Over the years, the variety of hiking footwear has increased. There used to be a time when hikers only wear hiking boots while hiking. But as time passed, manufacturers introduced different types of hiking footwear for different hiking activities.
Hiking boots for rough, uneven terrain, hiking shoes to get a combination of comfort, support, and protection, approach shoes for approaches, trail runner shoes for trail running and so on. Although a lot of options are available, it also creates the hassle of which one to choose.
Needless to say, the hiking experience majorly depends on the type of hiking footwear you are choosing. The technical ground of each type of shoe is important to consider when you are choosing your hiking footwear.
Types of Hiking Footwear
Hiking boots have become off the list of many hikers because of heavyweight and bulky shoes. Because of the robust design, they might not offer the flexibility of movement. Yet, they offer the right amount of ankle support anyone needs when they have an injury or weak ankle.
Besides, their water-resistance functionality also provides the necessary support. The traction of their sole can provide you with the required amount of grip you need on the muddy surface or rocky trails.
The reason why many hikers have given up on their hiking boots is hiking shoes. Manufacturers have introduced some hiking shoes that provide the right amount of ankle support to avoid injury along with the flexibility of movement, lightweight, and stability.
The water-resistance functionality of this footwear is also something to consider. When hikers can get everything they need in hiking footwear while saving ounces, why would they opt for bulkier hiking boots?
Approach shoes are a relatively new product in the world of hiking footwear. Although these boots are a perfect choice for rocky mountain, uneven terrain, they cannot provide the grip hikers need on slippery, muddy surfaces. Therefore, it is best to choose these shoes where the hiking trail is rough, uneven, and rocky.
Recently, trail running shoes have become popular with thru-hikers for lightweight, fast and light hiking. The trail running shoes offer security, comfort, the flexibility of movement, support and traction.
But the ultra-light functionality of these shoes reduces their longevity. Besides, because of their breathability functionality, they lack water resistance. Therefore, choosing trail runners might cost you more than hiking boots or hiking shoes as you might need to buy two or three pairs of them each year.
Hybrid Hiking Shoes
Hybrid hiking shoes are a hybrid version of trail running shoes and hiking shoes. Although they are not a top choice by professional hikers, they gain popularity because of support, comfort, breathability, and lightweight. Fast and light hikers love to wear them.
Components of a Hiking Shoe
This portion of the footwear wraps the sides and the exterior portion of the foot. Usually, they are made of leather, the finest quality nubuck, featherlight synthetic waterproof fabrics.
The insole is a hidden layer located above the midsole and below the upper layer. The shape and size of the last base are precisely the same when an upper is molded into it.
The midsole are part of the upper-to-outsole component. As an additional factor, it has the effect of determining the stiffness. Stiff shoes might sound terrible, but they allow for more freedom of movement when hiking over rocky, uneven terrain.
Midsoles are made of ethylene-vinyl acetate or Nylon because both tend to be long-lived. Nylon is more rigid and more robust, making it a better choice for use in mountainous terrain.
Overall, EVA is significantly lighter and provides much more comfort. Some alpine models use ergonomic shapes with long-cushioning shock-absorbing midsole technology that offers a superior feeling of comfort and exceptional shock resistance for their steepness.
The outer portion of the sole remains in close contact with the ground. The traction and stability of the shoe depends on the design of this portion of a hiking shoe. Most exemplary quality rubber compounds are usually used to make this portion. The grooves on the tread designs provide the grip, traction, and stability support required on rocky, grassy, and muddy surfaces.
The patterns beneath the shoe decide the performance of the shoe. It's preferable to use large, narrow and shallow shaped lugs on terrains such as granite slabs or limestone because of the increased surface area over the rock.
How important is water resistance while choosing hiking footwear?
While some might argue about the waterproof capability of hiking footwear, it is important to keep in mind that the water-resistance functionality does not assure you that your feet would be dry.
While waterproof shoes might cross the stream, they lack air permeability. This means, even if hiking footwear is ideally water-resistant, your feet might get swampy or wet if the weather is in dry condition.
Some professional hikers prefer Gore-Tex version hiking boots and shoes. These hiking shoes have waterproof functionality and air permeable membrane to keep the feet of the user dry and comfortable. Moreover, these shoes are fast drying, making them the perfect choice for people who prefer waterproof functionality.
Not to mention, the water-resistance of a shoe provides extra warmth and comfort in cold conditions.
On the other hand, hiking footwear made of leather is also a good option if you are looking for water resistance. Although they lack breathability, they protect your feet from getting wet.
Therefore, we recommend you choose waterproof shoes when it is an absolute necessity to keep your feet dry, such as while hiking in a cold region or while hiking in winter.
How should your hiking shoes fit?
The most important thing about your hiking shoes is the fit. When you get your desired hiking footwear, make sure you have used it before you go on for hiking. Otherwise, it might cause you a blister, especially when it is a hiking boot.
Spend a lot of time while choosing your hiking shoes. It is better to visit the shop at the end of the day or after some activity. Because then your feet will swell a little.
When you slip your feet into the shoe, you should have enough room in the toe box arena. The sides of your forefoot should not feel crushed or pressed. But it should also not feel like your feet are floating into the shoe.
To measure the length of the hiking shoe, stand straight in the unlaced shoes, then gradually slide your foot ahead so that it touches the front portion of your shoes. You can try slipping your index finger in the middle of your heel and the heel of the shoe. If it does not feel too tight or too loose, you are good to go.
After you have laced your shoes, you should be comfortable enough that when you roll onto your shoe, your feet should not feel as if it is sliding ahead, and it should not touch the front of your shoe or boot. Besides, it should not be so tight that it stops circulation. The perfect fit of the shoe means it will be neither too tight nor too loose.
Loose-fitting shoes increase the risk of blisters. Blisters are the nightmares for any hiker. If the shoe does not fit appropriately, it might increase the danger of other injuries too.
If you have ordered the shoes online and do not fit well, take the hassle of giving them back. Because trust us, the hassle of returning the shoes is nothing compared to the sufferings, you might go through if they do not fit well.
It is always a good idea to search for brands that you have worn before.
Take Care of your Hiking Footwear:
You can increase the lifetime of your hiking shoes a lot if you take care of them properly. Since they go through a lot, you must take care of your shoes so they last longer. You will find a lot of care products for nubuck, total grain leather products, or suede. Clean them with warm water and a brush of soft bristle.
While drying your shoes, keep them away from sunlight. It is an excellent choice to dry your shoes slowly. Stuff your shoes with the paper if they are very wet. Keep changing the papers several times. Do not keep your shoes in confined and torrid places. Last but not least, do not keep them in close contact with extreme heat such as near an oven or campfire.
Choosing the best hiking shoes is extremely important as you won’t be buying them everyday. After you get the best hiking shoes, make sure to take care of them.
Resoling your shoes is always an excellent option to increase the lifespan of your shoes. Some brands have resole services. If your shoes have been resoled timely, you might save them from collapsing.