Hiking Boots 101
- Gear advice
- Wednesday 11th March, 2020
- By Aaron
What type of boot do I need? Will my trail runners be ok to hike in? There are many variables and personal preferences which will determine the most suitable footwear for a chosen person or activity. The fit of the shoe and your foot shape will also have a significant impact on the most suitable footwear for you. So, no simple answer!
Fortunately, there are a number of questions you can ask yourself in order to narrow the options and help with the decision making.
Shoe or boot?
The primary difference between lower-cut and higher-cut footwear is physical protection from water ingress. A secondary advantage is a reduced chance of stones or grit entering the shoe. Thirdly, there is generally a slight increase in ankle support*.
In contrast, shoes are generally less warm with no material up around the ankle. This is more familiar to those who are not used to boots; for this reason, they are very popular with low-level walkers.
If you are mostly on trails with well-made paths, then a trail shoe style may be enough. If you intend to go off the trial in boggy or waterlogged terrain, then a shoe will most likely get wet inside and, at best, will be uncomfortable for the rest of the day.
*Ankle support is primarily gained from the midsole. This can be tested by griping the shoe by the heel and toe and trying to twist the sole. The less movement = the more support.
Leather or non-leather?
The upper material and sole must also be considered. Mesh/synthetic is generally regarded as more breathable* and often used on lighter footwear. Leather, on the other hand, is more durable and would be easier to clean after boggy days on the hill.
*Breathability of any boot or shoe, whether synthetic or leather, is hugely dependent on your care of the face fabric and the socks you wear.
Flexible or rigid sole?
The flex of a shoe/boot concerns the ease at which you can bend the front of the shoe or toe area. A high flexing shoe will make walking on hard surfaces or for long distances easier. It allows for minimal change in gait and walking pattern. In steep or rough terrain, however, you will be less supported and have a more unstable base for foot placement.
A rigid boot/shoe, in contrast, will give better stability in steeper terrain or for scrambling. This, however, has the downside of being slightly less comfortable for distance walking or hard trails.
What about the different outsoles?
There are a wide range of sole brands and compositions out there these days. A simple guide is that more flat/uniform soles suit road and path walking, whereas aggressive, deep-lugged and ‘tractor tyre’ like soles are designed for mud and mucky terrain.
Each of these questions are designed to help you understand your specific needs. You can check out our wide range of boots online here. However, if you really want to get in-depth brand and style differences, I’d always recommend coming into the shop and having a chat with experts. We will advise what styles to consider for your specific needs!
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