Even though you may be new to hiking, you’re probably aware that in order to have a great hiking experience, you need to get the right pair of hiking boots.
Before go shopping, you need to take into consideration some facts. All of these will affect which pair of hiking boots to get in the end. Take a peek at this selection, just to see what to expect.
Hiking boots go from the very light weight ones (for the easy trails, in the summer time) to the heavy weight ones (mountaineering boots). The latter ones are rugged, sturdy and take on any difficult trail with ease.
In order to get an idea of the overall performance of hiking boots, you also need to know a bit about the components of the boots. You need to understand what goes into uppers, lowers, midsoles, outsoles to get a better image.
The most important thing about your hiking boots is how they fit you. No matter how well they are made, if they don’t fit you as a glove, don’t get them.
Which type of hiking boots is good for you?
When you go for a light hiking experience such as a day hike, a good pair of hiking shoes is more than enough. When you go extra-lightly backpacked, a nice pair of trail-running shoes for a long distance experience might be a good choice.
You may also want to try the day hiking boots, which go from mid to high cut models. They work best in day hikes or short backpacking trips with light loads. They are very flexible and need a little to no time to break-in. On the other hand, they don’t give the best support or durability, especially if you get heavily backpacked.
The backpacking boots go great for the heavier loads when you go for a multi-day hiking trip. These boots have a high cut that wraps above the ankles, thus giving great ankle support. The backpacking boots are long lasting and supportive, feature stiff midsoles and are a good option for on/off-trail travel.
What’s inside the hiking boots?
The materials on your hiking boots have an important say on the weight, breathability, durability and water resistance.
A pair of hiking boots made of full-grain leather means longer life span, abrasion resistance and great waterproofness too. Full-grain leather is the most popular choice for backpacking boots and goes great in the longer trips, on the heavy rugged trails, heavily backpacked. On the other hand, the full-grain hiking boot is not very lightweight nor breathable. And you should definitely break them in before going on your trip.
You might like instead a split-grain leather boot which is paired with nylon or nylon mesh in order to create a lightweight boot, highly breathable. The split-grain leather splits away the tougher inner part of the cowhide from the soft exterior. The split-grain leather boots are typically lower priced, but lack the good waterproofness and resistance to abrasion.
A nubuck leather is the full-grain leather that is buffed to resemble suede. It’s long lasting and resistant to water and abrasion. It’s quite flexible also, but you still need time to break it in.
Many hiking boots use also polyester, “synthetic leather”. This is lighter than leather, dries fast, don’t need to be broken in and cost less than leather boots. They are not very durable though.
If none of the materials fits your needs and likings, you may also stick with vegan boots which are made without any animal ingredients or byproducts.
Many boots come with waterproof liners in order to keep your feet dry at all time. There is also synthetic insulation added for the mountaineering boot as you need warm feet during wintertime.
The midsole of your hiking boots gives cushioning, protection against shocks and makes a boot stiff or not. The most common choice for the midsole is EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) and polyurethane.
EVA is soft, lightweight and not that expensive. Midsoles may vary on density in order to give the right support for the foot.
Polyurethane is firmer and longer lasting and is the common choice for the backpacking and mountaineering boots.
The hiking boots come with 3-5mm thick shanks, placed between a boot’s midsole and outsole to make the midsole stiffer. They may have various lengths as some cover half of the midsole and some go all the way.
The plates of your hiking boots are thin, semi flexible inserts placed between the midsole and the outsole and below the shank. They keep your feet protected against the roots and uneven rocks.
What’s on the outside of the hiking boots
Most of the hiking boots feature rubber outsoles. The mountaineering and backpacking boots may have special additives as carbon in order to get tougher. The hard outsole means longer lifespan on your hiking boots, but also more weight.
Lugs are the bumps on the outsole that give you/or not a good traction. The deeper, thicker these lugs are, the better the grip will be. Widely spaced lugs mean good traction but also easiness when it comes to shedding mud.
Check also the heel brake on your hiking boots. This area defines the heel zone that is separated from the forefoot and arch. This minimizes the risk of sliding while you are descanting.
Last, but not least, if you go hiking in the winter time, it’s essential to have crampon compatible hiking boots. This might be the most important survival key when hiking through glaciers.