If you’re walking or hiking any significant distance, then proper footwear is the key to staying dry and comfortable. There are a range of elements which make the perfect boot, including weight, support, and material and, crucially, fit. Soggy feet, bruises or blisters will ruin any walking experience, so wearing the right footwear is a crucial part of a successful walking experience. There’s more to consider than simply whether walking or hiking boots are the most appropriate for the task in hand. At worst, the wrong boot could cut short a walking expedition.
Weight vs. Protection
For ease of walking, you should try to select the lightest possible boot you can, but rough terrain including rocks, mud, water and extreme temperatures could mean you have to invest in something made from more durable materials – inevitably increasing the weight.
As well as material, it’s also important that walking shoes give your feet the support and cushioning they need. Every pair of feet is unique, so the shape and type of shoe should be suitable for your feet.
Breaking Them In
When you get a new pair of hiking boots, they will usually need breaking in. This means that they soften over their initial period of wear, particularly in areas where feet and ankles bend and contract when walking. Especially when hard, durable materials are used, boots will need a breaking in period, so try to wear them around the house for a few hours before embarking on a serious walking expedition with a new pair of hiking boots. You could end up with severe blisters thanks to inflexible footwear.
Not only is it important to soften the hiking boot materials, but also to give your feet to get a chance to get used to the materials, and to toughen up in places where the walking boots are not-so-forgiving. Wearing them for short periods of time before any big trip should ensure a comfortable walking experience. There are shortcuts to breaking in walking and hiking boots, but breaking them in gently in this way will help them to last longer.
While most hiking boots are waterproof when sold, there is sometimes additional waterproofing that needs to be done, depending on the materials which the boots are made from. This is usually in the form of some rudimentary maintenance, so checking manufacturer’s recommendations is advised.
Leather will often require waterproofing using wax-based compounds. Nylon blended material usually requires silicone-based waterproofing substance which is applied through a spray. Many of the best types of waking and hiking boots consist of leather and fabrics, so both types of waterproofing will be needed.
A good pair of walking boots can last a long time, so it is worth taking the time and effort in selecting the right fit for your feet, breaking them in slowly and maintaining them with additional waterproofing if necessary. Once your boots are working in harmony with your feet, you will be ready to hike with the best of them.
Bill Weston writes on a number of subjects including walking boots, hiking boots and outdoor clothing.