If you love hiking in the hills or the backcountry, choosing the right footwear is key for the best and most comfortable journey.
But before you lace up, it is important you know what boot is best for you. Here’s our Further Faster Guide on how to select the best hiking and tramping boot for you.
Types of Hiking Footwear
Hiking shoes: Hiking shoes are low-cut versions of hiking boots. I always imagine a hiking boot with the top chopped off! Hiking shoes are very grippy and more rigid than trail running shoes, but without the ankle support of a boot. A great example is the Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite Shoe. If you’re looking to go ultralight for long distances, or dislike boots, this could be the option for you!
Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite Shoe, a low cut but sturdy and strong sole!
Lightweight/Fast-packing Boots: These boots can range from a mid to high cut ankle support. This is a great option for people who want to go ultra lightweight, but are needing that support around the ankle. They are often on the flexy side, and are made of lightweight materials. Bonus-- they shouldn’t require much breaking in! An example of this is Altra's Olympus 5.0 Hike Mid GTX.
Traditional Hiking Boots: These boots are the real deal. These boots are ideal if you're carrying heavy loads for multiple days in the backcountry, on steep slopes, or in scree. The high-cut provides optimal ankle support, and they are made to be very durable through rough terrain. A great option, especially for wide feet, is the Scarpa Kailash Trek Womens Boot.
Scarpa Kailash Trek Womens Boot
Components to a Hiking boot
Leather: Leather boots are usually more durable and abrasion resistant than synthetic boots. They are the best option for any travel off track or into rugged terrain. Leather boots are generally heavier, and can take longer to break in. To extend the life of leather boots, be sure to condition regularly with Nikwax. A great leather Scarpa hiking boot is the Scarpa SL Active Boot.
Synthetic: Synthetic boots are made from a combination of polyester and nylon. They are usually lighter, quick drying, and break in easier than your traditional leather. The La Sportiva Trango Trk GTX is a perfect example of this. Often you can find vegan boots in this category.
La Sportiva Trango Trk GTX, a great synthetic hiking boot option.
Waterproofing: When considering buying a boot, a waterproof option can be great to keep the feet dry. Most boots and a few hiking shoes have a Gore-Tex® or equivalent waterproof membrane to them. However, waterproof membranes can reduce breathability and can make your feet sweaty on hot days. They also can take longer to dry after being soaked, such as in river crossings.
The Gore-Tex Symbol, look out for it if you want water-proof boots and shoes.
Vegan: Believe it or not there are vegan-friendly boots! These boots are made without any type of animal products, which appeals to many people.
Why is sizing so important? In my time working at Further Faster I have seen and heard of toes getting bruised and toenails coming off. YUCK! To avoid this, it is so important to make sure you are buying the correct size. At the end of the day, the most important element to a hiking boot or shoe is getting the correct fit.
There are a few sizing tests I recommend, but keep in mind different brands and fit differently. If possible, the best thing to do is come into the store and get fitted.
Test one: Finger space. Put your foot into the boot and lace it up well. Then stand up and push your foot all the way forward so your toes are touching the end of the boot. You should be able to slide your index finger down the back of your foot. You can also push your heel to the back of the boot, creating space at the front of the boot. Checking to see if there is a thumb/finger width of space (depending on the size of your thumbs!). If this is a challenge, the boot is too small; if too easy the boot is too large.
Test two: Inner sole. Another sizing test is to take your inner sole out of your boot and place it on the ground in front of you. Stand up and place your foot on the footbed. You’ll get a good visual of space, remembering the thumb width of space at the front.
Check to see if your boots are the correct size buy using the in-sole.
Socks: Make sure you are trying boots on with the same weight socks you like to tramp in. It can make a significant difference in the fit of the boot.
Orthotics/Footbed Inserts: Footbeds, such as the (Sidas) range, can be great for adding a bit of extra cushioning and arch support to a boot.
Width: We’ve covered the length of feet, but another thing to consider is your foot width. We have plenty of wide fitting boots on offer such as (Hoka, Scarpa and Altra). And on the other foot, we have narrow fitting boots including (La Sportiva and Salewa).
One last tip: Spend time in your boots. I highly recommend walking around home in your boots, walking up stairs and on different surfaces, just to get the feel of your boots before going on your hike.
To summarise, here are our top tips for how to choose the best hiking boots:
- Work out what terrain you will be mostly hiking, and pick the type of boot you will need; Leather, Synthetic, Hiking shoe or boot.
- Make sure you have the correct size, use your finger as a guide for extra space required in the boot.
- Ensure you try on boots with the same sock you will hike in.
- Use different footbeds to get a great comfy fit if required.
- Make sure the boots are wide enough.
- Test them out at home before hitting the trails.
Now you have more of an idea of what boot will best work for you. We can’t wait to see you in store or online, and if you have any more questions about boots, give us a call!
Written by Jayden Meads, adventure seeker and nature lover.