The right footwear is the key to hiking success
It is essential that you have traction on rugged terrain , regardless of the weather. You need something that can support and protect your feet and ankles in any situation.
A well-constructed hiking boot is the best tool for the job. For first-timers, it can be difficult to find the right pair.
All the factors and considerations that should be considered when selecting hiking boots were researched by us. You can find our recommendations for new hiking boots here. You can read our reviews about hiking boots to find out more.
You should pay attention to the shape of your boots – if the seams start to fray or the soles become worn through it is time to replace them.
Types of Off-road Footwear
The first step is to decide what type of product you require. There are many types of hiking boots.
Although a hiking shoe is similar to a running shoe, it has some notable reinforcements and additions. The shoe’s low-cut upper doesn’t provide much protection from the hazards of rough terrain. However, it doesn’t need a long break-in period. A hiking shoe is a good choice for casual hikers who intend to follow established trails and not need much gear.
A hiking boot is similar to a work boot. It is designed for moderate off-road hiking or lighter backpacking trips. The boot’s high-cut upper wraps around your ankle and lower leg and provides protection from the elements. The soles have rubber lugs at the bottom and sides that allow for a good grip on muddy, loose or steep terrain. This boot is suitable for carrying medium-sized loads.
The backpacking boot is similar to a traditional hiking boots, except that the ankle and lower leg support of the boot are more rigid and the toebox has less flexibility. To protect the wearer against rocks and other puncturing debris, the manufacturer may place a protective plate under its sole.
A mountaineering boot is not for beginners. It’s the best hiking footwear. The boot is flexible and has a hard shell. It also allows for snowshoes or ice-gripping boots. Someone shopping for mountaineering boots will likely have years of experience hiking and know exactly what features they need.
Approach shoes combine the flexibility of a climbing shoe and the support of a hiking boot. Advanced hikers will often change their shoes depending on the terrain. A good option is to keep an approach shoe on hand for when the trail becomes steep.
Joy fell in love six years ago with climbing and hiking. Mt. Kilimanjaro was her favorite mountain, which she reached after a 10-day trek. Although summit day was a 10 hour trek, the reward of reaching the summit and the crater was priceless. Joy learned the most important lesson: Listen to experts, be prepared and have the right gear.
SIZE AND FIT
Hiking boots don’t always fit the standard shoe size. A shoe that is a size 10 may feel very different from a boot that is a size 10. It is important to find a boot that fits well, especially when you are wearing thick hiking socks.
When the foot is longest, fittings should be done at night. A pair of hiking socks should also be worn at this time.
Slide your foot forward in an unlaced boot until you find the right fit. A finger should fit between the boot heel’s back and your foot. The boot’s tongue should exert a steady, non-constrictive pressure on the top of your foot when it is laced.
Hiking boots should be supportive in the heel but moderately spacious in the toebox. Too much bend in the toebox can cause serious abrasive injuries. Every hiking boot requires a break in period.
TIPS FROM EXPERTS
Wear the socks you would wear on a hike when trying on hiking shoes. This will allow you to find the right fit.
HOW TO BREAK IN YOUR HIKING BOOTS
Even if the boots are made from lightweight materials, new hiking boots will be very stiff. There is no magic way to soften leather. Therefore, wearers shouldn’t soak new boots in water immediately after they are purchased. You might consider adding some of our less-known break-in techniques (see below) into your arsenal.
There are two schools of thought about the process of breaking in boots. We recommend the following steps:
- You can wear the boots around your house and note any pinch points or abrasive areas. These problems may need to addressed later by a professional boot fitter.
- After a few days indoor usage, you can increase your walking distance to include short walks around the block or grocery store runs.
- You can take short walks on smooth trails.
- Take your boots and go for a hike on moderately rugged terrain.
It is recommended to treat leather uppers with mink oil, or a water-repelling wax boot wax. ”
According to another school of thought, “the wearer is also experiencing a breaking in period.” This means that your feet and ankles will need to adjust to the shape of the hiking boots.
Experts recommend wearing your boots indoors for the first few days. Your feet and ankles will be undergoing structural changes in regards to balance and load bearing. Too soon for a difficult hike can lead to foot fatigue and a twisted ankle.
