Just recently finished a particularly challenging trek in Taiwan, which was a combination of all the elements: Hot, Cold, Wet, Dry, Flat Terrain, Steep Terrain, I was happy with my choice of boots that got me thru this 7 day challenging hike. As tough as it was, it could have been a lot worse with the wrong shoe. I thought it’s a good time to review some good shoe qualities for trekking in different terrain. Here are a few bullet points to consider…
Weight of your shoe: You would want your shoe to be light without compromising on the grip and support. Since you wont be carrying your shoe but wearing it, you can do with slightly heavy shoe unless you feel that the weight of the shoe will degrade your walking capacity on the trek. If you are expecting to carry a heavy load on your back while trekking, which you would ideally do, light shoes are not likely for you. In that case, you will need a high ankle trekking shoe ( generally called trekking boot ) with a good sole, and strong ankle and heel support. These kind of shoe are bit heavier but are ideally designed for treks in a rough terrain and lasts longer. A shoe gets heavier for the materials used to make it.
Ankle Protection: Ankle protection is must in the rough terrain. Ankle support is a very important safety feature. You do not want to return from a trek due to a painful twisted ankle. A better ankle protection should properly cover your ankle and provide support from heel up so that it restricts uncontrolled sideward feet movement inside your shoe. Mid cut and High Cut trekking shoes are the ones to talk about as they provide better support. High cut provides the maximum support and is ideal for a multiday trek. Mid cut too provides good support and can be considered depending on the terrain of your trek and the weight you will be carrying on your back.
Cushioning and Padding: A shoe needs to be comfortable and well padded. Each day you will be walking with it on rough terrains, with weight, for an average time of 5 – 6 hours. Further, if you are not carrying an extra camping shoe or a slip on slipper, you will have to be in your shoe for prolonged period of time. Considering these factors, you need a well padded shoe. A good padding will protect your heel, ankle foot base and make you forget about your shoe while trekking.
Insulation: Trekking usually involves venturing to the high altitude zones where you will experience different temperatures. Although you can increase the insulation by layering your socks but too many socks can make you uncomfortable and make your shoe feel tighter. Therefore, you would want your shoe also to provide some kind of insulation from the cold. Waterproofing ( discussed separately ) is a very important feature here. Different brands have different insulation technology.
Strength of Stitches: This is a self explanatory but an important feature to look for. With branded shoes, you can stay unworried on this. However, make sure that no stitches are present in the friction prone sections of the shoe as it may tear the stitches and damage your shoe rather quickly.
Size And Fit: In a trek, you should feel comfortable in your shoes. The size and fit plays an important role here. It also help keep blisters away. While trying your shoe, keep in mind that you will be sometimes using 2 layers of woolen socks to protect from cold. Few may wear even more. Your shoes should have that extra space for it. Its not at all a bad idea to carry 2 woolen socks to the store and try your shoes after wearing those. Also, make sure you keep some space for toe movement. Toe movement will not only keep you away from frost bite, but the air in the space will provide insulation as well to keep your feet warm. The extra space in toe will also protect from hurting your toe while descending. Generally it is advised to buy a size larger to accommodate space for socks and toe space. Hit the toe on the floor to check the impact on the toe, or if the store has a declined plane, test the toe fit by descending on it.
Water Proofing and Breatheability: Waterproof boot is vital for multiday treks where weather can be unpredictable. Ultimately there is still a good chance your boot will get wet, but waterproofed boots will help to keep most of the water outside the boot. Check for a boot that has the Gore-tex logo or tag on it. These are some of the better materials to ensure your boot is waterproof.
These are just a few points to consider when buying a trekking boot. It’s very important to wear them in first before starting the trek. Breaking in a boot on the trail can cause blisters more rapidly than a boot that is already broken in. If you have more questions, email us and we are happy to answer questions!