Nobody wants to end up having sore, blistered feet after a long, supposedly enjoyable hike. This is why having the right type of walking boots is very important. But with the vast selection of footwear available now in the market, choosing the right pair can be confusing and even overwhelming.
So what do you need to look out for when boot shopping? Here are some practical tips to keep in mind.
This is the most important factor when choosing a pair of hiking boots. Everything else is secondary. If your boots are ill-fitting, you are more likely to develop foot injuries. You have to make sure that they are comfortable and in the right size. To ensure that your boots will fit well, check out these reminders.
Try them personally
Who doesn’t love the convenience of online shopping? While ordering your boots online is probably much faster and easier, going to a dedicated shoe shop will allow you to try on different pairs and compare how you feel in them.
If your only option is to order online, carefully check boot sizing guides to confirm you are ordering the right size. Once the boots arrive, try them on and walk with them around the house. Make sure there is a return policy in case the pair is too big or too small.
Bring along your socks
Part of having the perfect fit is bringing along the socks you usually wear when shopping. If you’re planning to buy new socks too, buy them before buying the boots. This way, you are sure that your socks are not too thin or too thick which will mess up the fit of the boots.
How the boots should feel
Your feet should be comfortable while walking. While the boots must fit snuggly, your toes should not feel scrunched up. There should be room for your toes to wiggle and they should not be touching the front end of the boots. To test this, you can try pushing your toes to the front end, if there is enough space to put your index finger at the back of the boot then that means that there’s enough wiggling room for your toes.
To ensure that they are not too big, your heel should not be rising up when walking. The boots should also be able to support your ankle and the boot tongue (the flap-like material under the laces) should not be loose. The weight of the boot should also be not too heavy for you to walk in, but sturdy enough to offer you adequate support.
The best time to shop
Always shop in the afternoon or evening time because your feet tend to swell later in the day. This will guarantee that the boots will not be too tight for you.
Break in your boots
You MUST avoid wearing brand-new, never-worn boots during a hiking trip. Break them in by wearing them for a few days. Wear them first inside the house to test them and when you are happy that you’re not going to be returning or exchanging them, using the boots during short outdoor walks is also a good idea.
Along with the right fit, function is also a very important factor when buying boots. This may be confusing especially for hiking newbies so here are some things to consider.
Where are you going to use them?
When you want to buy a pair of trainers, you can now choose depending on the sports you’re going to use them for running shoes, tennis shoes, football shoes, basketball shoes, etc. When buying hiking boots, you should also think the same way.
You can buy a different type of boot depending on the terrain you will be walking on. For well-marked paths, flat ground and long-distance walks, you can go for lightweight boots that are more flexible. However, for more challenging, rocky terrain – you might have to go for a pair that has stiffer soles. Depending on the brand and the model, you can choose the right style suited for a particular terrain.
When are you going to use them?
Your feet tend to swell and become bigger in warmer weather. What this means is that you should take this into consideration when buying your boots. You do not want to discover that your boots are too tight due to the change in climate. It is better to buy boots that are a bit bigger to fit you in warmer weather because you can always wear thicker socks or insoles in colder weather. It’s not possible to make a smaller boot bigger!
While you can choose to buy a different pair depending on the season, there are also boots that are designed for multiple seasons and terrain.
What type of material do you need?
In terms of material, the most common types are leather and synthetic. Boots made of synthetic fabric like Gore-Tex are typically more comfortable and flexible while leather boots tend to last much longer, even a lifetime. Once a pair of leather boots are well worn in, they are just as comfortable as any other type of Gore-Tex boot.
Whether going for leather or synthetic-made boots, make sure you choose a waterproof pair. Even leather boots are now lined with Gore-Tex fabric to make them waterproof and increase comfort and breathability.
3. Style and Price Point
While the style of the boot is not the priority, it will not hurt if you choose a pair that you personally like the look of. Everyone has individual preferences so as long as you’ve ticked all the boxes when it comes to fit & function, then you’re free to choose the design of your choice.
The last factor is price point. Should you go for the most expensive brand or a medium priced boot will suffice? While price is often a reflection of quality, this is not always the case. You can find reasonably priced boots that will last you a long time, too. The most expensive model is not always the right pair for you.
However, don’t scrimp on ‘fit and function’ the blisters will not be worth it…!!!