So, you want to
explore the great outdoors! At My Shoe Outfitters we want
to do our part in making it possible for you to get out and
enjoy all your adventures, whether you are close to home or
on the road. But before you launch out on a hike, you need
the right gear for the occasion. Choosing the right hiking
boots or shoes requires just a little understanding about
some of the options that are available.
The first thing
you need to consider is the length of your hike. If you are
only taking day hikes (that is, any hike where you will not
camp overnight), then you may not need the most stiff or expensive
hiking boots. Many day hikers or slack packers prefer a lightweight,
breathable, non-waterproof boot or shoe, especially in the
hotter summer months for speed and agility. Some hikers may
even hike in a sneaker, but this is not recommended if the
trail is very rocky. Additionally, low hiking shoes can leave
your feet more vulnerable to dirt from the outside.
Those on longer
hikes (two nights or more) will probably need more of a substantial
boot, to protect your feet from rough trails. Most backpacking
or mountaineering boots will have a durable Vibram sole. You
also may want to consider a boot with a waterproof breathable
membrane, such as Gore-Tex or eVent. Some brands have their
own waterproofing systems (such as Keen Dry or Merrell Waterproof).
Gore-Tex is one of the best-known brands for making a boot
waterproof, yet breathable. They generally guarantee a boot
will be waterproof for one year from the date of purchase
(although this doesn't cover abuse, only normal wear and tear).
If a hiker's feet
get wet, this can not only be uncomfortable, but painful.
Gore-Tex makes a membrane that is manufactured inside of the
boot, and it keeps water from the outside from coming in,
but wicks moisture from inside the boot to the outside so
it can evaporate. Wet feet can lead to abrasions and blisters
from rubbing against the inside of your boots. If you are
on a short hike and in dry conditions, breathability may be
more of an issue than keeping your feet dry. If this is the
case, then you may want a boot that is well ventilated yet
not necessarily waterproof.
An important consideration
with more substantial hiking boots is break-in time. Don't
take them out for a multiple day hike before breaking them
in around town first. You may be okay hiking in a new boot
for a few hours, but longer durations, combined with the rigors
of the trail, can result in blistering and down time and believe
us, it isn't comfortable.
Getting the most
for your money means that durability is a factor. The Vibram
brand didn't just create FiveFingers barefoot performance
footwear, they have been around since 1936 building soles
and eventually providing durable soles for brands such as
Merrell, Vasque, Timberland, Lowa, New Balance and more. Their
branding is clearly printed with their yellow logo on any
sole they have created. They have a reputation of being the
longest lasting, most comfortable, and shock absorbing of
any outsole on the market.
Comfort is one
of the most important factors in your choice. It doesn't matter
what components a boot has, how much it costs, or what size
you seem to be, if the boot isn't comfortable the first time
you wear it, don't buy it! This is why there are so many footwear
companies, building different types of hiking boots, because
not everyone's foot is the same. Fit can be complex, and involves
more than just the length of your foot. Even sizing can vary
between companies. Your toes should be able to move freely
inside the boots, if they are constrained at all, you need
a bigger size. Regarding width, your feet should not be cramped,
but snug and not sloppy. The arch in the boot should match
the arch in your foot or you will be very uncomfortable!
The Keen brand
of footwear tends to fit people with wider feet better, so
if you have a wide foot, try on a pair of Keens. If you have
a more narrow foot, you may find that European brands like
Lowa or American companies like Timberland or New Balance
would fit better. Merrell footwear tends to fit a wide variety
of people and is famous for "out of the box comfort".
Finally, it is
our recommendation that you also wear a merino wool sock,
such as Smartwool or Darn Tough Vermont. There are other brands
as well, but wool is important because it doesn't retain water
from perspiration, as cotton does, due to its natural wicking
potential. Merino wool is comfortable and non itchy. It is
a four season insulator from both heat and cold and it provides
cushioning from the pounding you encounter on the trails.
As always, if you
need help finding a hiking boot or shoe, please write to us
and we will be happy to help you figure out what would work
best for you!