A guide to choose footwear for trekking
Are you looking for your mountain boots, but you do not know what kind of hiking shoes you really need? You would like to start hiking and they told you to buy a pair of hiking boots but you don't know which ones to take. Should I take the cheapest models or do I go directly to the top models?
When you must buy hiking boots, the choice is difficult, but I will give you a couple of tips to buy the right pair of hiking boots.
Modern mountain boots have reached a good compromise between a technical product that guarantees excellent foot stability, grip and water tightness and at the same time a decent foot comfort. We are now almost far from the old boots that at the end of the day left your feet steaming and soring.
Let’s start from one important element to consider: boots suitable for hiking are the ones with a high collar to allow ankle containment and prevent it from sprains or fractures. By the way with technological innovations in this field, there are flat shoes like the Ultra-Trail shoes that offer good grip and good ankle stability. They have similar characteristics of trekking boots plus the advantage of better comfort. The only flaw is that the ankle remains free and the sprain can always be lurking, it is therefore necessary to have a good control of your feet on rough terrain. Strongly not recommended for beginners or casual hikers!
Let's go into detail and discover the essential parts of our boot.
The main parts of trekking boots are:
- Sole equipped with lug pattern: this is the part in contact with the ground made with rubber compounds that guarantee good grip on trails and rocks. Their pattern is designed to increase the grip on rough terrain. There is also the midsole that usually is equipped with a little rubber cuscion that give comfort and it works as perfect shock absorber.
- Shoe toe: depending on the boot type , guarantees an excellent grip on the smallest supports. In hard-soled boots, it guarantees a secure and stable footing even on small rocky notches. In soft-soled boots it is less stable and safe on small rocks, but offers comfort to the toes and are excellent for hiking and trekking on medium and long routes, where there is no need to climb rocks or where they are short and easy.
- Upper: This is the real part of the boot which nowadays are mostly made of various waterproof thermoplastic materials with goretex inserts or the classic leather treated with water-repellent agents.
- Heel: which is usually slightly wider than the sole to offer good support and greater stability of ankles. In models with rigid soles there is also often a little cleat to hook the semi-quick coupling crampons.
On the market you can find a wide range of products with similar quality and peculiarities. You just need to choose the right one for your pourpose. You should ask yourself: "What kind of activity I'm going to tackle on?"
Most modern boots have the following technical qualities:
- midsoles with cushion, improving walking and helping us to preserve joints.
- Vibram rubber or similar outsoles that guarantee grip on most terrains and on wet soil
- Waterproof uppers with linings that increase wearing comfort.
WHICH HIKING BOOTS CHOOSE
The choice depends on the trail type we normally take on, bearing in mind that hiking boots should be with a high-necked upper to wrap the ankle well. It is also necessary to consider winter use, with snowshoes you can use trekking boots as long as they have good thermal insulation and are fully water-repellent.
The outsole, on the other hand, is what makes the difference:
- Soft outsole is suitable for hiking on paths or trail tracks where rocky passages are limited or easy to walk. They are usually light and comfortable, they are suitable for most situations. In long treks they are excellent for comfort and preserve the classic sore feet at the end of the day.
- The rigid outsole, on the other hand, is suitable for more technical routes like stony ground, rock passages, via ferratas and similar. They are a good support in rocky trails or when you have to climb little rocks. They have excellent grip but they are less comfortable. They are not suitable for long trekking where trails are easy.
- Some hiking boots have “semi-rigid” outsoles that add a touch of comfort to technical footwear. Depending on your feet soring tolerance it can be a good solution to have one pair of hiking boots for all kind of terrain.
HOW TO CHOOSE AND BUY YOUR HIKING BOOTS
Imagine being a bride who has to choose her wedding dress! This is what you need to do with your trekking boots! Choosing well-known brands is certainly a guarantee of quality but it is also necessary to see if your feet fit good with the chosen model!
Once you have found the type of boot you need, try different brands and models, try also the half size plus or minus to see how you feel. The size should not be too narrow and not too wide, there must be the right space between the fingertips and the boots to ensure mobility of the toes and at the same time they do not hit the toe of the shoe during the descent. It is important to try them very well by hitting the toes on the floor, trying to walk on the test platforms available in most of the shops. It is important to leave them on your feet for half an hour and try to walk for a while. Most specialized shops are equipped for this and shop assistants are usually patient, they understand the importance of leaving the boots on your feet. Don't be in a hurry and rather think about it. If you plan to go buying trekking boots, try not to go at peak times like Saturday afternoons; if you go on weekdays you have space, time and the sales staff is more available to serve you.
A good hiking boot also needs a good pair of socks, don't buy ordinary socks. There are socks designed for hiking that are sewn with wrapping systems to prevent chafing with the consequent formation of blisters.