How to choose hiking boots
Choose hiking boots based on the use and the fit. Are you going to do a week-long hike with a heavy backpack, or are you going to do little walks with your dog in nearby forests? Do you need to be able to attach crampons to the boots? As a guideline, you can use the classifications of Meindl and Hanwag from A to D. The A refers to the less stiff shoes, meant for roads and easy terrain, while the D represents ice climbing boots. The B and the B/C are the best categories for hiking in Finland, depending on the terrain, the backpack and the user. The more there is weight on the shoe, the stiffer the base should be. The classification refers to the shaft and the base. In more difficult terrain, it is important that the shoe supports well your ankle, and that is also why a stiffer shoe is better choice than a soft one.
Hiking boots are made of textile or leather, often nubuck leather. Boots need to be taken cared of, but well cared leather adopts to your feet and is durable. Take also into consideration whether you want a membrane or not. The Gore-Tex membrane is waterproof but requires more careful maintenance in order to maintain the membrane qualities.
Choosing the right size is essential for a good fit. Different manufacturors have different size tables and lasts of different shapes, but you should always try the boots on. Some examples of lasts for wider feet: Meindl Wide and Comfort Fit, Lundhags Opti-last and Hanwag Wide. There should be space for one thicker sock, or for a liner sock and a normal sock. Leather boots stretch a little bit in use, but there should be enough space for toes not to touch the front end of the boot in downhill.
- Try on allways both shoes. There are normally differences between right and left feet.
- Try on shoes in the morning and in the evening. The foot size changes during the day.
- Walk in the boots for a moment to give your feet and boots some time to settle.
Men's and women's lasts differ from each other. The greatest difference is the size: Small sizes come with women's lasts, and big sizes come with men's lasts. Children's boots aren't normally suitable for adults because the structure of the base is lighter, not meant to carry the weight of the adults.
Before leaving for long hikes, it's good to walk several shorter distances to give the boots time to shape and fit well on your feet. Regular care is important for shoe durability. There are many shoe care instructions available from different manufacturers. Proper care is usually a condition of guarantee.
Choosing right size and model
Mid-cut boots are the most popular choice for hiking. Their shafts protect your feet, and the stiffnesses vary typically from A/B to C.
Especially for hikes in Finland:
With or without membrane?
Many hiking boots have waterproof Gore-Tex membrane, but there are also hiking boots without membrane. The membrane is waterproof, but a leather shoe without membrane adapts better to the foot. Lundhags also manufactures rubber edge boots without membrane.
Double-stitched boots are beautiful and durable, and the traditional double-stitched boots don't normally have membrane.
Too much or too little space?
Hiking boots need to fit tightly to avoid blisters and to support the feet even in tough terrain. However, there should be enough space for hiking socks and for toes not to touch the front end of the boot in downhill. Feet usually swell up in the evening, especially after longer walks (try on the boots in evening).
There are different lasts for feet of different shapes. For example, the Wide last of Hanwag, ComfortFit of Meindl, and Opti last of Lundhags are wider than usual. The shape of women's lasts also differ from those of men. You'll find the right size only by trying, but the last can give you an idea of the right size.
With wider last:
Other special lasts:
There are a lot of different materials for hiking boots, but the most popular one is leather. Top grain leather has given way to more breathable nubuck leather, and more and more often leather is combined with technical materials. Combining different materials is a way to improve shoe qualities, lightness or breathability for example. However, lightness is not the only criterion when choosing a hiking boot. Light, flexible shoes are good for easy terrain and light backpacks. Also the experience of the hiker makes a difference: an experienced hiker can also use lighter shoes, but it's better for a novice to choose stiffer and more supportable boots. There are differences in rollability of stiff shoes, too, so it's important to try on boots before you buy them.
Light, sneaker-like, flexible hiking shoes:
A well-cared boot is durable. It's possible to change an old base of many hiking boots for a new one, which extends the shoe life. Leather matters, too, since manufacturing of shoes, as well as other products, puts pressure on the environment. Many manufacturers use more environment-friendly Heinen Terracare leather.
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