By Dave “Dmac” McGlashan, director
One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is about hiking boots. Because we spend so much time on our feet during trips, it’s crucial to make sure your feet are happy. Here are a few tips in picking out the right boots and breaking them in.
What is your favorite boot?
If you ask 10 Adventure Treks instructors what their favorite boot is, you’ll get 10 different answers. We all have different feet: arches, forefoot width, toe length, heel shape, and many other factors. This is why I always hesitate to tell someone to buy a certain boot. Some will fit my foot perfectly out of the box, and some will give me blisters every mile that I wear them.
Getting the correct fit
When you are shopping for a pair of boots, make sure you go to a store and try them on. Ordering online can be a little cheaper, but you don’t have access to a boot specialist from a store like REI or EMS. Bring socks that you will be wearing on the trip, as hiking socks are generally thicker than socks you wear to school or soccer practice. Make sure they fit well around your ankles and toes, meaning no pinches or painful squeezes. Feet tend to swell a little during hiking trips, so leave a little wiggle room. If they hurt walking around the store, try on another pair!
Low-cut boots or above the ankle?
Because you may not have experience in hiking with a backpack, we ask that you get a pair of above-ankle-height hiking boots. These will provide extra support as you carry weight in your pack, and you’ll be less likely to roll your ankle while hiking. Don’t try on lightweight hiking shoes; you’re looking for a mid-weight boot.
Breaking in your boots
Your boots will be a little stiff when you first wear them. This is completely normal! The more you hike in them, the more comfortable they will get. We recommend wearing your boots around your house and neighborhood as soon as you get them. Wear them for short periods of time over a few weeks; your feet will be much happier, and you’ll be less likely to get blisters. We do not recommend cramming the break-in period into a few longer sessions right before your trip. And remember, you are breaking the boot in as much as you are getting your foot broken into the boot.
Does it need to be waterproof?
In the outdoor world, nothing is 100 percent waterproof (unless you buy rubber boots). Buying waterproof boots adds an extra expense, especially if your son or daughter is still growing (and you’ll be buying boots again). It’s not necessary to spend the extra money to get waterproof boots for Adventure Treks. However, you can apply a waterproofing product like Nikwax to add an extra layer of protection. *Do not purchase boots with open mesh covering the toes, sides, or other areas.
For the best boot-buying experience, we recommend heading to your local gear store and talking with someone in the boot department. Let them know about the Adventure Treks trip and itinerary, walk around the store in different pairs to see what fits best. Happy feet = better backpacking experience. Feel free to give us a call at 828-698-0399 with questions about boots or any other gear!