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Guide to choosing the perfect hiking boots

Finding the ideal pair of hiking shoes can be an overwhelming task. Aniket Joshi divulges in this feature piece that the uber-perfect pair of hiking boots for you will be those that are bespoke to your hiking style and intended trails.

Let’s explore the various types of hiking shoes, what components they are made of, and how they should fit.

Different types of hiking shoes

Depending on the terrain and utility, there are several options to choose from when you’re considering buying a pair of hiking boots.

Here are 3 types of hiking boots that provide different benefits to help you hike in comfort:

Hiking shoes

Low-cut models with flexible midsoles are excellent for day hiking. Some ultralight backpackers may even choose trail-running shoes for long-distance journeys.

Hiking boots for the day

These come in a variety of styles, from mid-cut to high-cut, and are great for short backpacking trips or day walks where you only need to carry a few things. Lightweight hiking shoes are comfortable and easy to break in, but they can’t compare to the support and durability that hiking boots provide.

Backpacking boots

These are made for long back-country treks with heavy loads that last several days. Most are designed with a high cut that wraps around the ankles for extra support. The stronger mid-soles and sturdy construction of these shoes make them ideal for off-road adventures.

Hiking boot components

Hiking boots consist of four major components: the upper, the mid-sole, the boot’s internal support, and the out-sole. The quality of a hiking boot is dependent on all four of these components.

Hiking boot uppers

The upper material of a boot has a direct effect on how heavy it is, how well it breathes, how long it lasts, and how well it repels water.

  1. Full-grain leather

Full-grain leather has very good water resistance, outstanding durability, and resistance to abrasion. It is most frequently found in trekking boots designed for lengthy journeys, hefty packs, and difficult terrain. Contrary to nylon/split-grain leather combinations, it is not as lightweight or breathable. Before embarking on a lengthy journey, adequate break-in time is required.

  1. Split-grain leather

To create a lightweight boot with high ventilation, split-grain leather is typically combined with nylon or nylon mesh. Split-grain leather separates the smooth outside from the rougher inside of the cowhide. Lower cost is a plus, but less water and abrasion resistance is a drawback.

  1. Nubuck leather

Full-grain leather that has been buffed to resemble suede is called nubuck leather. It is extremely resilient and abrasion- and water-resistant. Although it’s pretty flexible, it too needs time to break in before a long hike.

  1. Synthetics

Modern boots frequently contain polyester, nylon, and so-called “synthetic leather.” They dry quicker, break in more easily, and are typically less expensive than leather. Because there is more stitching on the outside of the boot, it could wear out more quickly.

  1. Waterproof membranes

Boots and shoes that are advertised as being “waterproof” have uppers made of waterproof or breathable membranes to keep feet dry in wet situations. On hot summer days, feet may sweat more as a result of the membrane’s decreased breathability as compared to the ventilation mesh used on some non-waterproof shoes.

  1. Insulation

Some mountaineering boots have synthetic insulation built in to keep your feet warm when walking on snow and glaciers.

Hiking boot midsoles

A boot’s stiffness is mostly determined by the midsole, which offers cushioning and protects feet from shock. Although wearing stiff boots may not seem like a smart idea, they can also provide improved comfort and stability during extended hikes over rough, uneven terrain. By wrapping around each rock or tree root you step on, a stiff boot prevents your foot from deteriorating. Polyurethane and EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) are the most commonly used midsole materials.

  1. EVA

EVA is a little cosier, lighter, and more affordable. EVA midsoles come in different densities to provide firmer support where it’s needed (e.g., around the forefoot).

  1. Polyurethane

Since polyurethane tends to be stronger and more resilient, it is frequently used in long trekking and mountaineering boots.

Hiking boot’s Internal support

Hiking boots consist of multiple layers for support and insulation.

  1. Shanks

These 3-5 mm-thick inserts go between a boot’s outsole and midsole to stiffen the midsole for load bearing. They come in different lengths; some go all the way around the midsole, while others only go halfway.

  1. Plates

These tiny, semi-flexible inlays are situated below the shank, between the midsole and the outsole (if included). They shield feet from being damaged by sharp pebbles or tree roots.

Outsoles for hiking boots

The outsoles of all hiking boots are made of rubber. To increase the hardness of mountaineering or hiking boots, additives like carbon are frequently used. Although they boost longevity, hard outsoles can feel slick if you stray from the path.

  1. Lug pattern

Lugs are bumps on the outsoles that provide traction. In order to increase traction, climbing and trekking boots typically have deeper, thicker lugs. Widely spaced lugs provide good traction and make it easier to remove mud.

  1. Heel brake

This describes the distinct heel zone, which is separate from the forefoot and arch. It lessens the possibility of slipping while making steep descents.

Hiking boot fit

  1. Know your size

The best method is to measure the length, width, and arch length of your foot using a properly calibrated fit instrument. Another element of a good fit is foot volume, which needs to be measured by a retail expert.

  1. Try on boots at the end of the day

Your feet usually swell a little and are at their largest during the day. This prevents you from purchasing boots that are too small.

Bring your orthotics if you use them. They have an effect on how a boot fits.

  1. Wear appropriate socks

Familiar socks allow you to analyse the fit and feel of new shoes more quickly. Check that the sock thickness matches what you intend to wear. On the trail, choose synthetic socks over slow-drying cotton socks, which are more likely to cause blisters.

  1. Spend some time in the boots

Walk around the store a little. Take the steps both up and down. Walking on an area that has an incline can help you assess how the shoe would feel while hiking.

  1. Fit issues to consider

You shouldn’t experience any strange seams or bumps, pinching in the forefoot, or toes running into the end of the boot while it is inclined. When the boots are tightly lashed yet there is still room above the top of your foot, the volume of the boot is incorrect.

  1. Consider aftermarket insoles

Insoles are available in a variety of models, each of which can improve comfort, support, or fit—or all three.

  1. Consider how you tie your laces

The manner in which you tie the laces of your boots can affect how well they fit.

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