What To Look For In Hiking Boots

In this article, we are going to explain what to look for in hiking boots. Hiking boots are the most important item of equipment for any hiker. Having good, solid boots will give you a smooth and comfortable feel whilst protecting your feet from getting damp and developing medical issues such as blisters and sores. The best hiking boots will also aid your lower leg and feet muscles from having excess strain placed on them which can lead to real discomfort. 

To explain what to look for in hiking boots we will cover topics such as material and boot construction, traction, hiking boot technology, waterproofing, size and fit, the purpose of a hiking boot, the weight of the hiking boot and how to maintain your hiking boot. By the end, you will be an expert in what to look for in hiking boots and can make your next purchase with confidence.

Table of Contents

Material and Boot Construction

The upper, midsole and outsole are the constituent parts that make up your hiking boot.

  • The upper boot should be breathable to reduce sweat and rubbing. The upper boot supports the ankle. It is an essential part of your boot - and is exceptionally important if you are walking on rough or rocky terrain. The best hiking boots have a reinforced upper boot. This will add stability and support when you are hiking. The upper boot will either be made from traditional leather which adds durability to your boot or synthetic material (such as memory foam) which adds comfort and is lightweight.
  • The midsole should be soft and cushioned for bounce and support. This part of the boot determines the flexibility of your shoe. For tough terrain, opt for a stiff-midsole. This will prevent the foot from twisting when you walk on uneven ground. For less strenuous terrain, you can opt for a more flexible fit. This is given by medium-stiff-midsoles.
  • An outsole has lots of tread and grip to prevent your foot sliding in your boot and creating friction which can cause blisters. Different outsoles are better suited to different terrains. Harder outsoles will be long-lasting but offer less grip and traction. Softer outsoles will offer loads of grip but easily wear out.

Hiking Boot Traction

The key to traction is ensuring that it grips in all directions and not just forwards. Having a solid heel will also help with traction by acting as the last line of defence against slipping. If the traction fails, the heel may come to your aide. You should also be looking for rubber soles. These will provide you with more support and grip (you can get soft and hard rubber soles depending on your preference).

What To Look For In Hiking Boots Technology?

Technology and innovation have come on leaps and bounds in recent years. This ‘quiet revolution’ has improved the comfort, efficiency and cost of many hiking products. Below we explain some of this amazing technology. 

Vibram Megagrip (enhanced traction)

Vibram offers grip and traction on all types of surfaces in various weather conditions. This technology adds to the durability to your boot – in particular the sole of the boot. Furthermore, Vibram prevents your foot from slipping which helps to stop blisters and sores appearing on your foot. 

Gore-tex (improved waterproofing)

GoreTex is a waterproof, breathable fabric used in hiking boots. It is commonly used because it will remove water vapour and sweat from your foot and out of the hiking boot without letting water seep in. This is important because having damp boots and wet feet can lead to blisters and discomfort when walking. One issue with waterproof boots is that it does impact the breathability of your boot. Nevertheless, it is often worth the trade-off for a dry boot.

NestFit (bio-mapping for comfort)

Traditionally, boots were made for a generic foot shape. This suited only a fraction of people. Nowadays, thanks to NestFit technology boots are made for individual foot shapes. NestFit technology has been proven to provide added comfort for your feet by reducing pressure on your feet and fatigue on your muscles. Furthermore, NestFit allows the upper, insole, midsole and outsole work together to provide pressure-free support.

Thermo Tech Application technology (better support)

This technology is designed to deliver enhanced structure to hiking boots. It does this without using inserts and stitching, therefore opting for a one-construction design. This will help the component parts of your boot work in unison whilst adding to the durability of your boot.

CleanSport NXT (odour control)

CleanSport NXT uses pro-biotic technology to provide a method of odour control. This tech applies living micro-organisms to fibres which act as natural, non-toxic health benefits to the user. Furthermore, this is excellent for the environment. The microbes work by activating when in contact with sweat. The microbes then work to reduce the odour. Afterwards, they return to their dormant state and wait for the next time they come into contact with sweat. 

What To Look For In Hiking Boots: Other Considerations

How long should a walking boot last?

The best hiking boots can last more than 20 years. Obviously, this depends on the type of boot and how well you maintain them. Some top tips are to keep the boots clean of mud and muck, reproof them regularly to keep them waterproof, and to dry them naturally rather than using radiators or open fires. If your boots have leather sections, you should wash them only when necessary with warm, soapy water. You should dry the leather immediately with a towel.

Why Comfort Is Important?

If your feet are not comfortable, it is almost certain you will not enjoy your hike. Even mild pain is disruptive. Therefore picking a boot with a comfortable fit should be number one on your list of priorities.  If you have stiff and rigid feet you should look for a hiking boot which is soft and cushioned. This will absorb the impact when you press down with your foot. If you have flexible feet, such as having a natural foot arch, you should look for a shoe with arch support. This will counter any natural movements and provide great stability for your foot. Remember though, a shoe can only work when it is paired with the perfect socks.

Purpose

Most of this common sense, but you wouldn’t walk across a rocky terrain in open sandals and similarly there is little point in wearing heavy-duty fabric hiking boots if you are trekking through rivers and marshes. If you know where you are likely to be walking that is great. If you don’t that is fine too. Make sure you pick up a versatile hiking boot. That way you can be prepared for any terrain. If you do have an idea then you can tailor your boot for your needs. 

Weight

Weight is an important feature of any walking boot. This is because there is a correlation between weight and comfort. For long walks try a lighter boot. This will combat against foot pains and aches from possible strains. For shorter, more intense hikes, a heavier boot will offer more protection and ankle support. This is especially important when rock climbing or hiking on rough terrain. 

How To Look After Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are built to survive tough terrain. Despite this many people come to use their boots to find them worn out. We have some simple and easy tips to help keep your boots in great shape season after season. 

  • Scrub Clean: Simply rinse with warm water and use a semi-stiff brush to remove stubborn mud and grit. This will help prevent the material from becoming worn and stiff. You should avoid using detergents as these can damage the integrity of the boot.
  • Treat With A Proofer: Use a proofer that’s suitable for use on your type of boot. Proofer will keep your boot waterproof whilst maintaining its sturdiness - ready for your next hike.
  • Avoid Shape Loss: Try not to soften your leather uppers too much while washing to avoid this part of your hiking boot losing their shape. A top tip is to pay careful attention to the area you are washing. If it is the bottom of the shoe, then you should be fine to be as thorough as you like. With the soft leather areas, less is more.
  • Dry Carefully: Allow boots to dry in a well-ventilated area. Avoid using radiators or putting them next to open fires. This will damage and fray the fabric.
  • Absorb All Moisture: Make sure you dry your boots properly before storing them away for their next outing. Newspaper is an old mothers’ trick for absorbing moisture from wet walking boots, just replace it every couple of hours until the paper is dry.
  • Check For Wear: Keep an eye out for wear and tear, especially on the soles of your boots, as this may help you avoid replacing your boots before its necessary.
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