Guide to Good Hiking Boots
There are a few die-hards left who still swear that the sacred hills of Scotland are descrated by anything other than pure leather hiking boots, broken in in 1956 over a 4 year period, and kept waterproof by occasional dipping in goose fat.
There are also those of us who think that there’s way, way too much dickishness in hiking boots.
Boot tech has come a long way over the last few years, so while breaking in boots used to be a right-of-passage, now all you need to do is make sure that they’re appropriate for the terrain and fit you well.
There are three types of footwear you see out and about (if you ignore the blokes in £10 a pair trainers and a bottle of buckfast.) These are boots, lightweight boots and shoes.
Heavy Hiking boots
For boots, you can get these all the way up to the massive, clumpy leather-boys I mentioned above. But unless you’re going ice climbing and need to strap on some crampons, there’s really no point. They’re uncomfortable, difficult to walk in, and expensive.
Lightweight Hiking Boots
There are lightweight boots available, and some of these are very good. These are well-padded, often completely waterproof, and have massively gripply soles. Anything with a vibram sole is generally good here, but Salomon, Karrimor, Berghaus are all good. Well worth a look.
However, my personal favourites are hiking shoes. These are pretty much identical to the light weight boots, only shorter. As such they let your angle move around. Although this doesn’t sound like a good idea on rocky terrain, that’s one of the myths around hiking. High boots which restrict the movement of your ankle are essentially stopping it doing the job it was meant to do, stabilise you. If your ankle can’t stabilise you when you slip, you automatically go higher up your body. Think flailing arms, cries of “oh sh*t!” and big splashes. Also, because so much more of you is now moving faster than it should in the wrong direction, stop your fall can end up giving you a serious injury in it’s own right. Usually something like a shooting pain in the back follows.
So I’d seriously give hiking shoes a go first. Then if it’s not working out, go for lightweight boots.
And avoid hiking sandles if you’re actually going hiking. They’re not a good idea. Best keep these for trips to Waitrose.
Where to buy hiking footwear
The only thing to watch out for is buying these from specialist camping shops, as more than likely the prices will be much higher that elsewhere. This is partly to pay for the awkward sales staff hanging around being dudes and giving sometimes obvious, sometimes wrong advice, and partly because of the ‘survival chic’ lifestyle they’re offering. Fine if that’s your bag, but it’s not the only place to go.
When we buy hiking boots, it’s more than likely from the large sports warehouses where you’re left to your own devices. That let’s you try them on, walk about a bit in a self-conscious kind of way, then decide if they fit.
There’s also online, of course. Here you need to be prepared to send stuff back, but certainly in the UK we have great consumer protection that lets you do exactly that without quibble. So if you’re credit card balance can stand it, order a few pairs, trying them on, then return the ones you don’t need before the end-of-month statement comes in.
Just remember, though, for both the sports warehouse, the specialist shop and online, you won’t really know how a particular make and model will work out for you until you’ve walked a decent distance in you’re chosen terrain. It’ll also depend more on your personal feed admin (how and whether you bind up your toes with zinc oxide tape, put on vaseline, that sort of thing.) So be prepared to fine tune your boots, or bale on them and get a new pair if they really are eating your feet alive.