Choosing boots for hiking in the mountains is a very responsible task, you can not rely on the fact that any mid-priced boots will allow you to successfully go trekking or hiking. You should familiarize yourself with the main aspects of choosing shoes for hiking and trekking, before buying them.
The topic of footwear for hiking is very relevant, because it is the right pair will allow you to enjoy your trip as comfortably and safely as possible, without distracting your feet and making difficult terrain more accessible and passable.
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In the last article we already covered the topic of choosing trekking sneackers in quite some detail, today we will look at shoes in “heavy weight” – boots for trekking, mountain hiking and climbing.
Let’s start by defining.
Trekking boots – high (from ankle and above) specialized shoes for walking and climbing in difficult terrain in all weathers. Made of synthetic and/or natural materials of high strength and durability and equipped with a specialized sole with well-developed grousers for confident traction with a variety of surfaces. In models for mountaineering or difficult mountaineering the sole may have a special design for fixing the crampons with a rigid or semi-rigid fixation. Characteristic features of many models are also: elongated anatomic lacing for better fixation of feet, better protection against moisture, protection of the upper from mechanical damage, protecting the cuff from foreign objects. The sole (most often from the specialized manufacturer Vibram) with a deep, self-cleaning tread.
To choose the right footwear for a hike, you need to know what kind of conditions will work best for you. When do sneakers “end” and boots “begin”? Of course, there is no universal recipe. The general trend toward lighter gear and faster trails leads to a greater prevalence of sneakers. Personally, I have repeatedly encountered people in sneakers far above the snow line in the mountains, and more than once I myself have climbed the winter Tubkal (4167m) in sneakers. Nevertheless, sneakers will never completely displace boots even from summer tourism, let alone winter tourism.
Classification, of course, a very relative thing, but it will help us decide a little. Now on the market a lot of models and it is possible to choose shoes for their specific tasks. You can buy a universal pair “for all occasions”, but you should be prepared for the fact that, like any compromise, it will lose out to specialized solutions. This option is great for the user who does not go out too often, or for the experienced traveler who goes on a long trip with a variety of conditions.
Below is a rough division of trekking boots into basic classes, which will allow the beginner to “focus”, which can be very important when choosing – good boots are not cheap.
«In fact, a “transition link” from the world of sneakers to the world of “serious” trekking shoes. The trekking shoe simply grew in height and became a boot. The main distinguishing features are: a relatively soft sole on bending and torsion; lightweight upper materials, often a combination of thin leather/ liner and synthetic inserts (the upper is rarely made of one piece of material, usually it is multi-component); low weight; often “sneaker design”.
Good for light trekking where there is no solid snow cover, for uncomplicated rocks, viaferat, good in the city as well. After sneakers you will immediately feel better fixation, confidence in ankle support, which is especially noticeable when carrying a heavy backpack on uneven surfaces.
As the name suggests, these are the most versatile and common type of hiking shoes. They are more like “trekking (or mountain) boots,” because when they say hiking boots, they mean them in the first place. In some ways it is the shoe “for everything” – in such boots you will see tourists in every corner of the world, they are often used even in the heat, if you need increased protection and fixation of the foot. This type of shoes for hiking choose both for the summer and winter, especially when the plans are quite difficult hiking. But best of all he will show himself at moderate temperatures – from +15-20 to -10-15 degrees.
Their main distinctive feature is that their soles are rather hard and have deep tread, but they are not as “oaky” as those of heavier models and the specialized climbing shoes. It flexes when walking, so you can walk significant distances in these boots without too much effort. Also, the sole is thick enough, on the one hand, to hide multi-layer construction, able to reliably support the foot of any weight with a heavy backpack and be wearproof, and on the other hand, have a good enough insulation, allowing to hike on solid snow or ice cover. As a rule, the sole of universal trekking boots has no special devices (ribs) for crampons with rigid fixation, but they can be used with ordinary “soft (universal)” crampon bindings. Ice climbing is best done in specialized shoes. The upper of the boot is more often leather (in this variety of classic so far prevails), sometimes combined. There are some models made of one piece of leather. They are characterized by particular endurance and improved moisture protection, but more expensive. Usually such shoes have a medium height, but lovers of high shoes really find such a variant. There are also options for hunters and military with a specific design – sometimes they are also bought for hiking.
