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Last Updated: January 29th, 2020
They leave you with cold feet, peep toe, wet and muddy. Then what is all the fuss about hiking boots? Do they really improve hiking? Or is it just another hoax? Ah! that’s a tough one. In short, hiking boots improve hiking experience…end of story. This will not satisfy your skeptic’s heart, so let’s dig deeper.
How Do Hiking Boots Improve Hiking?
Trails are what I call dangerous beauty.
They have an uncanny ability to draw you to them and then punch you right on the face with rocks, roots, mud, water and more
Only if you fall down, otherwise your feet are her target.
Not only that, like the evil queen she also has some formidable pets like poisonous snakes, spider, scorpions or mountain lions and grizzly bears.
A hiking boot will protect your against these and will help you to run with all your load in case chased by the bigger and wilder ones
Enough of drama…let’s get back to reality…
Hiking boots can provide you with a lot of support when the ground under you is unruly.
They are made of such materials which can withstand a lot of adversities and can still stay intact.
Their heels are designed to absorb the shock from feet strike. The ankles are supported by the heel cup and they reduce shock on Achilles tendon
Additionally, the soles of the boots are so thick that you have very fewer chances of getting due to a sharp object piercing its sole.
Many of them such as Columbia Men’s Newton Ridge Plus Ii is waterproof and will keep your feet dry from rain, snow, and moisture
Which is safer Shoes Or Boots?
You can use them interchangeably. Safety will always be more in boots as they cover a larger surface area of your feet and legs
However, if you are in city, this extra protection may not necessary. So, it will be better to stick with your shoes.
On hikes though, it is better to go in boots.
How Many Miles Can You Get Out Of Hiking Boots?
How much effort are you willing to put to preserve them?
OK that’s not totally true. Primarily, they should be built to last. Otherwise your efforts will go in vain.
How to spot a long lasting boot?
I’ll cover this topic in much detail later in the post. But for the impatient ones, here are some highlights.
When picking up a new boot check its durability. Companies loves to show off this feature.
So, basically look out for terms like PU, abrasion resistant, TPU weilding.
PU or Polyurethane is a versatile synthetic material which is commonly used for cushioning and insulation.
They are highly abrasion resistant and are lightweight.
Hence, they are the preferred choice for the midsole providing you that plush and comfortable feeling.
Also, select boots which have a protective layer around the toe cap and the heels.
This extra measure will go a long way.
How to take care of your boot?
Now that you have a long lasting boot, maintain it properly and it will take you to many more adventures.
Caring for it starts after your adventure.
Gently brush off the dirt and debris or clean it with a cloth and some warm water.
It will increase the longevity of the boots.
Otherwise, moisture, salt, mud and other debris will dry out the shoe much faster and it will reach its expiration day much faster.
Different materials require different type of care.
For synthetic ones, using a stiff brush will do. You can also use warm water and a clean cloth
The leather ones are more hard to please. You would need leather cleaners and conditioners like Leather Honey Leather Conditioner
It will stop the leather from developing cracks over time.
How Long Will The Boots Lasts?
It is partially dependent on the care you provide to your boots but eventually they will reach expiry.
If your boots are made from long lasting materials and you have taken care of them properly, they will lasts at-least 600-700 miles but not more than 1000 miles
On the other hand, if you have lightweight boots, they should provide you with good protection till about 400-500 miles.
How to Break in Your Hiking Boots?
Your boots and your feet should blend together and work as one team. This will take some time and effort.
Some of the hiking shoes like these don’t require breaking in. However, others especially the leather ones, can take weeks (sometimes) to give a green signal.
Once you have a new pair of boots start using it little by little.
Start Slow and gradually challenge it
- Move around in the house – Before you take them on the trails, do its first trial run or a couple of trial runs in the home. Wear them inside the house and move around. Wear them in the same way you will wear in the trials to avoid surprises. The tongues should be straight, the lacing should be proper and you are good to go.
