Recently I bought my first real pair of proper hiking boots – following weeks of researching, speaking to hikers and climbers and finally having a lengthy conversation with an ex-Himalayan Mountain Rescue guide and getting some boots professionally fitted.
I thought I’d share some of my newfound expertise as it can be rather a daunting purchase to make – they’re so expensive! If you’re a hiker, climber or walker please feel free to chip in with advice in the comments!
My first tip would be to go get your boots from a reputable retailer with well informed, experienced staff. They’ll be able to help you with the right fit, give you advice on materials and steer you in the right direction for what you’ll be using your boots for.
Obviously visiting a high street retailer isn’t in everyone’s budget, and with such great online deals available the temptation to blind buy can be very strong… so here are a few other pointers for buying that could help…
Your Size may not be Your Size. I bought boots 1 full size bigger than my regular, but I tried on other brands that were comfy in a huge range from 1 size smaller right the way up to 1.5sizes bigger. When buying online, many brands will give you the insole measurement in length. To guess the right fit, you want the insole to be about 1 finger width longer than where your big toe sits. This gives your foot enough space to wiggle and stops your toe bumping on the end of the shoe during descents, which would become super painful.
Proper Socks are Just as Important. I tried my first pair of boots (and the ones I bought in the end) on with regular ole thick boot socks and they were not very comfortable. I then tried them with proper hiking socks that had appropriate padding, and they were a dream. Buying proper socks is a must and you’ll thank yourself for it when you’re at the top of your hike with no blisters.
Material & Design is important. It really depends on the type of hiking you’ll be doing. Will you need crampons, will there be scrambling or tough terrain? Do you need/prefer ankle support? You don’t want super tough ice hiking boots for a walk in the Lake District, and you don’t want bog standard walking shoes for climbing Kilimanjaro.
Price is a factor. I’m not saying the most expensive boot will definitely be the best one, but £30 Sports Direct shoes simply won’t cut it for proper hikes. A good pair of boots should last years when looked after correctly – do your sums, if you’d replace a pair of £50 Karrimor walkers twice a year, buy some better quality ones that’ll last longer.
Ordered Online? Wear them Excessively at Home. Returns policies are great – and you can return most things unused under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – so make sure you love your boots and they fit you right before you take them outside. Wear them indoors, hike the stairs slowly and quickly, repeatedly, carrying things. Make yourself a ramp and walk up and down it. Rock your feet back and forth in them and take note of how they feel.
Look for the big 3. All trekking shoes for any environment should be, at minimum, waterproof, breathable and with a sturdy grip. Don’t settle for anything less.
Finally I want to share what I’ve discovered to be the most important questions to ask when buying hiking boots. If the answer to these is “yes” then the boots get a big fat “No!”
Does my toe touch the tip of the shoe when standing/walking on flat?
Does my toe touch the tip of the shoe when descending?
Does the shoe allow my foot to move side-to-side inside?
Does my heel lift inside the shoe when I walk on flat or ascend?
Are they excessively heavy?
Do they pinch my foot at the top or sides?
Hopefully these tips will help you choose some great walking shoes that fit properly and help you enjoy hours of comfortable trekking!
If you have any tips to add, please feel free to chip in.