How to get the best hiking boots for the job

The best way to get boots to work well is to get boots that are made for the job.

There is a multitude of fabulous boots out there, some designed for specific jobs, and others ‘all rounders’.  It would take an age to go through all the pros and cons of the huge range available, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind when shopping for new boots. In this article, Georgie Bull shows how she did it!

How to choose the best hiking boot
Are you listening?

Make sure the salesperson is listening when you tell them what you want your new boots to do. Then listen carefully to the reasons a boot is recommended – do they match your needs? Or is the salesperson telling you about their dream boot?  If so, stop them and tell them again what YOU are looking for.  I spent a confusing few minutes listening to how good a boot was – for rock scrambling.  I woke the salesman from his beautiful daydream of lofty peaks when I asked, ‘but how are they in mud?’ Make sure the salesperson hears what YOU want.

Will the boot do the job?

If you want mid-weight, waterproof boots for the OT, don’t be talked into light-weight boots that are extremely breathable and really, really comfortable -but better suited to a short, dry, forest bush walk.

Do you need full leather, heavy duty, durable Ranger-style trekking boots, designed for long walks on moderate to rough terrain. These will conform well to your foot after you break them in, take waterproofing well, are very abrasion resistant, and can last for years if you look after them properly.

Would mid-weight Nubuk boots do the job on your two to three day walks on and off the beaten track. Nubuk boots are light, immediately comfortable, durable, water resistant and supportive.

Lighter still is suede, which is leather with the skin layer taken off.   They are not abrasion resistant, and stretch a bit, as the leather is less stiff.  They are water resistant and durable, but not made for heavy duty wet.  Consider suede if you live in the tropics and want a boot that is flexible and breathable.

I like high cut boots with lots of lacing and some Achilles cut-out, as I only stay on the track, but my kids prefer shorter, light, boots, as they climb up every rock pile they come across.

OHB friend, Leigh, wears Tevas.  The company claims :  “The X-1®, Steep XCR® and the Romero® Tevas are trail running and hiking shoes for all round athletes who take roads, rivers and mountains in their stride. The entire Teva® range offers the perfect blend of cushioning, flexibility and responsiveness for the fast paced off road adventurer.”

Soles have a high-tech identity of their own, with dozens of advantages promoted.  Think about how much grip you will need.  My new boots have very sturdy, knobbly Vibram soles that give me fabulous grip on slippery, wet downhill roots on the OT, and that will last for ages.  My kids like boots with softer soles, for grip when they rock climb, but which wear out quite quickly.

Hiking mags are full of ads singing the praises of new boot technology, expert design and innovative gadgets.  Before you get totally hooked, ask lots of questions and sus out testimonials from other users on bushwalking forums, like Bushwalk Taswww.bushwalktasmania.com.

Spend some time surfing the net to read up on new features and to ferret out not-so-well known brands.

Here’s a few to start: (just check out Google, there are sellers everywhere)

Asolo – micro pulley lacing system and triple-power-structure shock-absorbing soles!

Ecolite – environmentally friendly production system.

La Sportiva – Innovation with passion!! –

Meindl – rocking sole and toe bumper

Scarpa – tried and true.

Vasque – what can I say.

Once you have found a well-fitting boot that suits your purpose you can look forward to enjoying many, many kms of tracks in them.

Regards

Georgie

Do you have any experiences to share about buying boots from an “expert”?

Do you own different footwear for different trips or conditions?

We would love to hear your feedback, shoot us a “reply” below.

Image: amanky – via Flickr

Comments

  1. Tori says

    Nice site! I agree with Geoff. Depending on the hike and the hiker, there are many choices out there. You offer great info… here is another site I like to learn from.

    besthikingboot.org

    Cheers

  2. Georgie says

    Thanks for the link, Tori.

    As a researcher, I tend to notice odd little things, and the things I noticed about the besthikingboot site are that all the photos are of Keen boots, and that the first link in each category is to Keen brand boots.

    This might be coincidence, but things like this get me wondering whether the writeups on the site are sponsored. There is nothing wrong with this, but it certainly should influence how we read a story – that is, as advertising a brand, rather than investigating the qualities of a range of boots and brands.

    Still, it is good to get info from all types of sites, to help when deciding what boots or other items to buy, so thanks for this link.

    Kind regards
    Georgie

  3. says

    Good job on the article guys.

    When I started to get into hiking a few years ago. I spent about $300 on a pair of shoes.

    I explained to the salesperson I had a goal of completing the Overland and South Coast Track in the near future, as well as some local hiking in some of the granite covered NP’s here. I ended up with a really comfy pair of shoes that were nu-buck/Breathable Gortex ect… well before I even got to to the SCT (6 months later) the local granite had torn most the stitching, 6 months after that I did the OT in the snow and proven that the Gortex water proofing was “limited” ( I has wet feet for 7 days).

    Lucky for me I dont mind a bit of self punishment :-) These days I walk into a shop knowing what brands and models of things i want a and go though the fitting process.

  4. says

    I definitely agree with your list of recommended brands. There are certain items that are definitely worth spending more money on – and this includes hiking boots. There’s nothing more annoying than having boots that just don’t break in or fall apart after a few months. I used to believe Hi-Tec boots were great but my last pair fell apart. I’ve been wearing Vasque for the past 1.5 years hiking and working out side in the North Eastern USA and have had way better luck.