- Take it outside on the roads – Once you feel comfortable moving around in your boots, start wearing them outside. Walk around the blocks or to the grocery stores. Gradually, start building up the distance
- Hit the trails – By the time you hit the trails, you will be pretty comfortable with the shoes. Now its real test begins. If you and your boot survive your first adventure together then you are in for the long haul.
However, watch out for any kind of pain. If so try changing the lacing technique. Otherwise, you will have to get a replacement.
How To Select A Hiking Boot?
Now comes the exciting part I promised earlier….
When selecting a hiking boot you need to choose it based on three main things:
- Type of boots
- Materials Used
There are a lot of choices when you want to get some trail foot love. Here are some of them:
They generally have ultralight flexible midsoles and are like normal sneakers.
They doesn’t have the neck as in boots and are excellent for day hikes.
You can use your trail running shoes instead.
They are meant for day hikes and short backpacking trips.
They require minimal break-in time and are meant for light loads.
They lack the support and durability of high end boots and ranges from mid-to-high cut.
These are your traditional multi-day hiking boots. They can carry heavier loads and are high cuts.
They wrap around the ankle and protects it from shock. They provide excellent support, are very durable and have stiffer midsoles. Perfect for on and off trails.
There are so many different materials that are used in a boot that it can take a sepeate post altogether. If you are interested, let me know.
This is what protects your feet from water, mud, dust, etc. It can have variety of materials as listed below:
- Leather – They are generally heavier than synthetic types but are waterproof. They need a lot of break-in time. They mainly comes in three variety:
- Full-Grain Leather – Excellent durability, abrasion resistant, very good water proofing. Heavier than others and needs a lot of break-in time. They are not as breathable as the other types but are most suited for extended trip
- Split-Grain Leather – They are paired with nylon or nylon mesh and creates a lighter weight boot. It is a similar kind of leather used in cow hide work gloves and are cheaper than the full grain or top grain leather. Water proofing is less
- Nuback Leather – They are full grain leather which are buffed to look like suede. Durable and waterproof. This one also need a lot of break-in time
- Synthetic – Polyester, nylon and synthetic leather are part of this synthetic category. They are lighter, break-in more quickly and are cheaper than leather ones. However, they show signs of wear and tear early.
- Water proof membrane – This is an additional layer provided in the upper such as Gore-Tex® or eVent®. This keeps your feet dry during wet conditions. However, in summertime your feet may sweat more.
- Vegan – Boots made from vegan friendly materials
- Insulation – These are mainly present in mountaineering boots. They keep your feet warm in the snow.
This is what cushions your feet from the harshness of the terrain. It determines how much stiff a boot is.
They are mostly made up of EVA foam or PU (Polyurethane)
Although EVA is a tad more cushier than the PU but both the materials are very durable.
Other materials that provides internal support are Shanks and Plates
Shanks – They are 3-5 mm inserts which are placed in between the outsole and the midsole. This provides the weight bearing capacity to the boots
Plates – They are also another insert which is placed in between the midsole and outsole and beneath the shanks.
They protect the feet from getting bruised by roots or uneven rocks
The outsole is made of non-abrasive rubber. The amount of carbon present in them determines the hardness of the sole.
Generally mountaineering boots have more carbon to increase their durability.
Apart from this, you need to check:
- Lug Patterns – They are the protruded rubber formations on the outsole. They enhance the grip of the soil. Deeper and thicker lugs will give you more traction
- Heel Brake – These are clear heel zones that enhances your grip. They reduce the chance of slipping in case of steep descent
To select the right shoe for your feet you should always try them on in the evening. At that time your feet will be at it largest
So, the boots will fit you snugly throughout the day.
Also, if you are planning to wear any kind of gear inside your boots, bring them along when trying on your new boots. Same goes for socks as-well.
Spend time with the boots. Most of the boots need a lot of break-in time.
Ensure that you don’t take them to the woods right out of the box.
You will be in a lot of discomfort in your hike.
Also, learn to tie different knots. This can release considerable amount of stress from your feet.
Hiking boots have the capability to improve your hiking experience. However, to keep them up and running, you have to put in some effort.
Otherwise, be prepared to deal with peek-a-boo toe sooner than later.
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