Which hiking boots are best for you? With so many choices these days lining store shelves, it all boils down to what type of hiker you are. For example are you more of a trail runner, or do you need heavy construction for tackeling rough terrain? Lightweight or Leather?
We recently came across this guide to hiking booth infographic which outlines a good way of beginning your search. Though ultimately, the final decision comes down to trying them on and testing your boots out!
More About Hiking Boots Construction
The sole of a shoe or boot is usually either stitched or cemented to the midsole and upper. Boots with Goodyear welt construction are very durable and can be resoled. Cement construction, on the other hand, is less expensive than welt construction. Cemented bonds tend to wear more quickly, however. There are several support layers in hiking boots, including the insole, midsole, shank and outsole.
Insole and Midsole
The insole is a soft, cushioned insert that can usually be removed and replaced. The insole is also the part of a shoe that provides arch support. If your boots don’t offer enough arch support, you can usually replace the insoles with better quality inserts or custom-made orthotics. The midsole is a layer of shock-absorbing material that helps dampen impacts on rugged terrain. It can be made from a variety of materials, including:
- Compression-molded EVA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate) midsoles are made of expanded EVA foam that provides good shock absorption.
- Injection-molded EVA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate) midsoles are made from melted pellets of EVA. They offer a more uniform density from heel to toe compared to compression-molded EVA.
- PU (polyurethane) midsoles are lightweight and offer cushioning, shock absorption, flexibility and good durability.
- TPR (thermoplastic rubber) midsoles offer lightweight durability and flexibility.
A shank is a stiff piece of material inserted between the midsole and outsole to provide torsional stability. In some boots, the shank may be placed inside the midsole. In hiking boots, the shank is usually made of either a composite material or steel. Lightweight trail shoes typically don’t include a shank.
Finally, the outsoles of most modern hiking soles are made of thermoplastic polyurethane or another type of synthetic rubber. Boots and shoes designed for hiking have all-terrain soles that usually include a pattern of protruding treads, also called lugs. The more aggressive the lug pattern, the better the traction will be on loose, muddy and uneven terrain. Trail shoes usually have shallower lugs to reduce weight and increase flexibility. Proprietary soles like Vibram® can provide even more traction and durability. For this reason, Vibram® outsoles are used by many leading hiking footwear brands, including Asolo, Vasque, Merrell and The North Face.
Hiking Boots Traction
Your feet need to stay put whether you hike on mud or dusty road. That is why hiking boots must handle everything – from the mud and snow to dusty roads and smooth rock slabs. The design of sole is different if they are made for slippery ground or the solid one. For example, boots made for ice or any other slick surface have sole that will lower the traction. This way, you will be safer than wearing any other model of hiking boots. Boots designed for muddy or snowy conditions have a sole that lowers the chances of getting stuck in it and doesn’t allow mud and snow to stick on them.
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Hiking Boots Support
In case your hiking footwear is not stable enough, hiking can turn into a dangerous sport. Numerous foot and ankle injuries can be prevented choosing the right hiking shoes. From the materials and thickness of the midsole, the shape and thickness of the sole depend on how much support will a shoe give you. If a shoe is stiff through the midfoot and comfortably flexible up front, it is perfect for long walks. For long hours in nature torsal stability is crucial. That is why hiking boots should be stiff enough.
This really is a must, no matter the climate you will be in. During the summer months, breathability keeps your feet cooler and prevents them from sweating and causing a variety of issues that could have you lame the next day.
On the other hand, breathability in the colder climate can actually aid in keeping your feet warmer by allowing any build-up of heat to dissipate, eliminating sweat and the chills that accompany it. Try avoid using foot warmers unless you absolutely need them.
Hiking Boots vs Hiking Shoes: Which is Better?
Although women’s fashion has forever blurred the line between shoes and boots (please don’t write me angry emails!) there really is a difference between the two and we need to consider this when choosing a pair of hiking shoes or boots.
- Hightop (above the ankle) The most practical, and most “hiking boot looking” these providetrue ankle support, and are generally preferred for backcountry, making your own trails, or the most rugged terrain. These are frequently heavier, and the weight combined with the stability make them ideal for extended hikes and carrying loads. These are also recommended if you’re a newer hiker, or a hunter.
No ankle support but a larger range of motion and less chafing
- Lowtop (below the ankle) As expected, these are traditional shoe style; stopping short of the ankle and allowing full flex of the joint. Often extremely light and very flexible, these are not recommended for more than a day trip, and on well-worn trails.
- Sandal (in the garbage can) As near as I can tell, there’s really no use – or excuse – for hiking sandals. They get even more absurd with the addition of “toe guards”, because some rocket scientist decided it’s okay to have 75% of your foot exposed, but look out for stubbing your toe on a rock or something.
We’ve covered a lot, and hope we’ve given you a few ideas to help in your quest to find the perfect hiking boots.
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