July 06, 2023
How to choose your hiking boots
Choosing your hiking boots
Are you looking for your first pair of hiking shoes? Are the soles of your old pair worn out? Here is our advice to help choose the right pair for you. Hiking shoes don’t necessarily mean sore feet or blisters on your heels. Having the right pair of shoes will allow you to lift your head up and enjoy the surroundings!
WHAT TYPE OF HIKING AM I GOING TO DO?
This is the first question that you need to ask yourself in order to choose your hiking shoes. By “type of hiking” we mean:
What type of terrain will you be hiking on?
How heavy will your backpack be?
How long will you hike for and what kind of pace will you set?
Generally, there are 3 types of hiking terrain:
Easy trails: these can be found at valley bottoms, in prairies or other large open spaces. The track surfaces are stable and even, with a few slight hills.
Uneven trails: this technical terrain can be found in the mountains or undulating landscapes. You will have to look out for rocks, roots and mud. Steps, slanted trails, and sustained steep terrain will put strain on your legs and ankles.
Off-trail: this terrain is uneven, often unstable with loose rocks and the trails are not usually marked. This kind of terrain demands concentration to move along efficiently. You may need to climb over obstacles, cross rivers and use your hands for shorts sections. It’s real adventure territory!
On easy trails, flexible shoes encourage the natural movement of your foot. Light shoes will also be comfortable to wear and reduce fatigue. Cushioning improves the comfort of the shoes but is less important than on trail running shoes.
The more technical the terrain the stiffer the outsole of your shoe should be to give you more stability. A higher cut shoe protects and supports your ankles. Reinforcements (rubber toe, heel protector, side and instep protection etc) and thicker outsoles, increase the durability of your hiking shoes but they make the shoes heavier.
The water resistance of your shoes will depend on the weather conditions. An impermeable membrane, like Gore Tex, protects your feet from dampness but makes the shoes less breathable.
Gore Tex shoes in dry weather and high temperatures can become too hot and make your feet sweat. You don’t have to choose to have an impermeable membrane on your shoes. Leather shoes are a good alternative, they are a lot heavier but offer good protection and are breathable.
THE WEIGHT OF YOUR BACKPACK
The weight of your backpack will also influence the choice of your hiking shoes. The shoes you choose will depend on how remote the hike is and how long you plan to hike for. We recommend that you make your backpack as light as possible, just take the essentials.
A light backpack is less tiring to carry, there is less chance that you will injure yourself and it is easier to carry for long periods of time. You can therefore choose light and flexible hiking shoes, if the terrain allows.
If you have to carry a tent, a stove and food then you should look for more sturdy shoes to give you extra stability. High cut shoes will give you extra support if your ankles are weak or terrain is technical.
THE LENGTH AND PACE OF YOUR HIKE
The length and pace of your hike, plus how remote it is, will influence the weight of your backpack. If you skipped the previous paragraph, you should go back and read it!
The notion of the length of a hike is subjective. A one hour hike on an easy track won’t wear you out as much as one hour on unstable rocks. Your level of fitness and the distances you are used to covering will mean that you may interpret the word ‘long’ differently to other hikers.
Simply ask yourself if your goal seems ‘short’ or ‘long’, so that you either go for shoes that are light with more flexibility or shoes that offer stability and support.
Finally, if you use your hiking shoes a lot, look for shoes that are reinforced with thick outsoles so that they last longer.
WHAT'S MY HIKING LEVEL?
Take the time to reflect on the question of your level of hiking.
Answer these questions in a clear and honest way in order to identify your level:
How often do I go hiking?
How much hiking experience do I have?
What types of terrain do I hike on?
Your hiking level will help you decide on the shoes that will suit you best, either shoes with good ankle support, or lighter weight shoes (with fewer reinforcements and lower cut for freer ankle movement).
WHAT SHAPE AM I IN?
This is another question that you need to ask yourself in order to assess your level of ability and prevent you from making mistakes in the type of shoes you buy. Evaluate your fitness in an objective way.
For example, you’ve only been hiking for a few months and you still don’t have that much experience but you are progressing quickly as you go hiking regularly. The hikes you do are more and more ambitious and technical. You have never injured your ankle hiking and you are in good physical shape as you like to practice other endurance sports.
If this is the case, then you should go for a light, low cut shoe that will give you freer foot movement.
Another example is if you are an experienced hiker and have been hiking for a number of years on mountain trails, but a sprained ankle has meant you’ve had to take a break for a few months. Did you used to hike in low cut shoes? If you did, then your shoes now lack much needed ankle support.
Opt for stable, high cut shoes that will support your ankles. You can get your old shoes back out once you are fully fit again.
HIKING SHOE FEATURES
After you have reviewed your hiking experience, you need to decide which features are important to you.
A rigid, sturdy shoe offers you stability on technical terrain.
A flexible shoe follows the movement of your foot and gives you better freedom of movement if your foot hits the ground in the right way.
High or Low Cut Shoes:
Higher cut shoes support your ankles.
Low cut shoes allow your ankles to move more freely.
There are also mid-cut shoes which are in between the two, they come up to your ankle bone.
Added protection or lightweight shoes:
A pair of shoes that have reinforcements (rubber toe, heel protector, side and instep protection etc) give you added protection and they last longer if you hike on steep, rocky paths or off-trail. Thicker outsoles protect the soles of your feet.
Light weight shoes reduce fatigue but are not as durable.