Hiking shoes: low cut models with flexible midsoles, ideal for day hikes. Many ultra-light sky runners choose these models for long distance journeys
Hiking boots: these range from mid- or high-cut models conceived for day hikes or week-end backpacking trips with light loads. They often flex easily and require little break-in time, but they lack the support and durability of stouter backpacking boots.
Backpacking boots: crafted to carry heavier loads on multiday trips deep into the backcountry. Most have a high cut that wraps above the ankles for excellent support. Durable and robust, with stiffer midsoles than lighter footwear, they are suitable for on- or off-trail travel.
Mountaineering boots: Sturdies, with stiff midsoles, they are mainly conceived to accommodate heavier loads and accept crampons for glacier travel. They are durable and wrap your feet well.
Here, we are mainly going to examine hiking boots.
The material these boots are made of can have an impact on their weight, durability, breathability and water resistance. Let’s look at the various types of materials used:
Full-grain leather: this offers durability and abrasion resistance and also very good water resistance. Perfect for backpacking boots and built for extended trips, heavy loads and rugged terrain. Ample break – in time is needed.
Split-grain leather: usually paired with nylon or nylon mesh to offer lightweight, breathable comfort. Split grain leather “splits away” the rougher inner parts of the cowhide from the smooth interior. Its cost is lower, but the downside is less resistance to water and abrasion.
Nubuck leather: this is full-grain leather which has been buffed to resemble suede. It is very durable and resists water and abrasion. It is also rather flexible, yet it requires ample break-in time before an extended hike.
Synthetics: polyester, nylon and the so-called “synthetic leather” are all commonly found in modern boots. They are lighter than leather, break in more quickly, dry faster and usually cost less. But there is a glitch: they may show wear sooner due to more stitching on the outside of the boot.
Waterproof: these boots feature outer layers with waterproof/breathable membranes – such as Gore-Tex® o eVent® to keep feet dry in wet conditions. Downside: the reduced breathability may cause your feet to sweat on summer days.
Vegan: vegan-friendly hiking boots, made with no animal ingredients or byproducts, are available these days.
Insulated: synthetic insulation is added to some mountaineering boots for warmth when hiking on snow or glaciers.
Some tips for a better comfort
Know your size: yes, you know your size, but do have it measured in the shop before buying a pair of shoes
Try your boots on at the end of the day: your feet normally swell during the day, so anything that will fit at this time should be a good buy.
If you wear orthotics, bring them along.
Wear appropriate socks. If you do not own any, ask the shop assistant and then buy a pair. They will greatly improve your hiking experience
Spend some time in the boots, walk up and down stairs, try and feel your toes and heel inside them. There should be enough room for you to move them freely.
When shopping online, consider a brand you have worn before.
And now just breathe, grab a map and a compass and set off for a new adventure in marvellous Val Badia. The Dolomites and Ciasa Salares are waiting!