What Makes a Good Hiking Boot (Construction Explained)
It’s not just a case of finding the right style anymore. When buying walking boots there are several factors to take into account to make sure you get the perfect pair for you:
Did you know you can create a bespoke fit simply by adjusting your lacing technique?
More on that later. Let’s look at each segment to discover what makes a good hiking boot and how they can help improve your walking regime.
How to Get The Right Fit
Getting the right fit may seem simple enough but this in reality this does need quite a bit of thought. You will hopefully be wearing your boots for long periods of time and probably in some quite challenging situations. The fit and comfort of a walking boot can also depend whether you want to add extra insoles for extra comfort and stability, or you wear thick protective socks whilst out walking. So buying an extra size up could be a good investment.
Why Lacing Matters
A great idea is to adjust the lacing to give your feet extra room or tightness where they need it most. If you have wide feet for example, leaving “windows” in your lacing should allow extra room for your feet. You can read more about lacing by clicking here.
Why Do You Need Walking Boots?
Do you need general purpose walking boots or something a little more rugged and hard wearing for long and strenuous climbs? Will you need extra grip and waterproofing for wet areas or do you prefer good ventilation? For example a GORE-TEX membrane will provide you with some waterproofing and ventilation, but it will not give you complete protection from water. If that’s what you need you are probably better off buying boots that come with no ventilation and are made with a single or welded synthetic material.
These may be ideal for walking through streams but in reality most people will prefer boots that allow their feet to breathe and give some protection from wet grounds. If you are doing a lot of hill climbing you will need ankle support, great grip and a lacing technique that holds your heels in place to prevent rubbing. With general purpose walking boots you can happily choose a little of everything; ventilation, waterproofing, grip and good construction.
What’s The Best Material For Walking Boots?
Modern hiking boots come in either leather or synthetic material and each will give different benefits. With leather walking boots you no longer need to “wear them in” as in the past. Construction techniques have changed and this helps make leather boots instantly comfortable. The only real difference between synthetic and leather is in after care and weight. Usually leather boots will be heavier especially if they get wet but a lightweight sole may help reduce this weight somewhat.
The outsole of a walking boot is the rubber (usually) strip that runs the length of the boot between the decorative upper and the surface. The tread is incorporated into the outsole and the thickness will vary depending on the boots required usage. If you want mountain climbing boots the tread will have a better gripping pattern and flexibility, whereas if you simply want an everyday walking boot the tread will not be as advanced.
The midsole is buried inside your boot between the insole and outsole. It can give the boot flexibility, but its main purpose is to act as a shock absorber for your heels. With everyday walking shoes the midsole will be thinner and more flexible. If you require a toughened hiking boot the midsole will be thicker and more hard wearing. They are usually made from a composite of materials.
As the name suggests this is the soft bed between the hard midsole base and your feet. Buying additional insoles can make for a more comfortable walking experience but you will have to buy larger sized boots to accommodate the extra thickness. There are two main benefits of installing extra insoles and they are extra comfort and replaceability.
As the name suggests, this is everything on the outside above the outsole. It is generally where people start to look when buying walking boots. It is the pattern, colour and styling. Constructed out of either leather or synthetic materials it will add an awful lot of sway to the boots design and weight.
The liner is what makes the boot breathable, as in GORE-TEX liner. Whilst they add to the boots ability to repel water they can make them less breathable. If you want waterproof boots, the liner becomes essential but if you are a fair weather walker and want breathability, then choosing a boot without a liner will probably be best for you.
This is a rubber reinforcement around the edge of the boot. Its purpose is to guard against abrasion and protect the material between the sole and upper. It adds to the stiffness of a boot so is usually added to more technical or hard wearing boots.
The Toe Box
This hides inside the shoe and provides structure and protection to the toe area. Different designs will shape boots differently so it is worth trying several designs to get the right fit.
This adds support to your ankles and is usually quite stiff in construction but soft on the inside. For general walking boots the cuff should be quite flexible whereas for more technical hiking boots the cuff will be harder wearing and less flexible.