In general, it is in this segment that the choice is so vast that it makes it harder rather than easier to buy. So the better you imagine your “ideal shoe” before buying, the easier it will be for you in the store.
A common name usually used for hiking, which includes frequent and prolonged movement over very difficult terrain, climbing (often using mountaineering techniques). These boots are also used for moving in cold conditions. This is a kind of symbiosis “in-between” between trekking shoes and specialized shoes for high-altitude and technical mountaineering. This type of boots is especially popular with experienced mountain hikers, because they have to move through high mountains and during a hike to make sometimes quite difficult ascents.
What are the characteristics of such hiking shoes? In appearance it looks more like the usual trekking boots, but more powerful, heavier. Maximum reliable materials are used – thick leather, kevlar, ABS plastic. The sole is almost completely rigid, often with rants for cats, but the profile and tread is still more “sharpened” for hiking than for climbing.
In other words, this shoe is quite niche, such a division in general, very arbitrary, as the line between this class and the mountaineering shoes is very blurred.
MAIN FEATURES. These are usually the most innovative shoes, using the latest achievements and technologies in their design (even if the shoe looks classic on the outside), with the maximum degree of protection for the foot, because in mountaineering the conditions are very extreme. The design and construction can often also differ from what we are accustomed to; as a rule, bright colors of shoes are used. Now the market has many extremely lightweight designs, in which low weight and ultimate functionality come to the forefront compared to the service life of the shoe. Of course, such shoes are more expensive than just a trekking shoe, but they are not so comfortable for long hikes on flat terrain because of a very rigid sole with a relatively flat profile. This shape allows you to move comfortably on rocks and do ice climbing in crampons. To fix the latter, mountaineering boots are equipped with special back and front wounds, or only the back (on lighter models). It is in this type of shoes in recent years natural materials are actively replaced by man-made. The point is that the latter better answer the basic criterion of mountaineering – the maximum weight reduction at the maximum functionality. The resource is secondary here. Therefore, modern fabrics, rubber, plastic and composite materials increasingly replace very durable and wear-resistant, but heavy leather. Mountaineering boots often have additional insulation – because in the mountains, at altitude it can be very cold all year round.
In technical climbing boots, the emphasis is on ease of climbing the most difficult terrain and lightweight construction. A good fit on the foot is achieved by the special shape of the last and the long lacing from the toe. The sole often has a special climbing zone (climbe zone) with a smooth tread on the toe for better grip on the rock.
The most important criterion in footwear for high-altitude ascents is maximum thermal insulation. Shoes for climbing on eight-thousand meters can resist frost up to -60 degrees for some time! And they weigh very little. Often these shoes are also used for polar expeditions. It has a multi-layer construction and is usually made only of artificial materials.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND ADVISORS. Most beginners have more experienced and authoritative friends who are happy to help advise them in their choice of equipment. But often their advice is bland and categorical. Take it and that’s it! Why? Because it suited me, then you too will fit. That’s from such advisers is better to stay away. Only you know about the structure of your feet – the completeness, the height of lift, some individual features require to choose a comfortable, customized shoe. A literate salesman will certainly ask you questions about the characteristics of the structure of your feet and your preferences, and only then will help you with your choice. Even very good manufacturers have different lasts. You need to choose the one that is right for you. Choose your shoes carefully, they are usually bought for more than one year.
HIKING SHOES MUST BE MEASURED! Travel shoes need to be measured very carefully. You should do this at the end of the day, with swollen feet, and use hiking socks to try on. You should spend at least 10-15 minutes in laced-up shoes before you buy them. The shoes should “sit” on you and be comfortable right away. Do not expect that she “spreads” and “sits. If you are uncomfortable in the store, most likely later you will have problems.
SHOES AND INNOVATION. Choose shoes according to your criteria. Do not be fooled by trendy and bright designs and untested manufacturers. New, revolutionary models always run the risk of serious disappointment. Do you want to become a tester for the manufacturer of new ideas for your own money with unknown results? This is a dubious idea that I recommend discarding. Proven solutions won’t get you off the trail or get you in trouble with your health on a long hike. So be careful.
