Choosing the Best Hiking Boots
Nothing ruins a good walk or climb like blisters and twisted ankles. Every outdoorsy individual knows that good shoes can make or break any activity. This is why it is imperative to be able to choose the best hiking boots that fit you the best. Boots offer more stability over hiking shoes. They are ideally used for tackling rugged trails and they also support the ankles better.
Types of Hiking Boots
Wearing the appropriate type of footwear on your hike is important for the sake of your feet and pleasure you will receive.
Trail or Light Hiking Boots
Trail or Light Boots are generally used by beginners. They are constructed out of light fabrics like nylon or suede and are supported by a special pattern of leather. Breaking them in can be done quicker as compared to other climbing footwear. They are also ideal for walks that last for a few days.
Cross-Hikers or Medium Weight Hiking Boots
Cross-Hikers or Medium Weight types are the best hiking boots for moderate to easy types of terrain. The cut reaches up to the ankle which could require a longer period for breaking in the shoes. Its more constricting cut will also take some getting used to. The increased support makes it comfortable for a three day trail or even longer periods.
Heavy or Off-The-Trail Boots
Heavy or Off-The-Trail Boots are ideal for more difficult routes. They are constructed with more features like toe-caps, reinforced out-soles, custom mid-soles and specialized linings. They provide superior support and act as a shock absorber. However, they are also heavier and stiffer which requires a bit of training on the part of the hiker.
Shopping For the Best Hiking Boots
Consider the weight of the footwear. Each pound of weight for your shoes is equivalent to five pounds of added weight to your backpack. Look at moisture wicking properties. This means that sweat is absorbed and taken away from direct contact to the skin. Remember that wet feet cause painful blisters so it is important that your footwear is breathable and water-tight at the same time.
Look at the sole construction. Your arches should be fully supported; the feet should not lay flat when supporting the weight of your body and the added burden of your climbing gear. The soles should have deep grooves on tough rubber that is still soft enough to naturally cushion your feet as you walk. Deep grooves provide traction on slippery surfaces and sink into soft surfaces for better grip. Check that the toe and heel area have minimal foam padding because this will cause discomfort after a few minutes of hiking. Place insoles if your feet are not perfectly molded inside the shoe, this especially applies to people with flat feet or large toes.
Tongues are the flaps which cover the boot’s upper inlets. They are connected to the boots via gussets and prevent water, mud and dirt from entering. Check that the tongue and gusset do not exert pressure on your ankle when the laces are tightened. They should be a comfortably snug fit.
Avoid flat laces because they break easily. Get braided nylon laces or cords. They are stronger and can take constant friction without unraveling. Make sure there are scree collars so the back of your ankles don’t chafe. The best hiking boots are those that specifically fit your skill level, target terrain and feet type.
photo credit: jorge vicente