Shoes are the most crucial element of your equipment in any form of hiking. Comfortable and successful passage of the route largely depends on it. The most popular type of hiking shoes is trekking boots, the number of varieties of which today is just off the scale.
The process of “how to choose trekking boots” will be significantly simplified if you honestly answer the following questions for yourself:
- How difficult will the upcoming tourist routes be? The more complicated, the stronger the boots should be, and the higher the support they provide for your ankle joints and arches of the foot.
- What will be the weight of your backpack? A heavy backpack puts extra strain on the ankles, increasing the risk of injury. It also deforms the sole of the boots more severely, which can adversely affect their grip when moving on steep terrain. Therefore, the heavier the wearable backpack, the harder and higher your future boots should be.
- How good is your physical fitness? The state of muscles and ligaments of the legs plays an important role. The more elastic the ligaments and the stronger the muscles of the legs, the less they need additional support from the boots. Therefore, many experienced and physically prepared tourists can use lighter shoe models.
Answering these questions, you will be able to determine which model and how to choose trekking boots. The future scope determines the design features and the selection of materials to create a particular model of trekking boots.
Types: How to Choose Trekking Boots for your Trip?
All their diversity can be classified into three broad classes:
- boots for easy trekking or hiking boots
- classic hiking boots also called as midweight trekking boots
- trekking boots for mountain or challenging multi-day hiking also known as heavy backpacking boots
To make it easier for you to understand, each of the listed categories has a detailed description below. The scope will determine which trekking boots from which type is best suited for your tasks. Also, a summary of its design features is given for each class, so that it is easier for you to “find out” the desired model in a retail or online store.
Boots for Easy Trekking
Structurally, many models of light trekking boots are very close to trekking sneakers and have a similar field of application. In the English language environment, they are referred to as “hiking boots,” i.e., “Hiking boots” – simple hiking trails and mountain walks.
Scope: Light Trekking Boots
Boots for easy trekking are an ideal choice for simple hiking trails and weekend hikes, provided that the weight of the backpack does not exceed 15 kgs. Otherwise, your poorly trained ankles and knees will experience increased stress, which increases the risk of premature fatigue and injuries.
Overweight people are recommended to use light trekking boots in an urban environment or on a simple terrain. On a challenging route with a heavy backpack, insufficient support for the untrained ankle joint can lead to injuries. Using proper shoes significantly reduces the load on the joints of the legs.
Trekking boots use textiles and thin leather that allows proper ventilation. The feet in them remain dry longer, which reduces the risk of corns.
Due to the convenience and relative strength, light trekking boots are widely used in travel, mountain walks, as well as urban shoes for wet and cold weather.
Boots for easy trekking are also popular among experienced tourists who overcome technically lengthy but straightforward routes. They need light and comfortable shoes that can protect the foot from injuries and natural influences. In this field, light trekking boots compete with trekking and trail-running sneakers. Experienced tourists are physically well prepared and use a reasonable minimum of equipment – this allows them to refuse additional support for ankle joints. They carefully plan their route, which will enable them to avoid technically challenging areas where shoes may require good foot fixation, a stiff outsole, and high wear resistance.
Design Features: Light Trekking Boots
The bootleg of the light trekking boots is low and slightly covers the ankle. Together with lacing, it provides minimal support for the ankle joint and more likely to protect against small litter in shoes. At the same time, light trekking boots have a higher boot height than most trekking sneakers, which makes them more weatherproof, because it reduces the risk of water flooding through the top of the shoe.
Lightweight trekking boots use flexible soles with excellent cushioning, which makes them very comfortable for walking along trails on flat plains and non-steep slopes. Lightweight EVA foam (ethyl vinyl acetate), which is actively used in running shoes, most often acts as the cushioning layer in light trekking boots. The EVA midsole is relatively easy to cut with the sharp edges of the stones and is also gradually pressed under heavyweight, losing its cushioning properties.
To increase the lateral stability of the foot on difficult terrain, many trekking boots can use stiff heel calipers to prevent it from twisting, which can cause injury to the Achilles and surrounding ligaments.
The quality of adhesion to various surfaces depends on the composition of the outsole, as well as the geometry and depth of the tread. This varies significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer. As a rule, light trekking shoes provide sufficient traction with any surfaces except wet scree, deep mud, and very loose soil.
Material: Light Trekking Boots
The use of soft leather and textile with a large number of cut details and seams allows manufacturers to make light trekking boots comfortable “right out of the box” – they practically do not need to be worn before the trip. Unfortunately, such constructive solutions do not make them wear-resistant enough for use outside prepared hiking trails. Screes of stones with sharp edges, constant dampness, and an abundance of dirt can quickly destroy soft materials and seams.
