Once upon a time, walking was the only way to get from point A to point B if you didn’t have a horse. Sleeping outside was something you did either because barbarians burned down your hut or you were a soldier (a barbarian to your enemy) on the move. Then in the 18th Century, the Romantic Movement happened and everyone fell in love with nature.
In 1778, English Priest Thomas West popularized the idea of pleasure walking to enjoy the views of several lakes. Famous poets wrote about their hiking experiences. Then the Industrial Revolution happened and people had to live in cities. Many people came to see walking in the country as something you could do if you had a long holiday lined up.
Today, going on a walk out in the wild feels almost like a novelty. Once something everyone did, it’s now a hobby for the very adventurous. While it can be dangerous and there are many safety and etiquette rules you have to follow, it need not be painful. You can start with a good hiking boot.
Think about where you hike. Is it the woods? The mountains? Near rivers? That can affect your choice. Do you have foot problems such as fallen arches? That can also affect your choice of boot.
Types Of Hiking Boots
There are types of hiking you can take part in. There are different types of hiking boots tailored specifically to these activities. When you are selecting a hiking boot, keep in mind what kind of hiking you like to do.
- Hiking Shoes There are low-cut models that have flexible midsoles and are ideal for day hiking. Some backpackers who travel light might even opt for trail-running shoes to go on long-distance trips.
- Day Hiking Boots The day hiking boot can range from mid- to high-cut models. These types of boots are meant for day hikes or short backpacking journeys with light loads. They frequently bend easily and need only a little break-in time. However, they do not have the support and durability peculiar to stout backpacking boots.
- Backpacking Boots These types of boots are made to carry weightier loads on trips lasting several days deep into the backcountry. Many of them come with a high cut that wraps above the ankles for perfect security. They are not only durable but supportive and have stiffer midsoles than found on lighter footwear. Such boots are suited for travel on or off the trail.
These five hiking boots have been found to have superior performance particularly for hikers with fallen arches.
1. Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boot (Men / Women)
The up to date Quest 4D 2 GTX keeps up a remarkably stable grip with a more ergonomic tongue for the best in comfort. The laces stay better secured and the design details are refreshingly innovative.
This supportive yet lightweight boot gets inspiration from running shoe technology to offer stability and comfort while staying fairly light. What’s more, a high-top cuff and full waterproof bootie will see that you have protection all through the year.
Features and Benefits:
The 4D chassis provides the wearer with a double layer of cushioning plus stability and traction. The patented contra grip lends to geometry and density. The techno fabric and GORE-Tex make the boot both breathable and protective.
- The inserts are removable and replaceable.
- The break-in period is short.
- It is durable, waterproof, and comfortable.
- The lacing system is good, and the traction is excellent.
- The seams are a bit weak.
- The eyelets tend to snap off.
- The boot is a bit snug and would not suit someone with wide feet.
2. Oboz Bridger BDRY Hiking Boot (Men / Women)
The flagship mid hiker from Oboz provides superior support as well as durability and performance on the trail. This pride of the collection has defining qualities sure to impress anybody. It stands up to any condition, making it the perfect companion for the serious hiker.
Features and Benefits:
The high-density EVA sculpted arch supplies excellent support. The high-density EVA deep heel cup improves stability and support. The top layer wicks away moisture and adds to comfort levels. The nylon shank provides additional support between heel and forefoot. The unique B-Dry waterproof system lets sweat escape while keeping moisture out.
- The boots are waterproof yet breathable.
- The boots are very comfortable and lightweight.
- The boots are extremely durable and stable.
- The fit is true to size.
- There is no break-in period.
- The traction is excellent.
- The laces are slippery and won’t stay tied.
3. Vasque Inhaler II Gore-Tex Hiking Boot (Men / Women)
This breathable and lightweight shoe if a favorite for trail hiking. For people who like their hiking boots waterproof, versatile and comfortable. They are perfect for light hikes in dry, hot conditions.
Features and Benefits:
The flexible rubber sole provides both support and traction. It comes with breathable 3D mesh panels for comfort and low-friction lacing. The ventilation ports at the toe and heel aid in keeping the airflow high. The Vibram Pneumatic sole features Megagrip compound rubber for improved traction.
- The boot is lightweight.
- There is little to no break-in time.
- The boot is waterproof.
- It has superb breathability.
- The traction is excellent.
- The fit runs slightly small.
- Some wearers may notice some slippage.
4. Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boot (Men / Women)
Forgoing on ninety years now, LOWA boots have been lauded by mountaineers, climbers, and hikers as the very best outdoor boots in the world. Each LOWA boot is hand made in Europe, where they embody all the elements of mindful design plus superior materials, green manufacturing methods and fair standards of labor.
When you possess a pair of LOWAs, you can have the confidence that you are indeed wearing true outdoor footwear that will deliver what you were promised when it comes to performance, quality, and sustainability.
Features and Benefits:
The GORE-TEX lining makes for superior climate comfort and waterproof protection. The PU midsole provides both cushioning and shock absorption along with a full-length internal stabilizer. There is also a Vibram ‘Vialta’ outsole to improve the grip and shock absorption. The footbed is climate controlled.
- The boots are waterproof.
- There is no break-in period.
- The boots are very comfortable, well-insulated, extremely pliable, quite strong and dry.
- The lightweight boots provide a great fit.
- The lacing system is a bit off.
- The upper seams may not be to everyone’s liking.
5. Merrell Moab 2 Mid GTX Hiking Boot (Men / Women)
With this ventilated hiker you can experience comfort straight out of the box. With its hardy and tough synthetic leather, a supporting footbed plus Vibram traction all in one adaptable package, you will know why “Moab” stands for Mother Of All Boots. An excellent lightweight yet stable hiking boot, this could very well become your favorite.
Features and Benefits:
The bellowed and closed-cell foam tongue keeps out debris and moisture. The contoured footbed and zonal arch will support your heels and foot overall. The air cushion in the heel provides stability and absorbs shock. The GORE-TEX waterproof membrane is a great addition to the boot and offers excellent breathability. The EVA midsoles offer stability and comfort. The molded nylon arch shank provides even more stability. For a superior grip, Vibram TC5+ outsoles have a five-millimeter lug depth.
- No break-in period is required.
- They’re very light. There is plenty of ankle support.
- The insoles are removable and replaceable.
- They fit well and the toe box is fairly roomy.
- They are breathable and so are good for people whose feet sweat a lot.
- Some complained about the waterproof membrane performance.
- The lacing system is shoddy.
Hiking Boot Components
Understanding the anatomy of a hiking boot can help you in your purchase of a new pair.
Hiking Boot Uppers
The material a boot is made of has a big impact on a boot’s breathability, weight, durability, and water resistance.
- Full-grain leather: Full-grain leather gives the wearer ideal durability, abrasion resistance plus excellent water resistance. It is most ordinarily utilized in backpacking boots fabricated for long trips, heavy loads and rough terrain. It may not be as light or breathable as the nylon and split-grain leather fusions. A good amount of break-in time is necessary before beginning an extended trip.
- Split-grain leather: Split-grain leather is often paired with nylon or nylon mesh to construct a lightweight boot that has ideal breathability. Split-grain leather “splits away” the rough interior part of the cowhide from the smooth outer part. The benefit is the lower price. However, the trade-off is less resistance to water and abrasion, though many come with waterproof liners.
- Nubuck leather: Nubuck leather is essentially full-grain leather that has been buffed until it resembles suede. It is quite durable and repels both water and abrasion. It is also fairly pliant, yet it also requires a bit of time to break in before taking on an extended hike.
- Synthetics: Polyester, nylon and what is commonly known as “synthetic leather” are all frequently found in modern boots. They tend to be lighter than leather. They’re also more quickly broken in, dry faster and usually do not cost as much. The tradeoff is that they might show wear and tear sooner because of an abundance of stitching on the exterior of the boot.
- Waterproof membranes: Boots and shoes touted as “waterproof” feature uppers that are made with waterproof and breathable membranes such as the patented Gore-Tex® or eVent®. Such materials keep feet dry in damp conditions. The tradeoff is reduced breathability resulting from a membrane that may encourage feet to sweat on summer days. Compare this to the ventilating mesh that is used on some non-waterproof shoes.
- Vegan: Vegan-friendly hiking boots and shoes are fabricated without the use of ingredients or byproducts that come from animal sources such as wool or leather.
- Insulation: Synthetic insulation is added to many mountaineering boots for extra warmth while hiking on snow and ice.
Hiking Boot Midsoles
The midsole, which offers cushioning, protects feet from shock and for the most part determines a boot’s stiffness. Stiff boots may not sound like a pleasant idea, but for lengthy hikes on the stony, uneven ground they can mean a great amount of comfort and stability.
