Hiking boots are a type of footwear specifically designed
for protecting the feet and ankles during outdoor walking activities such as
hiking. Hiking is the preferred term, in Canada and the
United States, for a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails (footpaths), in the
countryside, while the word walking is used for shorter, particularly urban
walks. On the other hand, in the United Kingdom, and the Republic of
Ireland, the term walking is acceptable to describe all forms of walking,
whether it is a walk in the park or backpacking in the Alps.
The hiking boot is possibly one of the
most important items of hiking gear, since their quality and durability can
determine a hiker's ability to walk long distances without injury. Most
hiking boots are also designed for other outdoor activities such as backpacking,
climbing, mountaineering, and hunting.
Hiking boots are constructed to provide comfort
for walking considerable distance over rough terrain. Boots that protect the
hiker's feet, heel, and ankles are recommended. Hiking boots give ankle
support and are fairly stiff; the stiffness can vary by design, materials, and
purpose of the footwear. Specialty hiking boots may have varying degrees
of stiffness so that they are more appropriate for particular hiking conditions
or activity planned by the hikers.
Hiking socks that wick sweat from the feet, provide
warmth, and cushion the feet are recommended and a thin, inner sock may also
help. Traveling with a good pair of socks is
also an important aspect of hiking. We are definitely not suggesting that
you walk with wet socks. However, if you think you will be getting wet,
keep in mind that wool socks can maintain heat even when wet.
There are a few primary types of hiking footwear.
Obviously, you can technically wear any type of shoe for walking, but these are
the most common for trail adventures.
Trail shoes are made for hiking in dry
climates, on well-established, less rugged or rocky paths. They are suitable for
many types of day hikes. These can also be called hiking shoes or day
Trail hikers are for steeper inclines
and muddy paths. They are used where a lightweight boot is most suitable. Trail
hikers are also sturdy, higher-cut, and watertight. These boots provide more
stability and ankle protection against protruding limbs and rocks than hiking
Mountain walking or hiking boots
are designed for mountain and hill walking, backpacking and mountaineering.
Mountaineering boots are typically designed to be used with crampons. To achieve
compatibility with crampons, welts are moulded into the toe and heel of the
boot, providing a platform for the crampon to attach to. The stiffness of the
boot enhances the precision of the crampon and allows a climber to pursue
steeper and more difficult terrain. Crampons can be attached to them for a
better grip on glaciers or hard-packed snow. They are extremely strong, durable,
and have stiff soles to give the ankles support and protection on difficult
rocky trails. Mountaineering boots are usually taller and stiffer than hiking
boots, providing insulation as well as support and protection.
Another important aspect of mountaineering boots is warmth. To prevent frostbite
in extreme cold conditions, synthetic insulation is incorporated into the boot.
Lighter weight boots are classified as single boots. These single boots are
insulated as a single unit with the insulation being permanently attached to the
rest of the boot. Double boots, another classification, typically consist of a
non-insulated leather or plastic outer shell with a removable insulated liner.
The purpose of a double boot is long-term protection from cold weather. If the
liner becomes wet, it can be removed from the shell and dried inside a sleeping
It is important to note that some brands or retailers may
use different terminology to describe the footwear. You should really
consult with the retailer if you have any questions before making a purchase.
For example, you can learn about
hiking boots from REI.
Construction of Hiking Boots: below are
the primary parts used to manufacturer this kind of footwear. The
following are common components, but each of these are NOT on every pair of
shoes you will find in the market. You would have to check the specific
boot to determine its features.
Insoles / Footbeds - Insoles are the
bottom part of the inner that the feet rest on. Insoles that are perfectly
shaped to the hiker's feet will ensure maximum support and balance. The
insole is the interior bottom of a shoe, which sits directly beneath the foot
under the footbed (also known as sock liner). The purpose of insole is to attach
to the lasting margin of the upper, which is wrapped around the last during the
closing of the shoe during the lasting operation.
Soles - Hiking boots have deep-lugged
soles of tough rubber to provide friction and avoid slipping on any surfaces.
Soles absorb and redirect shocks, and provides cushion for the feet.
Tongues - The flaps that cover the inlet
of the upper are called tongues. This is the part the goes underneath the laces.
Tongues make sure that water, dirt and debris will not enter the boots.
Upper - The upper part of a hiking boot
is intended to protect and support the foot with an all-over snug fit. Uppers
should be water repellant/proof, but allow the feet to breathe to prevent excess
moisture from causing blisters and other discomfort.
Linings and Paddings - Linings and
paddings provide more protection and comfort for the feet.
The stiff plastic or metal plates built into the sole. Boots are made with full,
three-quarter, or half-length shanks. Longer shanks make for stiffer boots. In a
boot or shoe, the shank is a part of the supportive structure between the insole
and outsole. The presence of a shank is crucial to the functionality of
mountaineering boots as they diminish the load incurred by the wearer’s feet and
calves over the course of an ascent. Traditionally constructed of steel,
contemporary shanks are more commonly made up of less heat conductive but
equally rigid options such as fiberglass and Kevlar. The rigid nature of these
materials contributes a protective element to the footwear into which they are
integrated, helping shield the wearer’s feet from puncture wounds and stone
Scree Collars - Protects the Achilles
tendon and ankle from chafing.
Crampon Connections - Crampons are worn
on boots to provide traction on snow and ice.
We hope that this helps you better understand proper
footwear for your outdoor trail walking adventures.
Learn about other
types of shoes
such as snow boots and
Here are a few places that we recommend you research if you
are planning to purchase hiking boots.
Dick's Sporting Goods
You may want to also visit our
men's hiking boots guide.
Fashion Products G-L
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