How to Choose a Good Pair of Hiking Boots
Being blessed with a lively countryside and breathtaking trails, it’s not even surprising that hiking is the number one activity Aussies prefer in their free time. Not only do you get to explore the beauty hidden from the crowded city, but it’s also beneficial for your body and mind to breathe some fresh air while keeping in shape and having a good time.
However, going on a hike isn’t the same as going for a walk at the closest park, since it requires proper preparation before you “hit the road”. Aside from organising your backpack, bringing enough food and water and getting your hiking poles ready, one of the main ingredients for a carefree hiking experience is a good pair of hiking boots. That said, we packed up a few tips on how to choose them properly.
Decide for the Style
The first thing to consider is the hiking terrain you’ll be travelling on since it determines the type of boots you’re going to need. Generally, depending on the terrain and conditions, there’re 3 styles of hiking boots:
Light Hiking Boots
These boots are literally a sturdier version of your running shoes, intended for hiking on easier trails or stable and even surfaces with occasional slight hills. But even though these boots are mostly intended for light hiking, many of the experienced hikers choose them for ultra-light experience on long-distance backpacking trips.
These boots are mostly worn for the undulating landscapes, snowy trails or the rocky mountain territories full of roots and mud since they’re designed to handle heavy loads and absorb the pressure of your legs and ankles when you accidentally step on sturdier surfaces such as the rocks.
If you’re heading on a longer off-trail trek, where you’re not familiar if you’ll need to climb over obstacles or cross rivers, make sure you choose a pair of backpacking boots as your best ally. These boots are intended for the most “adventurous” terrains, featuring stiff soles to support your feet without getting damaged at all.
Pay Attention to the Material the Upper Is Made Of
Hiking is considered one of the most extreme mountain sports, and that’s why you should never compensate for the quality of the material that your hiking boots’ uppers are made of. In this case, quality means choosing a pair of breathable and waterproof hiking boots that will be able to withstand all the abuse the most extreme hiking trails bring.
When it comes to the protective membrane on the outside, GORE-TEX is the best choice when looking for waterproof hiking boots. This material will create a highly effective layer between your boot and the toughest exterior elements since it contains pores that are larger than a molecule of sweat, but smaller than a molecule of water. This means that any sweat inside the shoes will be able to vaporise in the air while water from the outside won’t penetrate into the fabric. As a result, GORE-TEX hiking boots are some of the most breathable and waterproof options you can find
Besides the membrane they’re covered in, hiking boots can be made from many different materials. For example, synthetic hiking boots can be made of different nylons and polyesters. These materials will make your boots feel light on your feet, and your wallet too, but their greatest downfall is that they’re not waterproof at all.
Another popular option is leather, especially nubuck and full-grain leathers. Even though leather is a naturally waterproof material, nubuck leathers are thinner and less durable and waterproof than any other leather. But, regardless if you decide to go for synthetic or leather hiking boots, don’t accept anything that isn’t covered with a GORE-TEX layer to make sure you’re choosing a waterproof and breathable pair of boots.
Take the Other Components into Account
Your hiking boots’ upper will keep your feet warm and dry, but what’ll keep your feet comfortable is undoubtedly the boot’s construction. For this purpose, your boots’ midsoles and outsoles are the things you should mostly pay attention to.
The midsole is the “cushion” of your shoe, which determines the boot’s stiffness and absorbs the shock from your feet with every step you make. This means choosing hiking boots with stiffer midsoles since they offer great stability and comfort for the most uneven terrains and absorb the pressure off your feet when accidentally stepping on a rock or a tree root.
The sturdiest midsoles are usually made from polyurethane or EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) materials. While the polyurethane makes for the firmest material used for mountaineering and backpacking boots, EVA is a bit cushier and much more budget-friendly, but still counts as one of the best midsole materials.
Outsoles are the part that directly separates the boot from the ground, and their purpose is to increase the boot’s durability and stiffness. Aside from that, the thicker the outsoles, the more protected your feet’s soles are.
The outsoles are mostly made of rubbers which are mixed with carbons to boost their hardness. These rubbers usually have “engraved” lug patterns, which serve as traction-giving bumps. So, if you’re looking for hiking shoes for extreme trails, make sure you choose a pair that features outsoles with thicker lugs since they’ll improve your shoe’s grip and give you more stability. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a lighter variant, the widely spaced lugs offer better traction control and shed mud easily.
Pick the Right Size
Choosing the most durable, most breathable and waterproof boots for hiking will be completely in vain if you don’t choose a pair that fits you and feels comfortable. For this purpose, the easiest way to choose your best size is to measure the length of your feet properly before you check the manufacturer’s sizing chart.
But this is usually not enough since your boots should be spacious enough for you to wiggle with your toes freely even after you put your thickest hiking socks on your feet. And if you’re wearing insoles or orthotics, don’t forget to consider the extra space they take from your boot’s space.
To make sure you’re choosing the right boots for you, know that they should fit snug around the balls of your feet while your heels are resting in place. If you choose the pair where your heel will float around, you’ll struggle with the annoying and painful blisters and swellings.