For higher-end models that are intended for rough terrain, the break-in period can be several months. Lightweight boots may require a shorter break in period but can offer greater durability.
DID YOU KNOW?
You can break in your hiking boots by first wearing them indoors. You’ll be able to avoid blisters and even a twisted ankle while on the trail.
THREE LESSER-KNOWN BREAK-IN METHODS
While we believe that a long break-in is the best, there are other methods you can use to help speed up your transition.
- You can shower in your boots for up to 15 minutes, without socks. The boots will mold to your feet thanks to the moisture. This proactive step speeds up the boot’s break-in.
- You can swim in your boots. Swimming is the same.
- For a few nights, you can sleep in the boots. Your feet will become accustomed to the boots as they conform to your foot.
While some swear by unconventional methods for breaking in boots, others believe in long-term methods. You have the option to choose.
There are many materials you can choose from when shopping for hiking boots. Each material has its pros and cons. Most manufacturers place a premium on materials that are durable, flexible, breathable, water-repellent.
Although full-grain leather makes a great footwear material, you won’t find it often on standard hiking boots. It’s more common to find it in backpacking and mountaineering shoes, where its natural stiffness is crucial and resistance against water serves a vital purpose. For day hikes and trail runs, beginning hikers don’t need full-grain leather boots.
Split leather is the softest layer of standard leather. Split leather can be combined with other materials by some manufacturers to create a durable yet lightweight shoe or boot. Split leather hiking boots are generally cheaper, but they have a lower durability and water resistance.
Modern hiking boots can be made from synthetic materials, which could include nylon, artificial leather, or polyester. These boots are cheaper and take less time to break in. However, they have a shorter life expectancy due to the higher stitch count. The greater the likelihood of seam failure, the more stitches are required to make a boot.
There are hiking boots that are entirely free from animal-based materials. Although durability and breathability can be compromised when synthetic materials are used in place of natural leather hides, some people consider vegan leather to be more ethical.
DID YOU KNOW?
Synthetic or leather? The leather upper is very supportive and repels water naturally. Synthetic hiking boots are lighter and more breathable than those made from leather.
DESIGN AND COMFORT
Hiking boots protect the lower legs, feet, and ankles in difficult terrain. While the ratio of leather to mesh may vary from one model to another, all high-quality hiking boots have some common features.
The extended foot bumper helps you keep a solid foothold and protects you from obstacles like rocks, stumps, trees, and other hazards. Extended toe bumper boots have a rubberized sole that curves upward from the front and continues up until it meets with the upper.
A heel brakeis an extension of the sole rubber behind your heel that allows you to dig in your heels and maintain control over your descents on steep terrain.
To enhance their hiking comfort, some people use customized ortics. A heavier orthotic can prevent fatigue and give you a better sense of the terrain.
Plates and Shanks are sometimes used on supportive hiking boots. A plate protects against stones and thorns, while a shank improves the boot’s load-bearing capacity.
“To get the right fit, slide your foot forward in an unlaced boot so that your toes touch the front of your toebox. ”
A NOTE ABOUT LACES
Proper lacing means that the boot must be secure in all places and tight everywhere. There are many options for lacing modern hiking boots, but the best ones use a quick pull lacing system with locking mechanism. Although it is tempting to forget the boot upper that surrounds the ankle, lower leg, and foot, hikers need the extra support provided by the lacing eyelets.
These laces are made for hiking boots and not for regular work boots or athletic shoes. The laces for hiking boots should be round and not the flat ribbon used in other sports. They should be made from water-resistant materials like nylon.
Experienced hikers refer to this as a “heellock”. The boot’s heel is secured in the boot and there is less movement, which helps prevent blisters. This lacing technique can be demonstrated by experienced hikers and trained footwear salespeople, or tutorials can also be found online.
TIPS FROM EXPERTS
Although it may seem insignificant, socks can make a big difference to your comfort on hikes. Even the best hiking boots will not save you from the dangers of wearing worn or damp socks.
