As I mentioned last week, one of the key pieces of gear that I need to pick up is new hiking boots. This past weekend I spent some time at a couple of stores trying on a variety of boots and having conversations with some boot experts and reading enough reviews to make my eyes bleed. Pretty much it seems as though there’s an infinite amount of combinations of types, styles, features and sizes when it comes to boots*.
While that may be the case, I am focused on three things:
- Lightweight: I really hate shoes (I wear sandals all year round including everyday during the winter). So i dislike the feeling of having huge bricks on my feet. This is particularly important when looking at challenging terrain that we have to move quickly across. I want to be as light on my feet as possible and not worry about dragging around boat anchors.
- Breathable: I am blessed with pretty good circulation. As a result my hands and feet don’t often get cold and when hiking, my feet are often pretty hot while moving. During the summer this is even more clear. The problem is that hot feet means sweat. Sweat means moisture Moisture means that your feet are sliding around and you are more susceptible to hot spots and blisters. Not to mention the stinkfest that starts to happen. Breathable boots allow better ventilation** which helps prevent the buildup of excess moisture which will then help mitigate all the above.
- Support: I have pretty strong ankles and legs so I am not overly concerned about having super large trekking hiking boots for day hikes. However I also know that I need to be mindful of being on my feet in rough terrain for many, many miles and ridiculous elevation gains. And oh yeah, I’m a Sasquatch so they need to be able to handle a large load. This means, sadly, that my day-to-day Birks aren’t going to cut it.
So ultimately it is about finding the boot that has the right combination of the above characteristics and most importantly above all else: fit. You can have the fanciest features in the world, but if the boots don’t fit and support your foot well, you run the risk of having a miserable experience on the trail and potentially even serious injury.
Over the course of the next week, I will provide feedback on the boots I’ve tried so far and where I go from here.
*I am not going to spend a lot of time on a “how-to” guide for choosing hiking boots. There is just far too much information and a quick Google search will lead you to many guides already. As a recommended starting point check out Backpacker’s intro guide to footwear which can be found: here
**A unique challenge with breathability is the waterproof boots. The great thing about waterproof membranes (Gore-Tex, eVent, et al) is that they keep the water out, but they also restricts the airflow out through the fabric. This is true of any waterproof membrane for any article of clothing – pants, jackets, sleeping bags, hats, etc. Over the past couple of years there have been incredible strides made in the technology surrounding breathability and waterproof fabrics. However, I am toying with the idea of forsaking waterproofing for my summer hiking boots as it is not as much of a concern – as long as they fit properly, of course.