A stiff boot will not let your foot become exhausted and painful by bending to every rock, shell, tree root and bones of former hikers that you step on. The most ubiquitous materials used to make midsoles for hiking boots are EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) and polyurethane.
- EVA is a little cushier, more lightweight and less expensive. Midsoles use different densities of EVA to give firmer support where needed, such as around the forefoot.
- Polyurethane is for the most part firmer and more durable. Thus, it is generally found in extended backpacking and mountaineering boots.
Hiking Boot Internal Support
The interior makeup of a boot can affect its performance.
- Shanks: These three to five millimeter thick inserts are situated between a boot’s midsole and outsole to add load-bearing stiffness to the midsole. They come in different lengths. Some may be long enough to cover the entire length of the midsole. Some others may only cover half.
- Plates: These are thin, somewhat flexible inserts that are sandwiched between the midsole and the outsole and below the shank if at all included. They buffer the feet from getting bruised by protrusions such as roots or uneven rocks.
Hiking Boot Outsoles
Rubber is utilized in all hiking boot outsoles. Additional materials such as carbon are sometimes put in backpacking or mountaineering boots to boost firmness. A hard outsole increases durability yet can feel slippery if you go off-trail.
- Lug pattern: Lugs are bumps that give traction to the outsole. Deeper and thicker lugs are often used on backpacking and mountaineering boots to improve the grip. Widely spaced lugs provide superior traction and slough off the mud with ease.
- Heel brake: This is what to call the clearly defined heel zone that is different from the forefoot and arch. It lowers your chances of slipping up during steep descents.
Some Other Details To Keep In Mind
The comfort of your hiking boot largely depends on fit, however, the shoes also must have the precise shape and plenty of padding. To find the correct footwear, keep in mind the following principles concerning boot ergonomics.
Padding on the tongue should be adequate, yet somewhat stiff to better stave off the “cutting” feeling resulting from too tight laces. The more rigid the sole, the more padding the tongue should have to counteract the torque of a stiff sole.
Sad to say, many stiff-soled boots are stingy when it comes to tongue padding. The result is boots that become painful when walking steep hills or trekking downhill. Ankle padding on the inside is a well-concealed feature that’s crucial to your comfort as your ankle does not have any fatty skin layers but bends and folds thousands of times every day.
Be on the lookout for a secure fit about the heel and ankle to prevent the possibility of any excess movement. Do not forget to look for ample padding on each side of the joint to lessen chafing. Many trail blisters happen in the heel region largely because of poorly broken-in boots, heel lift from too rigid soles, or shoddily molded heel cups.
A bit of heel friction is inevitable, especially with stiffer boots, however, you can effortlessly prevent much of the discomfort by seeing to it that your boots are well broken in. Should discomfort persist, specialty outdoors retailers can make use of heat and pressure to mold boot heel cups for a more secure fit.
Opt for a model that is suitable for your most frequent type of use and terrain. If your travel style happens to be fairly eclectic, you may most likely be more satisfied in a boot that errs on the light side.
Preservation Tips To Make Your Boots Last Longer
If you would like your boots to be suited for many more years of hiking the trails, follow these tips:
- Continual waterproofing using wax or silicone treatments will soften the leather. Not only will this make your boots feel more comfortable, but it may even stretch them out a little.
- You should recondition your boots often and store them using boot trees.
- Crossing streams and walking in other wet conditions may aid in helping the boots conform to the shape of your feet, but water not only degrades leather but can lead to shrinkage.
- When you go on lengthy backpacking trips, remember to bring along waterproofing treatments. You will very likely take note of how much more supportive and supple your trail damaged boots feel after a good treatment.
Even when you have selected an ideally fitting pair of boots, the unfortunate fact of the hiking lifestyle is that from time to time you will likely experience some amount of foot discomfort. Here are some common foot problems hikers experience and how best to treat them.
Do you experience numbness? Boots that fit adequately in overall length yet have an excessive amount of interior volume for narrow feet result in you having to compensate by pulling the laces as tight as a hipster’s jeans. This can also result in painful pressure that becomes numbness on the instep.
Invest in adhesive-backed felt pads. You can find these in most upscale shoe stores. Simply attach the pads to the interior of the boot tongue. This situates your foot more comfortably in the boot and adds some cushioning to your instep. If this does not work, you may need to see a podiatrist for cortisone injections to relieve the inflammation. If you are diabetic and you feel any foot numbness, get medical attention right away.
