What Are The Best Boots For Trekking/Hiking?
Before I get into the technicalities of the best boot for trekking/mountaineering or hiking, I can already tell you which pair of boots is best for you:
The pair that is most comfortable!
There are hundreds of different brands for trekking boots but what matters most (apart from the technicalities/features of a good a boot) is that they are comfortable to your foot. Here’s an example: Christopher (my husband) bought his first pair of trekking boots at the beginning of 2018 for a Winter Skills Course we had booked in Scotland. They looked perfect, ticked all the technicality features of a good trekking/mountaineering boot and for the five minutes that he had them on in store, they felt comfortable. For the next few days, he wore them indoors* and realised how uncomfortable they were. There was just something not right with the sole of the boot; it was so hard that even after 30 minutes of walking in them you could feel your feet getting more and more sensitive to the hardness.
* Most companies will let you return them even if you’ve worn them a couple of days, provided they aren’t damaged/dirty in anyway. Testing your boots indoors on wooden floors, tiles or carpets gives you the freedom to get a good feel for them before you take them out onto the open road/dirt trails or to take them back to the store because they weren’t right for you.
So, we decided they weren’t for him and took them back to the store. He found another pair that he liked and he followed the same protocol of testing them at home before testing them outdoors. Thankfully, this pair ticked all the technicalities of a good boot and more importantly, the highest comfort level. Comfort is essential to your boot, if you’re not comfortable spending an hour in them at sea level, on even terrain then you are not going to be comfortable in them after a full days climb on uneven, rocky terrain high above sea level.
For boots – comfort is King
Now lets talk through the four most important technicalities and features of a good boot:
1. Proper stability and ankle support
A boot with a higher cuff (the part of the boot that rises above your anklebone) makes for a more stable and supportive boot. Some high cuffs are very rigid, which in my opinion may change your walking gait because they are so stiff. You want a boot with a higher cuff but that still allows a good range of movement and mobility without decreasing the stability and support.
If you want to test the boots stability then just squeeze the sides of the heel. Stable boots usually resist compression, as well as twisting while flexing the boot. Basically they should feel solid and sturdy, not bendy and supple like a pair of normal running shoes.
This is the bottom layer of your boot that comes into contact with the ground. Your boot should have a good tread on it, with lots of indentations that allow for good grip on the uneven, rough terrain you plan on climbing. Many trekking or mountaineering stores will have a steep platform for you to walk up and test the traction on. This is of course great, but just remember a store built platform is not the same as being on scree like steep slopes. So if they feel mediocre on the store built mini slope then they probably won’t suffice for your adventure.
To give you an idea, look at the tread of a trekking boot compared to the tread of a pair of flat pumps (ladies) or loafers (men) and you’ll see what a huge, huge difference it is.
Like my husbands first pair of trekking boots, everything else was great, except the cushioning. I don’t even think there was any cushioning in that boot! When you wear your boots, they should feel softish and cushioned inside. When you step on sharp stones, you shouldn’t feel it poke your foot through your tread and cushioning.
The boot must be waterproof at the very least, Goretex® at the very best. This will stop your feet from getting wet and the Goretex® will stop your feet from getting chilly if you’re climbing in strong winds. This is an absolute must. It’s not fun having to climb for hours on end in a wet boot, wet soaks and soggy feet.
If you find a boot that ticks all four technicalities and is comfortable in store and at home after a couple of days of testing then you’ve found the right boots for you. They may be the more expensive pair or they may be the cheaper pair, if possible, don’t be swayed too much by the price tag. Buy the boot that is super comfortable and ticks all four technicalities.