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Choosing and Fitting Hiking Boots

[ 0 ] 20 November 2012 |

Welcome to our blog on choosing and fitting hiking boots, here, we shall attempt to show the difference between each type of hiking boot and distinguish which pair is the best for you. Also, we will show you how to fit your boots so that you avoid those pesky blisters that ruin your walking experience.

Choosing the right pair of Hiking Boots

Why do you need Hiking Boots?

It all depends on the type of outdoor activity you intend to undertake, if you are going hill walking or just walking the dog, a decent pair of walking boots will improve your experience as they add extra protection to your feet, keep your feet warm and dry and also ensure you do not strain or twist your ankle. It’s no good turning up to do the three peaks in a pair of Reebok Classics; you need to be prepared and ready for your hiking trip.

What types of Boots are there?

There are many different types of hiking boot available, be sure to study each style to determine which best suits your walking needs.

Hill Walking Boots

A pair of hillwalking boots should be comfortable, hard wearing and durable. Traditionally, this type of product should be used for hill walking, fell walking or hiking in wet and muddy conditions.

Leather Hiking Boots

Leather walking boots are more durable as opposed to fabric boots; they also offer greater support and stability around the ankle. Leather is also more naturally waterproof providing additional protection from the elements. However, the disadvantage of leather boots is that they can make your feet too hot in summer conditions. Additionally, they can be heavier meaning your feet will tire quicker. Lightweight leather boots are also available too but they are not as durable and can be more expensive.

Fabric Hiking Boots

Fabric boots are great for the summer months, as they will allow your feet to breathe more easily. Additionally, fabric-walking boots tend to be a bit lighter and more comfortable meaning they are easier to ‘break in’. However, fabric boots lack the durability of leather boots and will wear down faster.

Most serious walkers tend to have two pairs of boots, a lighter pair for the summer and a three-season boot for the rest of the year.

Mountain Hiking Boots

Whether it’s a hiking trip to the Scottish Highlands or the Alps, you may want to consider the benefits of mountain boots. Mountain boots are much tougher than hiking boots and offer additional protection from the elements to ensure your feet are protected from the rockier terrains. The ankles will be very high on mountain hiking boots to ensure you do not damage your ankles on inclines and declines. Some mountain boots may also be insulated to offer warmth in minus degree conditions. For serious mountain hiking, it may be necessary to fit crampons onto your boots.

Leather Mountain Boots offer the best support and durability whilst being naturally breathable. Some more traditional designs may be heavier in weight, though the more modern styles tend to be quite lightweight despite the bulkiness of the mountain boot. Always ensure your mountain boot has some form of waterproof lining, which will provide protection from the water and stop your feet getting wet. The lining also needs to be breathable to ensure your feet do not sweat too much, most linings will wick the perspiration away from your feet to ensure your feet don’t smell too bad after a long hike!

Plastic Mountain Boots tend to be less waterproof and breathable when compared with leather boots. However, plastic can be a warmer component to ensure your feet remain toasty warm. In our opinion, if you are climbing a mountain, you might not want to cost cut in this area and go for leather mountain boots, if you want to make it back down the mountain that is.

Crampon Compatibility – is your mountain boot crampon compatible? Look for the grooves in the heel and toe areas of the boot. Check out this highly confusing guide below that relates to the crampon flexibility of each hiking boot.

Boot Rating Crampon Rating Explained (as best I can)
B0 N/A Flexible walking boots that are not compatible with any crampon
B1 C1 Only Hard wearing boots, which are suitable for C1 crampons.
B2 C1 & C2 This type of mountain boots is very stiff and can be used with C1 & C2
B3 C1, C2 &C3 This type of walking boot can use any type of crampon.


Crampon Rating Guidelines
C1 Articulated or flexible crampons attached with straps. This crampon usually has 10 points, 8 at the back and 2 at the front.
C2 Step in crampons (articulate or flexible), which are attached with a heel clip and a toe strap. Usually has 12 points of attachment making it more secure.
C3 Fully rigid crampons offer excellent stability, the best choice for enjoyable climbing experiences. Usually equipped with 12 or more points for secure attachment.


Tips for Purchasing the Right Crampon

  1. Take your hiking boots with you to ensure you can test the fitting of the crampon.
  2. Check the heel straps are wide enough for your boots.
  3. Check any step in crampon to ensure it fits into the grooves on your boot and attaches securely.
  4. Ask for help in store to ensure you get the best advice.

Low Cut Boots

Low cut walking boots or shoes are more ideal for urban walking or low level walking. There is no ankle support on low cut boots, which makes them less ideal for hill walking and fell walking.

Waterproof Lining Technologies

Isotex 5000 A basic waterproof and breathable lining
Isotex 8000 A more advanced waterproof and breathable lining
Gore Tex The walker’s choice of waterproof and breathable lining
Gore Tex XCR Designed to be extra breathable, the Gore Tex XCR offers the ultimate in dry comfort.
Ion Mask A new style of waterproofing found in high end Hi-Tec walking boots. Great waterproof technology that is durable and will last as long as your boots will.
Photo shows an lining in a piece of outdoor clothing

Breathability: tiny holes in the membrane allow air to escape the boot.

Prevents water from entering the boot

Waterproof: Tiny holes will not permeate water and ensure the boot stays dry.

Fitting a pair of Hiking Boots

Once you have chosen your ideal pair of hiking boots, it is essential to ensure the fit of the boot is good. A well-fitted hiking boot will prevent blisters, calluses, corns and many more horrible foot ailments you would be best advised to avoid.

Finger Testing – the finger test is to ensure there is enough space for your toes at the front of the walking boot. Due to the fact hiking boots have a tough toe area on them, you may want to make sure your toes are not cramped in the boots. When the boot is untied, try and get one finger down the back, this will indicate there is space for your toes in the front.

Sense Testing – is it often hard to feel the fit of a boot with heavy or thick walking socks, therefore once you have tried the boot on with the thicker sock, it is best to remove the sock and try the boot with a thinner sock.

Walk Testing – go for a quick walk around the store or to ensure the boot does not rub anywhere and that it offers good support. Most shops now have a walking ramp to try the boots out on.

How to Break In Your Hiking Boots

Generally, lightweight boots are easier to wear in. However, if you have just purchased a brand new pair of leather grain boots, you definitely need to wear them in a little bit.

Choose the right hiking socks

Important to choose the right hiking socks

Find the Right Socks – part of ensuring your hiking boot fits well is the walking sock. You need a comfortable sock which is suitable for the current weather conditions to ensure your feet do not become too hot / cold.

Wear Them Round The House for at least a week or two, this ensures that you can still return the boots to the supplier if you do change your mind or they begin to rub

Walk Shorter Routes – Another key component of breaking in your boots is to go for shorter walks, and then you can steadily break the boots in to ensure you are comfortable wearing them for longer trips later on.

I hope you enjoyed reading our blog – Choosing and fitting a pair of walking boots. If you feel we have missed any information, please comment below or email us on info @ outdoorworlddirect.co.uk. You can visit our walking boots section here for more information.

Other Notable Resources for Choosing and Fitting Hiking Boots

Street Articles: Breaking In A Pair of Boots  

ABC Mountaineering: Fitting a pair of Crampons

Allan Fyffe MBE: Crampon Guide

Daily Hiker: How To Fit a Pair of Hiking Boots

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Category: Expert Guides, Hiking Guides, Outdoor Footwear, Walking

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