“An army marches on its stomach.” But even a full stomach can not replace your feet!
The above quote has been attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte. Whether he actually said it or not, is not important. On the other hand, even if your stomach is full, without the proper foot protection, even an “army” can not march.
How Important Are Our Feet
Regardless of how careful we are when hiking or backpacking, accidents do happen. It can cripple a person in seconds. Not being able to walk can put a person at a huge disadvantage. Depending on the type of terrain you will be in, will depend on the type of hiking or backpacking boot that’s needed. Similarly, the weather needs to be taken into consideration.
For instance, will you be in warmer weather where little to no rain falls or in higher mountain terrains where you will be crossing streams, snow fields or creeks? Will it be a nice path, or rocky and uneven ground? All potential hiking conditions need to be considered when buying hiking/backpacking boots.
Once you’ve got it in mind about your hiking conditions, then you can shop for the proper boot. Keep in mind though, that hiking/backpacking boots can be a bit on the pricey side. But then again, how important are your feet and ankles? So in this situation, use balance. Compare prices, but try not to compromise what you will actually be needing in a good boot.
What To Look For In A Boot
First and foremost in choosing the right boot for you is…comfort. A good fit will give you ankle support if you lose your footing on loose rocks. A twisted ankle can really make for a very bad day! You should also have some “wiggle room” at the toe. A snug fit around your ankle (if you choose the high topped boot) will stop your foot from sliding into the toe area when walking down steeper slopes.
A good sturdy midsole support footbed will give you needed protection while walking over sharp rocks. A non-midsole support boot will allow twisting, plus you will “feel” the point of every rock you walk on.
On the other hand, if you are on a smooth path with little obstacles to traverse, then a nice comfortable low topped boot may be just the ticket for you. Textile types of boots can be broke in within just a few hours. Unlike leather or Gortex boots which may take several days to break in.
Be sure and consider the trail-running shoes/boots for those longer distant day hikes. They give the needed support but at the same time, are lightweight with a quick break-in time period.
A final note when choosing hiking/backpacking boots or shoes.
Wear hiking socks when testing the fit. Cotton gym socks are not designed for hiking/backpacking boots. Heavy wool socks are a good start. They not only allow your foot to “breathe” from perspiration, but will let you know if you have enough “wiggle room” for your toes. Comfort is first on the list.
Types Of Boots
Still confused? Let’s see if we can simplify this decision even more.
Trail walking shoes can be of lightweight material, and be either low or high topped. Depending on what you feel you need for your feet and ankle support. This type of footwear can be used during day walks while carrying a lightly filled backpack, and don’t forget considering the trail-running shoes.
Going out for a weekend backpacking trip?
Then the hiking boot would be more suitable for you. This sturdier footwear boot will give you the much needed ankle support along with the sole of your feet while carrying a light to medium weight backpack.
Many of these boots have built into them, a type of water resistance to keep your feet dry from wet grasses, muddy trails, or shallow creeks that you will undoubtedly be walking through.
For the more serious backpacker, a much sturdier boot will be needed.
These boots are usually waterproof as compared to water resistance. However, keep in mind that on some backpacker boots, the tongue may or may not be included in the water proofing. Be sure to check. Being designed for more rugged terrain, this boot will take much longer to break in. But remember, comfort is always first.
Each of the above mentioned type of footwear, should have a cushioned top around ankles.
Finally, for the professional, the mountaineering boot is a must!
Being much heavier in weight, waterproof, stiff midsole, tough and super durable, they’re designed to support feet and ankles while carrying very heavy loads. Once more, depending on where you intend to go, be sure and check with your boot manufacturer to see if they will accept any type of cramp-on’s.
All mountaineering boots will usually accept the the strap-on type of cramp-on’s. These consist of nylon web straps that can be adjusted to fit each boot style. Just be sure that the cramp-on’s center bar will fit at the flexing part of your boot/shoe if you are wearing the more flexible type.
Mountaineering boots with a minimum of 3/8″ welt (the groove around the boot) at the heel and toes, would be ideal for the step-in style of cramp-on. This style has a “wire bail” type of fit. You literally step into it, while the at the heel, a lever is clamped to the heel of the boot. Simply put, this is the quickest and easiest cramp-on to attach. Remember though, it’s not designed for medium or light weight boots.
A blend of the above two styles of crampons are what many call, the hybrid.
This style has both the heel lever and the strap for the toe of the boot. Since the toes are strapped in, there is no need for a welt. Being a blend of both, this hybrid crampon is compatible with almost all lightweight mountaineering boots and a number of backpacking boots. But be aware that they may not work for hiking boots/shoes.
Boot Fitting…What To Know
Stressing the importance of comfort, can not be understated. After all, if you purchase a boot, then realize that it is not right for you, most stores will not accept a returned boot that has been worn outside. A boot can be worn inside your home over a long period of time and still be able to be returned in good condition.
Wear the same type of socks that you will be using while hiking. Try on boots at the end of the day, not morning or midday. Why? Keep in mind that your feet swell some throughout the day, and later afternoon or early evenings are best for trying on boots.
Do you wear some type of shoe insert? Be sure and take it with you to use in each boot you try on.
Take your time with each boot you are considering. Sales staff, in many places, just want to make a quick sale, so don’t be pressured to make a quick decision. Walk around in the store for some time. Sit down, squat, rock back and forth on the balls of your feet a few times, along with lifting your feet up high. After all, you never know how high of a step you may have to make while backpacking.
If you should choose to not go into any store to try on boots, but would rather purchase from an online retailer, do some serious research on brand name boots. Read reviews about what others have said about certain brands. Or, on the other hand, perhaps, you’ve purchased a certain brand before, and want to stay with it. Then your shopping will become easy. All you need look for is style and perhaps price.
However, if you’ve never shopped online before, keep in mind that to have a proper fit, the best way is to measure your foot properly. Most shoe/boot stores have the needed equipment to do so. Knowing your foot size can make boot shopping a pleasant experience.
Lugs, Lacing Systems, And Materials…What Do I Need To Know? Click This Link
Have you had a hiking experience? Which boot would you recommend? Where did you hike?
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Written by : Tom McDaniel