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 Living on the Road :: Articles :: Hiking Boots

my boots

Naturally, when bushwalking, you spend a lot of time on your feet. Not only that but you are often carrying 20-30 kgs extra weight so it's important to get the footwear right.

In this article we'll talk about boots and some of the issues in selecting an appropriate pair.

Types
There are basically three styles of boot or shoe people use,

  • Full leather boot
  • Leather/cordura boot
  • Running shoe

Full leather boots are my personal choice for colder climates. They provide good support and protection and, if suitably waxed, are fairly water proof. You can wade through puddles with impunity for a while, but after a few hours your feet do get wet and then it may be days before they dry properly.

Leather/cordura boots are very popular as they provide most of the benefits of full leather but, as the uppers are made from Cordura, they are lighter in weight and dry faster.

Running shoes are popular with many experienced walkers. Of course they provide no protection from water, but then they dry very quickly and are extremely light. Dunlop Volleys seem to be the shoe of choice here.

The problem I have with runners is that they do not isolate your feet from the ground. With an extra 20kgs on my back I don't want my feet bending around every rock I stand on.

Also, when rock hopping, you can jam your boot into a crack and a boot will support your entire weight, a runner will fold and your foot will have to take the strain.

For these reasons I won't discuss runners here, just be aware that they can be an option, especially in warmer climates and less severe walking conditions.

Price
Expect to pay two or three hundred dollars for a good pair of boots, don't skimp here. However it's how the boot fits is more important so, if the cheaper pair fit better, then they are better (for you).

Fit
This is the most important thing. Only buy boots from specialist bushwalking shops, they know (or should know) the issues involved. They should also have some heavy packs you can wear to simulate a typical walking load and a ramp to test the downhill aspects of the boot.

If your toes touch the front of the boot in the shop imagine what it's like after four hours walking down a steep mountain. I once had to complete a walk backwards as it was too painful when my toes touched the boots. Two week later I lost both big toe nails.

All manufacturers have different sizes and shapes, you must find the brand that fits you. I like Scarpas but they may be too wide and short for you.

Also remember to wear similar socks that you use when walking, most shops will have a sock bin for this purpose.

Construction
No matter what type of boot you choose it should go without saying that it must be well made.

Stitching should be double or even tripple. With full leather boots the upper should be made of one piece of leather, as every join makes the boots weaker and more prone to leaking. A boot that has a single piece upper has only one join (at the rear of the boot).

The tongue should also be a single piece but not a narrow strip as in normal shoes. It should be a wide folded piece of leather that is attached for the full length on both sides. This improves water proofness but, more importantly, stops grass seeds getting into the boot. Spend a day walking through grass that has gone to seed and you'll know what I mean.

Try before you buy
A reputable shop will allow you to take the boots home to try them out. As long as you only wear them inside you can return them.

This is not the same as a 20k walk in blistering heat but it is something.

Wearing in
Do not buy new boots the day before a long walk! Wear then at home (as above), then around the shops for late-night shopping, then to work for the day, then maybe for a short walk etc.

 

Well that's about it, as I have already stated it's very important that you get a pair of boots that are right for you.

Further reading? Both Wild and Outdoor Australia magazines evaluate equipment so see if you can get a copy that has a review of boots. But remember, reviews can only deal with generalities and point you in the right direction. The really important thing is how a boot fits your feet and you're the only one that can tell that.

Do your research and spend as much as you have to, you won't regret it.

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