Setting out on a hiking trip is an excellent opportunity to appreciate nature while finding out how much you can push your body to its limits. But as relaxing as hiking is for some, there’s no denying how generally taxing it is. After all, even seasoned hikers started out not knowing how to handle it. And as they keep going, they eventually discover that there’s no universal system that all hikers must polish perfectly; their differences will impact how their hiking experience will turn out.
But despite how unique each hiker is, that doesn’t excuse you from neglecting to wear the appropriate hiking gear. Because even though you have experience under your belt, your safety relies heavily on your equipment, from the shirt you’re wearing down to your socks. Considering how your feet will carry you for most of your hike, wearing proper footwear is a no-brainer.
However, with so many to choose from Shoebacca and other reputable stores, the quantity of hiking footwear available might overwhelm you. Here are some tips that could help you narrow down your search:
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1. Learn Your Preferences
Considering how there are all kinds of terrains that hikers trek across, your footwear must be designed to handle them. Otherwise, you might ruin it quickly or compromise your safety. Fortunately, various hiking footwear is available for different terrains: day hiking boots, trail running shoes, and backpacking boots.
Day hiking boots are designed for short trips. Because they’re only meant for light travel, day hiking boots don’t have as much ankle support as typical hiking boots. This is ideal for those who are still new to hiking or those who prefer traveling across undemanding terrain while carrying moderately heavy equipment.
Trail running shoes somewhat resemble some features of day hiking boots. Both can only handle lightweight travel with little to no obstructions ruining the path. Similarly, they don’t have much support in exchange for mobility. But unlike normal running shoes, high-quality trail runners sold by KEEN Footwear and other reputable retailers have double the amount of traction and support that’s enough for hikers to travel better on hiking trails compared to plain roads.
Lastly, backpacking boots are designed to handle heavy-duty traveling. With generous support positioned in the appropriate places, they’re equipped for hikers carrying heavy items while on a multi-day trip. But they’re not ideal for those with mobility or endurance problems, considering how backpacking boots can weigh up to 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) together.
2. Know Its Parts
Familiarity is a necessary aspect when choosing all kinds of footwear. And considering that your feet will be tested, every part of the footwear you’ve chosen must be utilized to the fullest, regardless of its shoe type. Aside from the main body of the footwear, the other part you must pay attention to is the sole.
The sole consists of three layers to ensure maximum comfort: the insole, midsole, and outsole. The insole is where the foot rests. Even though it has direct contact with the foot, the midsole does most of the work in making the wearer’s experience as comfortable as possible. Hence, the denser and more durable the midsole is, the better support the outsole provides, considering it’s the layer that touches the ground.
With this information, it’s only natural for hikers to want dense layers for their footwear’s soles. But as mentioned earlier, the more support the footwear has, the heavier it is. Naturally, trail runners and day hikers wouldn’t consider footwear as heavily supported as backpacking boots, given how much of their endurance is depleted from every step they take.
In contrast, backpackers won’t be pleased with how easy it is to ruin their footwear due to extreme conditions, even though day hiking boots are convenient. Your decision relies on your preferences and how well you know the parts of your footwear.
3. Consider Its Support
As long as you’re traveling across different terrains, support will be your right-hand the entire trip. After all, hiking is meant to be a relaxing activity where you exert your body enough to loosen any stress you’ve collected from your typical day-to-day. Dealing with sore ankles and aching feet is probably not the outcome you’re looking for.
That’s why support is a valuable factor when choosing any footwear, especially the types used in strenuous hiking activities. Support must be found all around, not limited to the arch or ankle. With support positioned appropriately, you can distribute your weight evenly throughout the length of your foot for heavy activity instead of focusing on one spot only. That way, it prevents pressure from only focusing on one spot.
4. Determine Its Features
Part of the thrill of being a hiker is encountering the unexpected. Whether there’s an accident on the trail or harsh weather suddenly interrupts your trip, it’s better to be prepared for anything. Fortunately, footwear manufacturers include all kinds of features in their products. Because even though some footwear already has basic support, having more features will push your comfort to the next level.
The waterproof feature is a given, considering there are all kinds of weather and terrain you’ll face during your trip. Aside from being waterproof, durability is another must-have for hiking footwear. Although, that mostly depends on the material used and its quality. Breathability is also primarily for comfort. But there’s nothing wrong with having a pleasant experience.
Normally, these features are advertised on labels. However, some manufacturers might include perks only found on the shoe itself. Because of this, you must always try on your footwear options to grasp what you’re about to work with.
5. Try On Your Footwear Choices
Even though the footwear you’ve chosen is advertised to be one thing, that doesn’t give you a full guarantee of what it’s capable of. Maybe the pair of trail runners you picked has a thinner sole than you expected. Or perhaps your backpacking footwear is too tight for comfort. Whatever problem you encounter, it’s better to face it earlier than to experience it once you’re about to leave for your trip.
The best way to check whether the footwear is legitimate is to try it on. While you’re still at the store, ensure that the footwear has an allowance that fits a finger or two at the end of your toes. After all, having a snug pair of footwear will hurt your feet when going downhill. On top of getting hurt, putting too much pressure on your toes eventually causes toenail loss due to infection.
6. Look Up Reviews
Since you’re not the only hiker in the world, other hikers are already familiar with what’s new or not in the hiking industry. With their familiarity, they might have a better grasp of which footwear is good or not. Look up customer reviews while looking around for the right footwear. Knowing what to expect from customers who have already tried it on will help conserve your time better while saving your money for something worthwhile.
Hiking is an activity only understood by those who yearn for a taste of adventure. However, having fun on your trip is impossible when you go unprepared. After all, even seasoned hikers are vigilant in gearing up appropriately. Considering how frequently they’ll be using their feet, wearing the proper footwear will make a world of difference in their hiking experience. That’s why you must know how to choose the right option for you.