These boots are made for walking: how to choose hiking and walking boots

With the summer approaching, many of us are looking forward to staycations walking and hiking in the national parks of Ontario and Canada. With time spent outdoors and away from home even more precious, the very last thing you want is to get sore feet and blisters from your hiking shoes and boots!

So, taking time now to select the right pair of shoes or boots for you will really pay off when you’re out hiking.

3 steps to hiking boot heaven

There are three things you need to think about before you even set for in a shoe store, or start browsing for hiking boots online.

  1. Where will you be hiking?
  2. How long will you be hiking for?
  3. Will you be carrying a backpack?

Where – know your terrain

You don’t need to pin down exactly where you will be walking or hiking, but you do need to think about the kind of terrain (ground) you’ll be walking on. Which types of terrain depends on how flexible your boots need to be.

Easy terrain

If you’re a weekend walker who stick to the easy trails, prefers valley bottoms to sides, and loves open spaces and plains, then you’re usually going to be walking on stable, even surfaces.

Type of boot: flexible and lighter for comfort and limiting fatigue.

Uneven terrain

This is the next level up, found on mountain trails or hilly areas. Trails will have rocks, mud, exposed roots, and will be steep in places.

Type of boot: stiffer outsoles for stability with higher sides to protect your ankles

Off-trail terrain

If you love to venture beyond the trails, you’ll expect to find it much harder going. You’ll encounter loose, rocks, obstacles, maybe rivers and steep sections where you might need handholds. This is like off-roading for your feet!

Type of boot: Stiffer boots with higher sides, plus reinforcements at key areas such as toes, heels and instep, and thicker soles. These boots will be heavier to wear as a result.

How long – minutes, hours or days?

How long you’re going to hike or walk very much depends on the terrain. A one hour walk along an easy trail will get you a lot further in terms of distance than off-trail hiking. The duration of your hike will also depends on

  • your level of fitness
  • how often you hike
  • how many times you intend to hike over the course of the year.

The duration of your hike will will affect how rugged and robust you need your boots to be.

It also leads to a more important consideration that many inexperienced hikers forget – their backpack.

The weight of your backpack

If you’re just strolling along an easy trail with a small backpack with water, some snacks for the kids and the inevitable mosquito repellant, that won’t affect your balance much. The same applies to moderate terrain, where you don’t want a backpack getting ‘in the way’. So you can choose, lighter, more flexible boots to get you to that beauty spot and back in comfort.

When you’re carry kits with you such as a tent, stove, sleeping bag, etc, it’s quite a different matter,. A heavier backpack affects your balance, and (statistically) you are more likely to injure yourself carrying one. By opting for stiffer, higher sided boots with good grip and a thicker sole, you help support your ankles when negotiating rougher terrain.

Fitting hiking boots bought online

Not all of us will be able to visit a specialist shoe store, and may be buying online. If so, make sure the boots you buy fit properly, and be prepared to return them if you are in any doubt. (Make sure you can return them too!)

  • • Try on your new hiking boots wearing your normal hiking socks,..
  • • Try on footwear in the evening, a your feet swell slightly during the day even in cold weather
  • • Your feet will also well in the course of a hike, so if in doubt, opt for the larger size if you fall between two regular size options.

Sports manufacturer Salomon suggest when trying on walking shoes:

“When your shoe is undone, you should be able to fit one finger behind your heel when your toes are in contact with the front of the shoe.” (1)

The perfect fit hiking boots

Hiking boot technology has come a very long way in the last few years, but most of us will still be buying an off the shelf standard-size boot. Since your feet are unique to you, even top of the line hiking boots and walking shoes might not offer the right support in the right places for you, and in particular, the way you walk.

This is where custom orthotics can really make a different. Orthotics are custom-made insoles that are moulded to your feet, so they fit your feet perfectly – and nobody’s else’s! That’s why custom orthotics are so much more effective and efficient than off the shelf insoles, which again are made to cover a broad range of feet shapes.

Custom orthotics from Hunt Footcare

At Hunt Footcare, we offer custom orthotics for all kings of sports footwear, to ensure comfort and also optimum performance. We start with analysing your gait (the way you walk), and work out exactly how to support your feet to give you maximum alignment and minimum stress. We then take a mould of your feet to create a perfect pair of insoles that simply slip into your boots.

You can then walk, hike or even climb with confidence in your footwear, reducing strain on your ankles, you leg muscles, and keeping your body aligned. Bring your hiking and walking shoes with you to your appointment, so we can ensure the custom orthotics work perfectly with them. Many of our client shave two sets of custom orthotics; one for everyday wear in their ‘normal’ shoes, and one for their particular sport or hobby, from hiking to curling, tennis to hockey.

Call us to make an appointment, discover just how comfortable custom orthotics make walking or hiking, and start planning your next adventure!

Choose from our three local foot clinics in Ontario.

• Stratford foot clinic
Ingersoll footcare clinic
London footcare clinic

Published On: June 24, 2021