Heading out to hit the trails this summer? No-one wants sore feet or boot soles that crush out after a few uses, but with so many hiking boot options out there, how do you know which ones to choose?
Let us get you up to speed on the construction of hiking boots and the differences between EVA foam and polyurethane soles. With your new found boot expertise, you’ll be all set to #gooutandplay!
HIKING BOOT CONSTRUCTION
If you really want to figure out the best hiking boot for you, you have to start from the ground up - with an understanding of how boots are constructed. There are three components to hiking boots that you should be aware of:
The outsole is at the very bottom of the boot - the part that directly contacts the ground. This part offers stability, shock absorption, and traction. Typically, it’s made of varying densities of rubber - from softer rubber great for gripping smooth surfaces, to harder rubber for more durability. Depending on your intended use, look for tread patterns for traction and heel breaks.
As the name suggests, this is the middle of your boot sole, and the part that gives you support. Most hiking boots have either an EVA foam or polyurethane midsole. EVA is a plastic foam material (like what you find on those ever-notorious Crocs shoes). It can be constructed in various densities, and typically offers a softer and flexible feel to the sole. Polyurethane, in comparison, is dense, heavy and takes time to break in. It’s also sturdier than EVA, and longer lasting - so for long distance trips and rough terrain, this material is much better suited.
The insole is what your foot sits on inside your boot. You might be familiar with removable insoles in your running shoes or winter boots. In hiking boots too, insoles are usually customizable and removable. With increased ergonomic support and comfort, Insoles take the comfort of your boot up another level, and can be made of carbon fibre, memory foam or gel. If you don’t like what’s included with your boot, you can usually purchase and insert a separate third-party insole.
The upper is the outer part of the shoe or hiking boot that doesn’t touch the ground. This is what protects your feet from the environment, keeps you dry and offers breathability. You’ll find hiking boots with mesh, suede, leather and synthetic leather uppers. Considerations include the material’s stiffness, level of water proofing, breathability, and how durable it is against wear and tear.
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING HIKING BOOTS
Once you have a good understanding of the components and variety of materials used in hiking boots, you can assess your hiking boot needs. As with most gear purchases, we suggest asking yourself some key questions about how you plan to use them:
WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING WITH YOUR HIKING BOOTS?
Day hikes? Weekends in the backcountry? Longer expeditions through challenging terrain?
If you know you’ll be traversing rough terrain on the regular, or taking extended hikes in unfamiliar territory, you’ll want a heavy duty boot with a durable and stiff mid sole. Polyurethane soles are up for the task as they will hold up longer and take lots of abuse. If your boots are going to be used in more developed areas (urban nature trails, or around the city), that level of durability is less important. You still want a good quality boot or shoe, of course, but an EVA sole will give you more comfort for more casual use.
HOW MUCH WEIGHT DO THOSE BOOTS NEED TO STAND UP TO?
Maybe you’re heavier or carrying a ton of gear, or maybe you want to be light and fast.
No surprise here, but poly soles will do a better job standing up to heavy loads, due to their strength and supportiveness. That means that on long expeditions where you’re carrying all your gear on your back, these are the boots to go with. Alternatively, if speed and weight are a big concern (think trail running or travel), EVA midsoles are your best bet - these will be much cushier, and lighter, keeping you below your luggage max weight, and letting you go faster and farther without fatigue.
OUR FAVOURITE HIKING BOOT BRANDS
The one question customers always ask us? What hiking boots do you wear on your adventures? Here’s our roundup of our favourites (including the Lowa Renegade, which Tori wore on her trek across Iceland).
WOMEN’S HIKING BOOTS
Lowa Renegade GTX
MEN’S HIKING BOOTS
Lowa Renegade GTX
Now that you have a handle on the type of hiking boot you’re looking for, the next step is to get yourself to the store and try some on! Style and fit vary quite a bit by brand, and the best way to get the perfect pair is to put them on your feet. Our staff (like Tori in the video below), have a wealth of expertise and personal experience and can help answer all your questions.