Thinking about getting into hiking as a hobby or as a more serious sport? Are you already a seasoned trekker looking for a new pair of quality boots? Either way, one of the most important parts of hiking is your feet and, more specifically, the boots that protect them and allow them to adventure far and wide.
So, before you set off on your next hike, consider the following ten tips to have the perfect hiking boots.
10. Choose the Right Type
Not all boots were created equal, and it´s important to consider what kind of trekking you plan to do before you make your choice. If it is a good one, an outdoor adventure store should have several different kinds of hiking boots, with a good explanation of what each should be used for. This includes day hiking, backpacking, mountaineering and others. If you plan to vary your hikes and trips, you probably want to go with a backpacking boot, as they are the most versatile.
9. Consider the Material
Generally, hiking boots are made out of either synthetic materials, like nylon or polyester, full-grain leather, or a combination of the two (called split-grain leather). Again, you need to take into consideration the kinds of conditions you think you will be facing on the majority of your hikes, as well as your skill level and endurance when choosing between the three.
Synthetic boots are lighter and more breathable but often not great at keeping moisture away from your feet. Full-grain boots will keep your toes toasty warm but may feel heavy and cumbersome to an inexperienced hiker. As you might imagine, split-grain leather boots fall somewhere in between.
8. Do They Fit?
It may go without saying, but a boot does you no good if it doesn´t fit! As a general rule, boots should fit snugly but leave enough room for you to wiggle your toes a bit.
It´s best to go boot shopping at the beginning of the day so that any swelling that might naturally occur can be accounted for, and you should wear the same socks that you plan to wear while trekking. Be sure to take advantage of any in-store foot measuring, as this will assure you an even more perfect fit.
7. Cut or Heights
Boots, much like sneakers, come in different cuts or heights. Just as you might want a high-top sneaker for a certain kind of sport, and a low one for another, you’ll want to take into account the height of your boot in accordance with the kind of activity you plan to do.
In most cases, the boot’s height will go hand-in-hand with the type of boot, but sometimes there will be more than one option, so it´s important to keep this aspect in mind.
Two important parts of a hiking boot should be padded to avoid blisters and any other foot sores: the tongue and the ankle (if the book is high-topped). These pads may seem like unnecessary softness, but, in reality, having good pads in these spots can mean the difference between a good hike and give up too quickly.
Tongue pads are especially important to mitigate a stiffer sole, and ankle pads protect that part of your lower leg from rubbing and soreness. They´re not just decorations – padding is vital to the overall fit and feel of a boot!
Along with a good boot, you need a good pair of socks to enjoy your time on the trail and avoid blisters or other foot issues. Most hiking socks are generally wool, with a bit of synthetic, to optimize warmth, breathability and wear.
A hiking sock should be at least slightly higher than your boot and padded and thick enough to withstand lots of walking and washing. And try to have several pairs on hand so you can wash some while you pack and wear the rest.
4. Cleaning and Conditioning
Keep your boots in tip-top shape so that they will last you a long time and serve you well on the trail. You should clean your boots basically any time you get them significantly muddy, using mild dish soap, saddle soap, or hiking boot cleaner to wash them, taking care to rinse them completely before leaving them to dry. A boot conditioner, which will keep them from cracking and make sure they stay waterproof, should be used after each big trip or a few times a year.
3. Break Them in
Unless you are a glutton for punishment, don´t take your shiny new hiking boots out for a spin on the trail before breaking them in! Even the best boots need to be used for increasingly longer periods of time until they have been molded into the shape of your foot to the extent that they won´t cause undue strain or pain to your feet. So, wear them around the house at first, for short amounts of time, then on a short trip out of the house and, finally, out on their first hike.
2. On the Trail
If you plan to hike or climb for several days in a row, it´s important you bring along anything you might need to care for your boots and your feet! Make sure you have a soft, slide-on shoe for off the trail to give your boots, and you rest once you´re done with the day´s trekking. And bring along the boot conditioner to keep your boots from cracking or stiffening – it can be applied every evening and left to soak in overnight.
1. In the Closet
Caring for your new boots goes beyond cleaning and conditioning – once you are safely back at home, with your fresh new pair of boots, you need to store those kicks, so they are in good shape the next time you will need them. It is important to do this so that they are ready to go whenever you are.
So, make sure they are in a clean, dry spot, preferably in a closet to protect them from dust, and with shoehorns engaged in maintaining their shape.
Now it´s time to hit the trails with your new boots! As you go, remember that you will only enjoy the experience only as much as your feet do, so find yourself a great pair of boots and keep them in the best condition possible.