Guest Author - Gregory A. Kompes
Thereís nothing worse than finding yourself with blisters or black and blue toes during or after a day of hiking. Choosing the right pair of boots and properly breaking them in is the key to avoiding painful feet, not to mention the possibility of causing long-term foot problems. To prevent this pain, you have a few decisions to make.
First, what style will you choose? There are four main types of boots to choose from: Lightweight Hiking Shoes, Hiking Boots, Backpacker Boots, and Mountain Boots. Which of these you select is determined by the type of hiking you expect to do. If itís even, well tramped trails, choose shoes. Day trippers often select hiking boots. If youíre carrying a heavy backpack, youíll want bulkier backpacker boots that offer support and better balance. And, finally, if youíll be working up and down serious mountains, mountain boots are an excellent pick.
Second, what cut of boot is best for you? Do you want a low cut boot for ease of motion? Or, is a high cut boot that keeps your ankles supported at all times better for you? They also make a mid-cut boot that offers easier range of motion and some ankle support.
Finally, the conditions you expect to hike in will help you determine the boot construction materials youíll choose. Will you be hiking in the deserts of Nevada or the forests of Washington? Will it be raining, snowing, or sun baked? Based on the conditions youíll want to take time to understand your bootís construction. The upper boot portions come in leather, cloth, waterproof, synthetics, or a combination of them all. Soles are many layers and combinations of materials. Different polymers and rubbers offer varied levels of comfort, support, protection from the elements, and moisture wick-ability.
Of course, choosing the type, cut, and materials doesnít compare to trying boots on and hiking in them. Hereís some advice to get the most out of your shopping trip.
1. Select boots that are a half-size to full-size bigger than you normally wear. The reason? While hiking all day, your feet will swell. And, if you do develop a blister or ailment, youíll want room inside your boots to accommodate bandages, sock liners, etc.
2. Try on both the left and the right boots at the same time while wearing hiking socks, not cotton socks. If youíll be hiking in humid regions, consider sock liners, too. Theyíll help you keep your feet dry, which is essential to healthy, pain free hikes.
3. Donít just walk a few steps and take them off. Walk around the store, continue shopping, and go up and down stairs if you can.
4. If buying mountaineering boots, be sure the place your in has a rock wall or other climbing simulation opportunity.
5. If youíll be backpacking, try on a weighted pack and wear that as you audition your new boots. We walk differently with weight on our back.
6. Ask about the storeís return policy. Itís important if you get out and hike with your new boots that if they donít fit you can return them.
Start your boot search at REI today!