Classic Trekking Boots or Midweight Trekking Boots
They are also referred to as “midweight trekking boots” or “light backpacking boots.” They are a transitional link between hiking and heavy trekking boots.
Scope: Midweight Trekking Boots
The excellent support of the ankle in combination with a sufficiently rigid sole and durable materials allows you to use these boots for long hiking routes at altitudes of up to 3000mt with a moderately heavy backpack weighing up to 25 kg. Boots for medium trekking provide excellent lateral support of the ankle and lateral stability of the foot on a variety of terrain. This allows them to be used safely by people with poor physical fitness with relatively undeveloped leg muscles.
Strength and reliability with a relatively low weight made these boots quite popular among true-hiking enthusiasts. – the passage of extra-long, technically simple walking routes with a length of 2-3 thousand km.
Boots for medium trekking are deservedly popular among the military. With excellent physical fitness, they can use them when carrying even hefty backpacks and ammunition. The relatively flexible sole and low weight of the boots allow you to maintain high mobility, which can be useful both on the march and in battle.
Today, this class of trekking boots can be considered the most popular in Western countries for the combination of comfort, durability, and relatively low weight. This popularity is fostered by the practice of laying a route along relatively good paths rooted in European and American mass tourism at altitudes up to 3000 meters. On such roads, a large and heavy backpack is not used, which allows the use of lighter shoes.
Design: Midweight Trekking Boots
Boots for medium trekking provide excellent coverage and a sufficient degree of fixation of the ankle joint, due to the use of rigid plastic elements in the boot and additional reinforcing layers of material. The high top of the boot protects well from shallow debris and water flooding, making it possible to use gaiters less often.
The boots for medium trekking use soles that have a more wear-resistant outsole and an aggressive tread in comparison with hiking boots and sneakers. This greatly facilitates the movement along a path that has become wet after rain or high water, as well as on the soft and loose ground. For depreciation, a denser EVA foam is used than in models of light trekking boots and sneakers. Less commonly, polyurethane acts as an intermediate sole, which is characterized by durability and elasticity, but at the same time makes the sole less flexible. As with light trekking boots.
The top is made of a combination of leather/suede and wear-resistant textiles, less often – a whole-cut piece of soft leather with a minimum of seams is used. All this makes the upper of the shoe quite durable even in situations where the route is associated with an abundance of dirt and dampness. However, medium trekking boots are not recommended for mountaineering. Their routes are often teeming with moving stone scree, capable of cutting seams on shoes.
Most boots for medium trekking do not require long wear and are comfortable after a couple of hours of wear. However, before the long route, it is still recommended to wear them for several days so that the boot sits better on the leg. This will help reduce the risk of corns and calluses directly in the campaign.
Trekking Boots for Mountain or Challenging Multi-Day Hiking
This category of hiking boots has the toughest soles, especially sturdy construction and considerable weight.
Scope: Heavy Trekking Boots
Boots for hefty trekking are designed to cover routes with steep terrain, in changing weather conditions, and a backpack weighing more than 25 kg. These conditions are manifested in the “classic” sports mountain tourism. Reliable design and high strength allow the use of boots for hefty trekking in extremely adverse conditions – high humidity, dirt, on moving rocky scree, i.e., outside prepared trails and at relatively high altitudes.
High wear resistance made heavy trekking boots popular among hunters, fishers, and huntsmen. Some models are created specifically for their needs. In essence, a distinguishing feature of such shoes is a higher boot, which better protects from falling asleep into the shallow litter and pouring water.
The stiffness of the soles of boots for hefty trekking is sufficient to use cats with soft mounts, which significantly expands the range of possible routes. The tourist’s foot is reliably protected from external influences – the boots have a rather rigid top, as well as the protection of the toe. They keep their shape very well and protect the foot, making it easy to “cut” steps in heavy snow in heavy trekking boots.
The thick sole and soft lining of the top of the boots make it possible to wear them in the framework of moderately low temperatures – up to -10. -15 ° C depending on the physical preparation by the tourist. For this reason, heavy trekking boots are often used all year round in the USA and Central Europe.
Some boots are equipped with a rear welt, which allows them to be worn with cats that have a semi-rigid mount. Such models are already on the verge between trekking and mountaineering shoes, and significantly less convenient as part of long pedestrian crossings.
Over the past 20 years, the latest technology and materials have allowed modern boots for hefty trekking to noticeably “lose weight.” Therefore, with some compromises, they can be used on long walking routes, including on prepared trails with a simple topography.