Do you experience toe chop from cramped toes? When breaking in those heavy-duty all-leather boots, it can be annoying that as soon as the sole finally becomes pliant; the stiff leather uppers start to crease, cutting into your toes like Don Rickles into a heckler.
New boots, particularly mid to heavy-duty ones, frequently cause “toe chop” during the break-in period, when the leather is crinkling but not really bending. The most ideal way to keep this from happening it is to put on the boots for as many short hikes and walks around the neighborhood as you can before setting out on a long trip.
If, after you have exhausted all options, your toes still feel like they are under the guillotine, go see a shoe cobbler who may be able to mechanically bend the boot into a more supple and foot-friendly shape.
Is your sole (the one on your foot, silly!) extra sensitive? After a good number of miles under a heavy pack, your soles can feel achy and squished, particularly on the balls of your feet. The reason for this is the pressure from taking thousands of steps a day on hard surfaces.
Another factor leading to tender soles is insufficient padding of the boot insole. This problem becomes even more serious when the nerve that runs up the middle of the sole gets bigger (an ailment known as Morton’s neuroma) and leads to a burning or tingling sensation in the toes, generally the three middle ones.
When brand new, many boots do not have enough sole padding. Fortunately, you can obtain a plethora of replacement insoles providing varying thicknesses, materials, and sport-specific uses. It is vital that you have your new insoles with you when trying on boots.
Thus, you can see to it that there’s plenty of room inside the boot. If toe pinching comes to be a problem, bring the insoles to a professional boot fitter. This person will thin them out with a belt sander. Another solution is to utilize scissors to trim the insoles.
Do it in conservative 1/8 inch increments to prevent getting them too short until the fit is right. Orthotics also make things better. As your very last resort, consider surgery to remove the pinched nerve.
Do you have trouble with your toenails? After a week of constant hiking, your toenails could turn a cloudy black and blue like a crystal around some seriously bad mojo. (Seriously, don’t count on crystals for healing.)
The beating and stress from a long trek can make feet swell up and elongate. Thus, your toes end up battering the front of the boots. This problem can also come from poor fitting heel cups or untrimmed toenails, particularly on long downhill hikes. Many solutions are helpful. The easiest is to clip your toenails short. Plus, cinch those boots up snugly.
This way, your feet are secured in the rear of the heel cup. To provide your toes more room, string the eyelets on the toebox loosely or not at all. You may then triple twist the laces and pull them very tightly over your instep. A tongue pad may also aid in snugly fitting your foot into the heel cup of a too spacious boot. You may also try purchasing a boot half to a full size larger.
Do you get blisters? Blisters can bring down even the most experienced hiker, particularly in damp conditions where your feet soften. Blisters are the body’s natural reaction to friction. Heel blisters generally mean the heel cup is too wide. Blisters on top of your toes indicate that your boots are too long.
If blisters stick around well past an expected break-in period for new boots and you’ve worn the right kind of socks and you’ve put thin polypropylene liners under your wool or synthetic socks to help lessen friction and wick sweat away then it’s possibly time to get a footbed to replace the boot’s original insole.
A footbed will provide support for your foot in a natural position so it doesn’t fall and twist inside your boot. If you experience chronic blisters, you may benefit from custom made stiff orthotics. Such things are readily available by prescription from podiatrists.
Following hiking safety precautions can protect your feet as well as the rest of yourself. Hike in a group so you’ll have help if you get hurt. Know what your capabilities are and plan accordingly. Keep track of weather conditions and when the sun sets so you will not be hiking in dark or difficult conditions.
Keep yourself hydrated, but only drink water that you know is safe. Bring a cell phone, but remember to conserve the battery. You can program it with the number for your local DEC dispatch or call 911 if it’s a life or death emergency. And always remember the hiker’s creed; Leave only footprints, take only pictures, kill nothing but time.
Getting well-fitting hiking boots can be a difficult venture, but it need not be impossible. Just check the boot out thoroughly, find out what it’s made of. Think about what kind of terrain you like to hike over. If you have a problem with fallen arches, you may want to look into what kind of shanks and plates your boots have.
Consider everything inside and outside the boot before you buy it. Most foot problems can be fixed easily at home, generally by altering the boot. With this in mind, you can enjoy the breathtaking scenery while you get in some exercise.