How to Choose your Hiking Boots
A good hiking boot is one of the crucial parts of the trekker’s equipment list. They are solely responsible about, how far you will progress in the trek. So every smart trekker should know about the basics of choosing a right boot, before going off to shopping.
When it comes to selecting the best shoe, forget about looks, numerical numbers, flashy features or even the suggestion of the expert friend. What you should be really looking for is weight, warmth, durability, stability and water resistance. But the most important part is the fit. The difference between blisters and bliss is taking a bit time to find the perfect fit. The following factors should be considered before buying a new shoe.
Type of hike: The shoe market will present to you, a dizzying array of choices from ultra-light trail shoes to heavy duty mountaineering boots. The trick lies however in identifying your purpose. Boots should be selected based on the terrain you plan to hike on and the load you are expected to carry.
Light Trail: If you are travelling in a well-marked trail with a light or no load, the ultra-light low to mid cut boots with flexible mid-soles are the best option. They are made out of a mixture of leather and fabric providing breathability and cooler feel
Day Hiking: A longer day hiking or a few days back packing trips would require low to mid cut boots. Though they do not provide much ankle support, they provide an excellent balance between foot support and durability. They often flex easily and require minimal break-in time. Medium waterproofing and mud resistance should be features to sought out
Hard trails: A multi day camping expeditions and rough terrain hikes would require heavy duty , high ankle cut shoes, which should have excellent grip in the outsole and sturdy supportive insole as well as toe protection. Heavy duty waterproofing is also necessary.
Skill level: Although a lighter shoe might be a bit easier on the legs, they are not necessarily suitable for everybody. Seasoned leg muscles optimized for treks come after much experience. So, although a more experienced trekker can shed a bit weight from his shoe, sacrificing protection for better agility, a heavier but well protected shoe is more advisable for a novice.
Fit: As mentioned earlier, the fit of your shoe is of ultimate importance. Forget any number, only buy the shoe which fits perfect, even if it means buying a size bigger than you normally use. The perfect fit may be summarized under the following points.
If you stand upright in your unlaced shoes while sliding your foot forwards until the toes touch the front, you should be comfortably able to slide your index finger between your heel and the heel of the shoe.
Once you have the shoe laced, the fit should be snug enough that if you roll your toes, you don’t feel your feet sliding up to touch the front of the shoe while not so snug that it stops circulation.
There should not be any hill lift as you walk around in your laced shoe.
The toes should have just enough room, that they fall shy of touching the front. Neither more nor less.
They best time to test the fit is in the afternoon as our feet expands during the day and it’s also advisable to test while wearing socks to duplicate real wearing scenario.
Boot Quality: No matter the brand, some quality checks should never be neglected. Always check the stitching properly. You don’t want any loose threads or missing stitches. The connection between the sole and the upper must be firm without any weak spots. The shoe tread should be tough and rigid and solid. Any attempt to wring the boot like a towel should be met with hard resistance. If you can twist it, the midsole is too soft and not suitable. Lastly, the laces must made of braided nylon instead of flat and the eyelets should be sturdy.
Padding: The padding of the boot is an often neglected feature. Even a strong and sturdy boot without proper padding is plain uncomfortable and quite unsuitable as the comfort depends on it. The tongue padding should be ample yet firm enough to prevent the cutting feeling of the tight shoelaces. The stiffer the sole, the more padded the tongue needs to be otherwise the shoe will become very painful in steep uphill and long downhill. Internal ankle padding is also quite critical to the comfort. It’s the joint that bends and flexes the most in the trail. That and the absence of any fat layers, makes the joint very vulnerable to twists. So a secured fit around the ankle and heel is required to minimise movement in that area.
So there you go; an extensive guide in finding your perfect match. So before you finally tie the knot, keep these pointers in mind and you will be good to go