When you decide to buy a new hiking boot you are really facing a myriad of possibilities. High, low, waterproof, more or less breathable shoes ... In short, the market really offers an endless choice. How can you then choose the ideal hiking boot? We’ll try to give you some useful suggestions to find the perfect mountain shoes to tackle any type of excursion.
Which hiking boots do I really need?
It may seem prosaic, but the first step is to really understand what our hiker needs are. To choose the ideal hiking boots, in fact, the use we want to do is essential. "Hiking shoe" is in fact a general concept behind which very different uses are concealed. Let's go see them together.
- Hiking: this definition comes directly from the English verb "to hike", which simply means walking. It mostly indicates a daily or short-duration excursion activity, mainly on unpaved and well-marked dirt roads. For this type of activity we often incur the mistake of wearing sneakers, which do not have a sole really suitable for supporting and protecting the foot during this type of excursion, which involves walking on more or less steep and bumpy terrain.
Precisely for this reason, a hiking shoe needs to be light but at the same time to guarantee stability and grip on rough terrain. It must also be resistant, to prevent the foot from suffering impacts or hits when walking on the path.
- Light hiking: always within daily activities, this category of shoes has greater cushioning and is aimed at those who walk in the mountains with light loads, therefore with an essential backpack that does not weigh on the lower limbs. The main feature of this kind of shoes is its lightness, which is accompanied by great flexibility, so as not to limit the movement of the foot during the activity.
- Approach: these are the "approach shoes" and originates from the need to have agile, precise and sturdy shoes to get closer to climbing routes, maybe even walking for a long time and facing passages on different terrain, from dirt to rock.
They come with a lacing extended to the tip, to adjust the fit according to the user’s needs, and a protective band on the toe. The front of this hiking shoe is also characterized by the presence of a climbing zone, specifically designed to enhance the grip of the foot on the rock. Furthermore, the sole material is designed to offer extra grip on various types of terrain.
- Backpacking: these are footwear suitable for multi-day treks and with heavy backpacks, even on challenging trails. The term derives evidently from the word "backpack" and clearly suggests the idea of a journey that involves carrying all the equipment on one’s shoulder.
The ideal shoe for this type of activity approaches the image of the classic boot that we all remember, but updated with all the new available technologies.
Thiskind of shoe is in fact more structured and more rigid, intending to offer greater support to the foot and protection in the event of bad weather and debris along the way, without however giving up the comfort necessary to tackle multi-day treks without problems.
- Mountain: this category includes the most technical mountain boots, designed for those approaching the world of mountaineering, climbing at high altitudes.
This mountain boot is designed to offer support and protection to the foot during the activity. The materials of the upper are anti-abrasion, just to resist rubbing against the rock, while the sole is characterized by a rigid and durable compound: in general, the different materials used to build a boot of this type are more resistant and more performing .
Furthermore, these boots are usually automatic - that is, they have a design that offers the best possible attack for ice crampons, with notches to house the front metal cage and the lever on the heel - or semi-automatic (i.e. they have the incision back but not at the tip and are less rigid than the automatic to ensure a certain sensitivity on the rock).
Finally, another aspect that characterizes this kind of mountain boots is the presence of insulating material that allows them to be used on ice and snow.
Once we have identified the kind of hiking shoe we need, we can start our own research. The best advice we can give you is to try on the shoes, keep them in the foot for a few minutes and walk into the store, in order to understand which one offers the best fit for you. Don't be afraid to ask the clerk for explanations or be afraid of wasting time: you are choosing your hiking boots, which will accompany you in the mountains and beyond.
In the next articles we will deepen the description of each of the categories listed above and we will give you some more explanations about technologies and peculiarities of each kind of shoe, in order to really have all the right information to choose the ideal hiking boots.