Boots for hefty trekking are very popular among the Indian tourist community for their durability and the ability to use one pair on routes of various difficulty categories. Such “versatility” does not add comfort during long pedestrian crossings on simple sections of the route but significantly saves the budget. A considerable contribution to the popularity of heavy trekking boots in India is made by the culture of using rather heavy and voluminous equipment, which assumes a significant weight of the backpack.
Design: Heavy Trekking Boots
As a rule, the top of the boots for hefty trekking consists of a one-piece piece of thick leather/suede/nubuck, with a minimum of seams. The combination of textile materials is not often used. The top of which is entirely made of textile that is very rare. As part of this concept, at least one successful model is presented in the market.
For additional protection of the upper material from damage, the boot is edged with a rubber band running along the joint with the sole. The soles of boots for hefty trekking are characterized by high rigidity and thickness. This allows the tourist to stand on the smallest details of the relief during the ascent, without fear that the sole will bend under its weight, and the foot will break. To provide stiffness in the midsole, plastic or metal inserts are used. To make these soles more comfortable when walking, manufacturers use a smooth roll in front of the boot. As a cushioning layer, dense polyurethane is used, which is durable and does not “sag” under heavy loads caused by wearing a heavy backpack. Plastic chassis in heavy trekking boots are not used, but manufacturers do not refuse heel stabilizers.
Boots for hefty trekking are equipped with a very wear-resistant outsole, the task of which is to provide an acceptable and predictable grip with a variety of surfaces – wet grass, dirt, loose soil, wet stones, etc.
The stiff design of the upper involves a relatively long period of wearing shoes. It is advisable to start this process no later than a week before the upcoming trip. During this time, the shoe’s skin will quite accurately “sit” on the foot and lower leg, which will help to avoid discomfort and corns on the route. You should not buy trekking boots at the last moment. Many functional boots for hefty trekking use thick thermoformed foam as a lining, which also needs some time to “shrink.”
The Membrane in Trekking Boots
Even though many tourists speak out against the use of a layer in trekking boots, the market answers this question more clearly. Today, hiking boots that do not use a layer are practically not available. Most often, manufacturers use a Gore-Tex layer.
The most moisture-resistant shoes are for hefty trekking, which is also achieved by reducing the number of seams and using thick leather with its high moisture resistance. The upper of the shoe is additionally treated with impregnation, which reduces the degree of wetting of the materials with water. As it wears, it becomes unusable, and it is recommended to use special tools to restore it.
Advice and Tips: How to Choose Trekking Boots
- Do not concentrate on the brand of shoes – it does not matter what your friends wear or which model is highly recommended on the forums. Your personal feelings with fit are essential.
- If you are doing offline shopping, always buy your shoes in the evening. Your foot will be slightly wider and more substantial in volume, which imitates its condition on the route.
- Take along or ask your retailer for two pairs of socks—one thinner to determine how the shoe will sit when moving in hot weather. The second is of moderate thickness to assess the fit of shoes in cold conditions. Choose sock models designed for trekking.
- Before buying, try as many models of trekking shoes as possible from the category that suits your goals and objectives. Even within the range of one manufacturer, various pads can be used. A large selection here is a great help because it increases the chances of finding the pair that best suits your foot.
- When trying on shoes, pay attention to whether there is enough free space in them – your toes should not touch the toe when the shoes are tightly laced. The insufficient free sock can provoke edema, calluses, and knockdown fingers on prolonged descents. To assess whether there is enough free space in front of the fingers, you can slightly uplift the boot and move the foot forward as far as it will go. The vacant “stock” should be 0.5-1 cm for boots for light and medium trekking, and 1-1.5 cm for heavy ones.
- If there is any doubt about the choice between two close sizes – “halves” – give preference to a larger one, because during prolonged movement of the foot can significantly swell.
- Pay attention to the position of the feet in the laced boots – they should not move back and forth, the heel should not “slop.” Do not try to fix the foot too narrow in the full boot while tightening the lacing as much as possible. It is highly desirable that there remain opportunities for its adjustment on the route.
- The process of fitting shoes is greatly facilitated by good fittings and laces.
- While trying, try walking in the most comfortable shoes with socks of different thicknesses to achieve an accurate fit of the foot. Boots for hefty trekking require the use of tight and high socks.
- Walk around the store in boots. Use the stairs and inclined pedestals (if any) to imitate the “behavior” of the foot in shoes on the ups and downs.
- If you have orthopedic insoles – bring them to try on. Also, custom-made insoles will help you “tailor” shoes to the features of your foot. They will provide additional stability to the feet, reducing the risk of corns and corns. Special insoles will significantly reduce the load on the muscles and joints of the legs, bringing the feet to the anatomically correct position.