A NOTE ABOUT TONGUE
The boot’s tongue is another important consideration that first-time buyers often overlook. Although manufacturers may use less padding in the tongue and other areas to save money, it could cause some discomfort and/or abrasions.
However, excessive padding can cause your foot to sweat and heat up in hotter environments. Breathability is an important consideration in all footwear, but hiking boots must also be water-repellent. Two pairs of hiking boots may be a good idea: one with a thicker tongue for cold weather, and one with a thinner tongue to improve ventilation in hot conditions.
To reduce the risk of injury, blisters and other problems, always wear clean, dry hiking socks. ”
PREPARE FOR A HIKE
How can you prepare your feet to take on a hike of 50 miles or a 10-day trek? To find out, we assembled a team consisting of experts. Our team consisted of Army Rangers and Green Berets as well as Navy Seals and other U.S. Special Operations personnel, as well civilian distance hikers.
Our expert team shares the following tips to help you avoid foot pain and get the best fit possible during your hike.
- Before you start the break-in period, make sure you have the right size boot, socks, and laces.
- Gradually increase the distance you travel as you get your boots in. Our experts love to increase their distance with every outing.
- The boots will have likely adapted to your feet once you’ve covered 10 miles. These boots are now ready to be used regularly.
For better traction, hiking boots should have a wider tread than running shoes.
OTHER TIPS FROM TEAM
- The team suggests that you have more than one pair if you plan to hike for several days. You can easily rotate your boots and swap them out if necessary. You will need a hiking bagto support the additional boot weight.
- You may find that softer laces can increase comfort. Consider stripping the parachutist cord’s internal white threads and cutting them to the required length for each boot. This combination of softness and durability is a favorite among hikers.
- It is a good idea to have more than one pair. This allows you to rotate the boots, which gives rubber soles time for rejuvenation and expansion. This prolongs the life of each pair, and reduces pain in your feet and joints by providing better cushioning.
- Allow the boots to rest between uses in a ventilated area. This prevents bacteria growth and allows footwear to naturally deodorize.
- The team suggests that you apply a powdered foot powder every few weeks to your boots to remove any moisture or bad smells.
- After each use, clean the boot’s exterior of any mud or debris.
- Wearable insoles should be replaced. As the tread wears down, you may need to replace it. High quality boots can outlast their soles and tread.
- Before you go on a hike, apply tincture benzoin to your feet. Pay particular attention to the areas most at risk of blisters. This will help strengthen your feet and reduce the chance of blistering.
Your hiking boots should fit your foot shape, with the heel holding your ankle in the right place. To minimize the chance of your feet tipping or twisting, make sure you have enough room at your toes. ”
What can you do to care for your feet after a long hike or climb? This is often where the real work begins , especially if you are looking forward to many hiking events in the next few days or weeks.
Ice your Feet
It will be painful at first, but ice reduces swelling and promotes blood circulation. It will eventually help to fit your feet into your boots.
Lift Your Feet
To drain your blood and reduce soreness, raise your feet at least a foot above your waist. Our experts recommend that you read a book with your feet propped against a wall. It works!
Other Measures to Consider
Towel wrapping can be done for as little as 30 minutes if you have the time. Start by wrapping each foot with a warm towel. After five minutes, change each foot to a cold towel. Continue this process for half an hour.
Although not widely known, aquajogging is a great way for your feet to recover and decrease the risk of injury. Aquajogging requires you to bring a flotation device, 30-60 minutes of your time, and a swimming pool.
Finally, if you have the means to pay, consider a physical massage or a manual foot massager.
DID YOU KNOW?
Every evening, your feet will swell. When you hike, your feet also tend to swell. You will find a better fit when you’re done hiking.
Sometimes inexperienced hikers make the error of buying more boots than they actually need. These are some tips for beginners:
- For a short hike without additional weight, a hiking boot is probably better than a shoe.
- A two-day hike with a small backpack will require a true hiking boot –, but only after it has been properly broken in.
- For a week-long backpackingtrip through remote terrain, you will need a backpacking boot. A trip up Mount Whitney requires a mountaineering boot.
- A water shoe is recommended if water hazards are anticipated.