  5. says

    Many of my fellow walkers from the Sydney Bushwalkers and Coast and Mountain Walkers clubs have walked extensively in Tassie in the warmer months in Dunlop Volley sandshoes. Apparently the tannin in the water in some areas rots the canvas uppers after about a fortnight of walking. Solution? Take a spare pair.

  6. Georgie says

    Hi Tyron, David the hiking boot guy, and Allan.
    Thanks for your comments, they are all very welcome to this debate.
    Tyron – I can picture your salesman daydreaming of something other than mud when he sold you your boots! And I can picture those shredded boots after clambering around granite. I did some (uncharacteristic) scrambling in Qld’s Granite Belt, and my quality brand strappy summer hiking sandals took a nasty beating.
    David – Ahh, a Vasque man – aren’t they fabulous boots? I love mine. Your job sounds kewl.
    Allan – I met a lady doing a short walk in Volleys in a wet Qld rainforest. Back at the toilets, she frightened the life out me when she let out an almighty shriek at seeing her feet covered in leeches! Volleys look light and comfy, but I think I’d maybe carry extra treats rather than extra shoes. And I would worry about the environmental pollution left behind if the shoes broke down. G

  7. Laura says

    I found your site really useful! Thank you! I’m an avid bushwalker but am about to embark on Everest base camp 16day hike in May and am trying to decide what boots to get!? I just bought a pair of ankle-high full leather boots from Kathmandu with a sturdy vibram sole. But they are quite heavy and I’ll be walking in them probably 8 hours a day and am therefore wondering whether to go for something more light-weight with a gortex lining?? Any thoughts? Would love some help!

    • Frank says

      Hello Laura,
      We have not walked in Nepal but from checkiong out videos and talking to a few people reckon your lightweight and water proof might be a good option. I have tended to go to lighter boots / shoes in the last few years and they have been fine.

      I will also wack your question on our Facebook page and ask a couple of people for their opinions. It is here: http://www.facebook.com/OurHikingBlog

      Cheers
      Frank

    • Frank says

      Hi Laura,
      Jay has walked it many times in sandles. He suggests just sturdy walking shoes. I have sent you a copy of the very draft book to check out. Will be interested in your feedback.
      Frank

  8. Stu says

    Great post Frank and very timely for me,,

    Scheduled to walk th OT in Feb 2013.

    I got some Asolo boots about 12 months ago and my initial thoughts were that they were too big. But after reading a few websites and lacing my boots better, I have found them to be quite good on regular hikes up to 3 hours.

    I usually use 2 pairs of socks and now my boots have stretched a bit, I find that they don’t bind as tightly as they first did. I’ve added some Surefeet to my boots, and again could use either on ore two pairs of socks.

    Just interested to see other peoples experience with regard to an extra pair to prevent hotspots/ blisters?

    thanks

  9. Roger says

    Hi and thanks for good article. I think lots of time and effort needs to be spend considering the right boot size against how you intend to use them. After a few days on the track with a pack, your feet do spread out a bit – better that they’re not being pinched by boots that fit perfectly after a stroll about the shop. I have a pair of Scarpas That i initially thought were just little too big, but after a few hours, they just feel perfect – like I’m not wearing heavy leather boots. Thanks again for the good articles.

  10. Thad Switz says

    Hi I have wide feet and after a bit of research, I found that Vasque, Asolo and Scarpa all make wide sizes. I just bought a pair of leather Vasque “wasatch GTX”. I thought that I would have to spend some time breaking them in so have been walking 5-8km a day for the last 4 days around my neighbourhood Palm Cove here in Cairns Queensland. Much to my suprise, breaking in was not needed and all the hype I have read about goretex linings being too hot for the tropics is just that hype! Anyone with wide feet looking for a really comfortable leather GTX boot should try a pair on.

    Cheers, Thad

    • Georgie says

      Hi Thad. I am the same, I have wide feet and the salesman at K2 in The Valley in Brisbane recommended Vasque Wasatch GTXs in a size bigger, ie 42 rather than my usual 41. Despite being a man’s boot and a bigger size, they are not heavy and I have not had one second suffering from sore feet. Some days I wear 2 pairs of socks, some days I wear 1 pair, and just tighten the laces. They have survived Tassie mud and Qld humidity – hence my hearty recommendation. Regards, Georgie.

  11. Bronson says

    Yes. If You’re looking a great Hiking boots, brands can help you a lot.
    My recommendation is You can never go wrong with a pair of Asolo. add Keen and Lowa brands, You’re most likely set, but the factors would be. what’s your feet like and what makes the difference.

    • Frank says

      Thanks Bronson,
      Approved your comment but if you want people to go to your hiking boot store you need to add a bit more value than this type of comment. Hence, I have removed the link!
      Cheers
      Frank

      • says

        No Problem Frank.
        thanks for having me a part of the conversation. I’m actually an expert in Outdoors footwear and gear.
        I enjoy this stuff.

  12. Kylie says

    Hi
    I usually shop at k2 in Brisbane because I appreciate the experience of the staff and the variety of brands on offer. I am now based I Sydney. Does anyone know of a good shop to go to be able to try a variety of brands and chat to staff who REALLY care opposed to just being sales staff?
    I’ve previously owned a great pair of fivetens which suit the qld weather and a pair of sturdy asolos for longer trekking like in India. I am generally brand loyal (if it ain’t broken don’t fix it) but also keen to see what’s out there for my changing needs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *