Select the best hiking boot for your style of hiking. Learn how to choose the very best hiking shoes while avoiding the most common mistakes. Many hikers don’t realize how fundamental good hiking boots are to their hiking experience. The first thing to ask yourself, what is the intended purpose for these boots and what specific requirements need to be met to satisfy the desired purpose or usage.
There are a lot of ingredients that go into the building of a boot. The “LAST” is the molded base that all the rest of the boot materials are attached to in the form of materials, stitches, glue, leather, welting, sole etc. This produces a generic product meant for the general population. You may or may not meet the general population sizing estimate made by the shoe company, so one brand of boot in your size may fit while another manufacturers may not.
The technical aspects of boot building are difficult to understand considering all the different methods and materials involved. It’s much easier to stick with boots of good reputation and a proven track record that meet your criteria and just worry about proper fit.
Obviously you want it all; the best materials, workmanship, fit and all at a reasonable price. Unfortunately finding that perfect combination is difficult at best and almost always involves some sort of compromise when it comes to price and quality.
Proper Fit VS serious Foot Damage
Correct boot size, in my opinion is one of the most important aspects of selecting the proper hiking boot. We all have unique foot characteristics that must to be taken in consideration. I’d rather have a lesser quality hiking boot that fits and is comfortable rather than a better quality boot that doesn’t fit properly.
When you are young and resilient is hard to believe how your choice of footwear can affect the long term health of your feet. Wearing poor fitting, wrong size hiking boots and shoes during most of my lifetime, has left me with permanently damaged feet. I’m speaking of hammer toes, bad arches, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis and who knows what else. This results in a lot of unnecessary pain and discomfort that you can avoid.
This brings up the question how do I know if a new pair of hiking boots really fit? This has to be the most difficult part of the selection process for there are so many variables to consider. First go to a reputable shoe store that specializes in outdoor wear with trained professional staff who knows every aspect of fitting you with the right footwear. Here you will at least learn your actual foot size and any special foot needs you may have.p>
Inserts, Orthotics and other devices
After learning your special foot sizing and selecting the boot of your choice, it’s time to consider improvements to the standard insoles which can only be one size fits all at best. Here’s where the shoe professional comes in handy in recommending the one that will best suit you or if you will need them at all. Inserts such as superfeet and orthotics will provide the proper support for your particular needs.
Lightweight or Heavyweight
Heavyweight hiking boots are more suited for carrying heavy loads and create more work for the hiker do to the heavier weight and are somewhat clumsy. Middleweight boots are seen more as the standard of hiking boots and are pretty good all-around boots. Lightweight hiking shoes as they really should be called are more like reinforced tennis shoes and are only suitable for short hikes on good trails.
Most quality hiking boots have some degree of weather resistance; for no matter where you go, there is a good chance you will encounter rain, snow, wet ground and streams. Wet feet will add to your discomfort and don’t do the boot any good either. Since you can’t dictate the weather, it is better to be prepared with water-proof boots.
Most boot manufacturers offer suggestions and products to clean, maintain and condition their boots. There are a lot of aftermarket alternatives available too. Leaving mud and dirt on your boots for long periods acts like a drawing suave that leeches the oils out of the boots and can result in cracking shortened life. So always keep your boots clean and conditioned.
Solving Foot Problems
Most of the boots I’ve owned worked ok so I thought! It seemed normal to take long hikes and have sore feet at the end of the day. After many years of abusing my feet, I developed a serious case of plantar fasciitis. It was so painful that I could hardly walk, this got my attention fast. Being crippled was not an option so I began researching ways to alleviate this horrible problem.
Before you can correct a problem, you have to discover what is causing it. In my case old age played a part, not doing the runner’s stretch every day contributed and wearing the wrong type/size footwear sealed my fate. Also one foot was larger than the other and I have two hammer toes (caused by poor fitting footwear).
Not stretching allows the tissue that runs down the back of your leg to the heel on to tip your toes to tighten up and shorten causing the tears that occur at the bottom of the foot thus the pain. That is easy to remedy, just do daily stretching to condition those ligaments, this really helps! Once I learned of this exercise, it has become a part of my daily routine.
The next problem I solved by buying a pair of New Balance motion control walking shoes as my everyday footwear. These have been instrumental in the healing process and I will wear this type of shoe for the rest of my life. What really accelerated the process was my heel inserts by “Heel that pain”. I use three pairs; one in my everyday shoes, my hiking boots and even in my slippers.
In three weeks time I went from being mostly crippled to taking short hikes and was completely healed in a little over a month. It was as simple as identifying my needs and problems then solving them. This process also included a good quality insert for all my footwear too.
When I wear a quality pair of hiking shoes that properly fit, my feet are usually the only part of me that don’t hurt after a long days hike in rugged terrain.
Do your homework and get to know your feet before you go shopping for your next hiking boot.