When you’re out on a hiking adventure, there's no surer path to blisters and discomfort than an ill-fitting pair of trekking boots. It’s of paramount importance both to your comfort and safety that you choose wisely. Here we run through the main types and what to look for when it’s time to choose.
Trekking boots offer adaptable protection and predominantly come in 3 main types. Tailored to terrain, surface, and conditions, each excels in a particular discipline.
With a low cut, hiking shoes are the optimal choice for day hiking. When the terrain is not so challenging and your load is light, they provide that lightweight solution for those who want to move fast in comfort.
With a mid to high cut, day trekking boots offer extra support for those who need to carry a load on shorter backpacking trips. Although they lack the ankle support of full-on backpacking boots, they still provide that all-day comfort and protection on terrain where backpacking boots aren’t merited.
Those who decide to venture on rougher more challenging terrain for days on end require the footwear solution to match. On multi-day trips with heavy loads, the ankle support offered by backpacking boots with their high cut is of paramount importance. They are designed as a durable solution to stand up to all that the most challenging terrain can throw your way. A quality pair have stiffer midsoles all in a lightweight design that provides that reassuring lightweight comfort to help ensure you navigate even the most challenging terrain with relative ease.
As the exterior structure of the boot, the material used in the uppers affects weight, breathability, durability and water resistance.
Full-grain leather is the most commonly used material. It offers a durable solution with excellent water resistance. However, when it comes to the all-important functions of breathability and weight, a material known as split-grain leather generally excels. Split-grain leather is combined with nylon for reduced weight and breathability.
Aside from leather, other common materials used in uppers are synthetic solutions such as polyester and nylon. Easily broken in and cheaper than leather, they provide a lightweight faster-drying alternative. The main disadvantage is that they wear much quicker than leather.
To increase water resistance many boots come with waterproof membranes such as Gore-Tex. They help with permeability and ensure your feet stay dry in the wet. This feature, while useful in wet climates will generally make your feet sweat more in warm summer weather due to reduced breathability.
The midsole is the layer between the inner and outer sole and is designed to absorb shock. The stiffness of a boot is directly related to the midsole. When it comes to long hikes on uneven terrain, a stiff boot is of paramount importance. On rocky terrain, a stiff boot will hold its shape thus allowing you to navigate it with relative ease.
Common materials used in midsoles are EVA — cheaper and lighter, but easily worn — and Polyurethane which is more durable and is the preferred option for extended trips.
The first thing most people check for in a trekking boot is the outsole. Rubber is generally always used for its durable high-grip properties. Lugs are patterned onto the outsole for improved grip on muddy trails. And for increased stability on steep descents, a heel brake helps prevent slipping.
A quest for a good pair of trekking boots starts with optimal fit. The best pair in the world won’t serve you if they don’t fit correctly. While everyone knows their size, there are several additional considerations to bear in mind to help ensure you choose the optimal boot.
Always try them on with the hiking socks you’ll wear while out on the trails. Generally thicker, they’ll give you a much better idea of just how well the boot will fit. If you wear orthotics, you should also place them inside when you try the boots for size.
Few people realise it, but your feet tend to swell ever so slightly as the day goes on. It’s always advisable to try boots on at the end of the day as the last thing you’ll want on a long day in the hills is boots that are slightly too small.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it’s imperative that you break your boots in before you hit the trails. This involves wearing them occasionally during every-day life for a week or two. Those who skip this all-important step and venture into the hills without having done it will generally find themselves combating blistered heels before long.
Armed with the aforementioned knowledge, why not take a look at our very own collection? At Decathlon, we stock an impressive range of trekking boots. In a variety of types tailored for a host of different activities, you’ll be sure to find the right pair for your chosen terrain no matter the conditions.