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When you’re getting ready to buy a pair of hiking boots, there’s a lot to consider in order to make sure the shoe has the features you need to get you where you want to go safely and comfortably. Different styles of hiking boots are necessary depending on the type of excursions you’re planning.
First, What Are Your Options? Currently, the 3 basic styles of hiking boots are:
Low Cut Hiking Shoes: Resembling a beefy sneaker, a low cut hiking shoe is great for many types of moderate hiking excursions. They can also be the perfect water hybrid shoe when made of quick-drying materials and they’ll also provide descent traction.Mid Cut Hiking Shoes: This style of hiking shoe falls right about mid ankle, providing more support than low cut hiking shoes, but allow for more ankle movement than hiking boots. They can be safely worn for some backpacking and most hiking trips.
Hiking Boots: Full height hiking boots are essential if you’re backpacking for any extended length of time or with a heavy load because of the support they provide for the ankle. A good quality hiking boot usually lasts a long time and provides excellent traction on most any terrain.
Now you know the basics about the different styles available, but, how do you know what style of hiking boot or shoe is right for you? Ask yourself the following questions about the ways in which you will typically use your hiking shoes, then, you’ll be able to choose the right style and qualities to create the perfect hiking footwear for your journey.
What Are You Planning to Carry?
If you’re planning to carry anything more than a day pack on the majority of your hikes, consider the weight of what you’ll have in your pack before choosing a pair of hiking boots or shoes.If you have a really heavy load, say 40 – 50 lbs or more, ankle support is essential. Some hikers find ankle support essential no matter what amount of weight they carry, but others feel that you can still have a safe and comfortable hike in mid-cut hiking shoes when you’re carrying around a 45 lb load or less. If you’re carrying less than 25 lbs, then you can also safely explore the available options in low cut hiking shoes.
Do You Want Your Hiking Shoes to be Waterproof or Quick Drying?
For many, the automatic response is “of course I want them to be waterproof”, but, if you get waterproof boots (usually made of Leather or Gore-Tex) wet above the ankle line, or the waterproof membrane becomes damaged your feet are usually soaked for awhile because these materials are heavy and take time to dry.
The alternative to a heavier waterproof hiking shoe or boot is a pair of hiking shoes made out of quick drying material. If you’re going to be faced with higher water (above the ankle) on a regular basis, your feet are going to be getting wet regardless, and a quick dry material may be of a greater advantage to you than a waterproof bootHowever, if you’re just puddle hopping or crossing low-level streams, for the most part, the water proof boot or shoe will get wet much less often than a quick drying one; which will get wet no matter the height of the stream, the dew, the mud, etc.
What Type of Terrain Will You Be Hiking On?
Do you normally hike semi-maintained trails in the town forest, or are you on a quest to climb all the 14ers in Colorado? The terrain is a very important aspect of picking the right hiking boot. You will obviously need more ankle support as the intensity of the terrain you’re hiking increases, but traction matters also.
If you encounter mud a lot in your area (or where you’re going) you’ll want to look for a tread that is soft and releases mud easily. An awesome hiking shoe with not so awesome treads quickly becomes a lead brick when hiking through the mud.
Also, if you end up hiking on terrain (like desert canyons or high mountain peaks) that is notoriously gravelly or filled with loose rocks, a step can easily become a slide and quality traction as well as ankle support is essential to help prevent this and keep your hike safe.
Within these main questions, you’ll also have to ask yourself what type of material you prefer for both the outside and inside of your boots, as well as color, and style. But, if you answer these basic questions before you purchase anything, you’ll be able to easily select the best hiking shoe or boot for your style of hiking. This way your hikes can be safe and enjoyable for both you and your feet!
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