Your hiking boot will become your new best friend on your trek. Picking the right boot will ensure that you keep the blisters away, keep your feet nice and dry and keep that smile on your face!
Here are our top tips on picking the right hiking boot for you;
Type of Hiking Boot
There are many types of hiking boot, all designed for specific types of trekking. The main three categories are hiking shoes, hiking boots and then backpacking boots.
Hiking shoes are a lot lighter and perfect for a day hike on established routes, or can be used by experienced hikers.
Hiking boots are designed for day hikes or short backpacking trips and are more supportive than hiking shoes.
Backpacking boots are designed to carry heavier loads on multiday trips. These boots have a higher cut, and are much more supportive.
Material – Leather or Synthetic?
It’s important to ensure you choose the right material for your walking boot.
Synthetic boots are often made up of nylon and polyester. These boots are lighter, easier to break in and are much lighter than leather boots, but are less water resistant.
Split-grain leather boots are made with a mixture of synthetic and leather. Boots made of split grain leather are still very breathable and light weight, however not as waterproof or as durable as full-grain leather.
Full-grain leather boots are a lot more durable and water resistant, however they are less breathable and much heavier than the alternatives. Leather boots also take longer to break in.
Boot Cut – Low, Mid or High
Walking boots come in three different types of cut; low, mid and high. You should make sure you get the right cut for the type of trekking you are doing, as this will prevent injuries such as a rolled ankle.
Low cut boots are much lighter and good for casual hiking; however, they are not very supportive and can lead to ankle injuries. Low cut boots are suitable for well maintained walking routes.
Mid-cut boots offer more ankle support and balance than low cut boots.
High-cut boots give the most support and are the best option for varied, uneven terrain. These boots are recommended for those new to hiking.
When to Buy Your Boots
You should always make sure you buy your boots well in advance of your first trekking adventure! This will then give you time to wear them in around the house, test the fit and make sure you are completely happy with your purchase before going on a hike.
You should also buy your boots later on in the day, when your feet have expanded from being on them all day. This will make sure they fit well throughout your hike, and not just when your feet are cooler and smaller.
How to Check the Correct Fit
Hiking boots are different to your average trainer, so you want to make sure that they fit correctly to avoid any unwanted blisters. Forget about what size you normally are, as you may need a hiking boot a size larger than your normal shoe. Here are our top tips to check the fit of your boot;
Try your boots on with hiking socks, as these are thicker than normal socks and will give you a better idea of how the boots fit.
Feel the weight of your boots once they’re on to check how heavy they feel. Remember, lighter doesn’t necessarily mean better – you want to get the balance between the correct weight and having the right support for your trek.
Wiggle your toes to make sure there is enough room. Your toes should have enough room to wiggle, but not slide to the front of the boot when you’re walking. Most outdoor shops will have a ramp for you to walk up and down to test this.
Test the tightness of your boot. You should be able to fit a finger between your heel and the boot to ensure it’s not too tight or going to rub on the ankle and Achilles tendon during your walk.
Anatomy of Your Boot
Outsole. This is the strip of rubber at the bottom of your boot. Chunkier tread patterns are better for muddy routes, whilst shallow tread is better for a rockier path. The lugs should be solid and tough. If not, it will wear quickly, reducing the longevity of your boot.
Midsole. The midsole is located inside the boot and provides the right amount of flexibility. This should be pretty ridged if you will be walking along rocky edges or scrambling. However, can be much more flexible if your boot it for general walking.
Footbed / Insole. The footbed supports the sole in a neutral position. If you have high arches you may want to remove the insole and replace it with a more supportive footbed.
Liner. Some boots will have a waterproof liner – which is great for wet weather, however can be less breathable. Boots with no liner are better for walking in hot weather, to help your feet breathe. If you’d like a mix of water resistance with good ventilation, then Dri-Lex or Cambrelle linings are best.
Tongue. The tongue should be gusseted, meaning it is connected to the boot with a flap of material. This will ensure no unwanted dirt or sand will get into your boot. It also means your boot will be more waterproof.
Padded Collar. A thick collar will ensure ultimate comfort and ankle support during your hike. The collar should be soft and comfortable on the inside.
Toebox and Heel Counter. The toebox and heel counter provide the shape and structure of the back and front of your boot. Make sure the toebox doesn’t cramp your toes – as this area of the boot is difficult to remould. The size and shape of the toebox varies between different brands, so it’s worth trying a few varieties.
Laces. The laces should be braided nylon laces rather than flat shoe laces. Ensure your laces are secure.
Stitching. Check the stitching of the boot to ensure it has a double line of stitching, rather than single – this will increase the durability of your walking boot. It’s also worth checking for loose threads or missed stitching.
Looking After Your Boots
To make sure your hiking boots stay with you for a number of years, make sure you follow these steps;
Clean your boots thoroughly after each walk, removing all mud and debris.
Absorb all moisture from your boots. If they get really wet stuff them with newspaper or Absorba Balls to help soak up any moisture.
Waterproof with wax or silicone little and often.
Don’t dry boots in a warm room or next to a direct heat source, as this can cause the leather and material to shrink.
Now you have decided on your hiking boots … it’s time for a trekking adventure!
If you are joining us at TrekFest – our ultimate trekking challenge, then we recommend having waterproof walking boots with good ankle support. Make sure your boots are fully broken in – start by wearing them for an hour at a time and then gradually increase the time you wear them before you start using them for long distance walks. Remember your feet will be your best friends on this adventure!
For more information on TrekFest and how to enter, head over to trekfest.org.uk and make every step count for the charity of your choice!
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