell footwear.....sandals, which I use in really hot weather,...... a hiking shoe,with side vents which is good for the in-between days, not too hot, and for the colder days, I have Merrell boots....they are durable, comfortable, and dont break your bank account....the only complaint I have about my Merrell's are, when 1 day, on an extended hike, I came upon a wooden footbridge, that was completely shielded from the sun, so years of moisture on it,it had a layer of moss on it....when I hit that,WHOOOOOSH, my foot slid about 5 feet!!! Thought I was gonna bite the dust, but didnt.....but on everything else-----rocks, boulders, mud, stones, wet leaves, etc...they work great....hope this helps!!
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
This like asking what kind of car should you buy. There are plenty of choices. First thing, though is fit. I don't care what they cost, if shoes or boots don't fit right, they could be free and be a bad deal.
Tell us more about what you will be doing and you will get better answers. I like Asolo boots because they fit me well, but I do simple day hikes in a pair of cross-trainers. When I was hiking in New Zealand, I wore full leather Asolos and was glad I did because of the terrain.
Don't get me started, you know how I get.
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