MEMBRANA. For high trekking shoes these days, membrane is something present “by default.” In 95% of cases, a membrane in a shoe is really worth recommending. Only better that it be a membrane from GORE-TEX or EVENT. But if you go to a VERY wet region, such as Norway or Kamchatka or somewhere else, where the rivers on the knee often cross, without taking off the boots and many times a day, that is, if you are guaranteed to get your feet wet many times during the hike, then you do not need a membrane! Choose boots without a membrane and with a smooth leather interior. Such shoes can be dried in a hike in contrast to the boots with a membrane, which you will still try to dry (including over a fire), and that way you just spoil. And remember – a membrane requires care and careful use.
PROTECTION. If you buy shoes for difficult hiking, it is worth looking at models with a continuous rubber protection on the bottom of the boot. This will significantly extend the life and protect your feet. It’s nice that the “rubber” has become a trend lately. For simple trekking and the city boot can be without additional protection.
TONGUE. When choosing, pay close attention to the design of the tongue. This is often an area for manufacturer innovation. They often try to experiment with the tongue and not always successfully. Do not fall for the marketing ploy! The tongue has to be comfortable from the start, it is a “risk area” and you must be very careful when trying it on. Many manufacturers offer the possibility to adjust the height of the tongue. This is quite handy. Make sure that the tongue does not cause discomfort – the best shoe is the one that after a few minutes you stop noticing on the foot.
I won’t write anything particularly new here. Keep your shoes as clean as possible, especially the inside. When hiking, use every opportunity to dry the shoe and take out the insole. Remember that even the most beautiful membrane “breathes” rather conditionally, and the feet sweat even in the most beautiful girls. From time to time treat the inside of the shoe with hygienic sprays, wipe with antibacterial wipes when you’re walking. Dry your shoes very carefully. Just in the shade in the wind or in the sun (but with feeling, don’t overheat). Try not to over-dry them or put them on a hot radiator. Many civilized shelters now install special dryers for shoes, as you can have your own, from ski boots. You can also stuff slightly damp shoes with paper overnight. If the shoes is just water (say, you fell into a creek), first wipe the inside with a hiking towel as thoroughly as possible, then tissues or toilet paper, only after that start drying. Sitting near a cozy fire, remember that synthetic is very bad to sparks and high temperatures. This is especially true for shoes with a membrane
Shoes “out of the box” usually have a water repellent impregnation (often referred to as DWR). Over time, it rubs off with various abrasives like dirt, washes off, and starts to get very wet. Even if there’s a membrane inside, it’s still unpleasant. So apply a water repellent coating yourself at home. The necessary products for this are sold at outfitters and online (be careful with the latter). There you should also buy the means for washing shoes (especially if shoes with a membrane). It is better to clean shoes by hand, the machine is not as effective.
Remember that trekking shoes is only part of the system, which also includes socks, leggings (or shoe covers), as well as crampons, trekking poles or ice axe (on climbs). Only a competent integrated use of hiking equipment will help you create maximum comfort when moving even on very rough terrain. Much also depends on your skills. To all a good choice and exciting trips! The road is a walker’s journey.
Guided by the advice of an experienced sales consultant, hiking friend or mountain teamleader. Be sure to measure before buying, try hiking with a variety of loads.
Trekking sneakers and boots are the main footwear; trekking sandals and “crocs” are auxiliary (for bivouac use and fords).
The design and fit of the shoe and its suitability for the intended conditions of use. There must be sufficient rigidity and bending strength of the sole. It is good if the sole bears the Vibram or MICHELIN logo.
The quality of materials and their durability.
For the fit of the foot in the shoe (size, fit, lacing).
Do not dry near a fire or with large temperature fluctuations.
Avoid storing in full sun, keep away from heat sources and at room temperature.
After hiking, remove dirt from boots with a normal brush and water.
Remove insoles when drying boots. Insoles should be dried separately, and the boot can be stuffed with newspapers and changed periodically – this will speed up the drying process from the inside.
It is advisable to use special impregnants, applying them correctly to the surface of the shoe
The author of the article: Sergey Lakhotsky