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Gear Institute

What are the best hiking shoes for me?


1. What Hiking Boot is Best for Hiking, Trekking or Mountaineering?

Quality hiking boots are designed and constructed to meet the specific needs of various forms of hiking. For example, day hiking boots, such as Salewa’s Mountain Trainers, are generally lighter and more flexible than trekking or mountaineering boots, whereas backpacking/trekking boots are generally constructed with highly supportive ankle shafts and stiffer midsoles that help distribute the extra weight of a loaded backpack. As for mountaineering boots, like Salewa’s Vultur Verticle GTX, they employ technical designs that address the needs of inclement weather, such as being able to grab hold of snow and ice and attaching crampons. It’s important to know what type of terrain you will be wearing your boots on so you can work with your retailer to find the style of boot that is best suited to your specific needs.

2. Do I need a Mid or High-Cut Hiking Boot?

Many hiking boots are available with either a mid or high-cut ankle shaft. The ankle shaft of a mid-rise boot typically stops just above the ankle, while a high-cut ankle shaft typically extends a few inches above the ankle. If you’re looking for a boot that will handle well on rugged, uneven terrain, both of these designs will suffice as they offer more ankle support than low rise-hiking boots would. In addition to the added support, the added ankle height is beneficial for hikers with weak ankles and helps backpacking or mountaineering hikers carrying extra weight. Both of these cuts generally weigh more than low-rise hiking shoes, which leads some trekkers/backpackers (who have strong ankles) to prefer little to no ankle shaft boots. Mountaineering elements and terrain require a stiff high-cut boot to both support the ankles and protect against moisture, snow and ice. Salewa’s Vultur GTX and Raven 2 mountaineering boots employ a state-of-the-art Flex Collar design that allows a full range of ankle motion during steep descents.

3. How do I determine how well a hiking boot will fit?

There are a number of factors that determine how well a hiking boot will fit. For example, the toe box (or space around the ball of the foot) is constructed wider in some hiking boots than in others, creating a more snug or looser fit for individuals. For example, Salewa’s Mountain Trainers have a wider toe box than their Alpine Trainers, which have a more narrow design. When trying on boots, you want a comfortable, yet snug fit in this area - make sure that is neither too tight, nor too loose. Multiple density molded insoles also work to comfortably hold feet in place, keeping them from sliding forwards & backwards, supporting the arches and providing extra cushion under the heels while hiking. Most insoles can be removed and replaced with custom orthopedic insoles if needed. Advanced lacing systems, like the 3-D System built into Salewa’s Raven 2 mountaineering boots hold the laces firmly in place in three separate sections, which allows the wearer to customize the grasp around the foot. Well-padded ankle shafts and tongues function to provide a comfortably firm hold and to keep laces from digging into the tops of the feet. To assure a good fit, wear the same socks that you plan to hike in when trying on boots, and test the boots on both flat and angled surfaces.


4. What gives a hiking boot good traction?

Look for outsoles made from trail-gripping specialty rubbers that will have deep, angled lugs - such as Michelin or Vibram. In general, the deeper the lugs, the more intensely the hiking boots will grip the trail. The design of the outsole lugs should also function to move dirt, mud, gravel or snow out from between the lugs for consistent traction. Salewa’s Alpine Trainer hiking boots are constructed with a Ferrata Zone lug design, which employs right angled lugs in the mid-foot area to maximize force across the foot . This lug design also provides the hiker with enhanced grip on rungs and ladders, a great feature to have when moving up through rugged terrain. In addition to the Ferrata Zone lug design, Salewa has a new outsole design called “Gumflate.” This technology can be found in Salewa’s Wander Hiker which helps the outsole to quickly conform to the shape of the trail, thereby increasing grip and performance.

5. How do I know if a hiking boot is crampon compatible?

When mountaineering, the ability to add snow and ice-gripping crampons to the base of the boot is essential. The outsoles of Salewa’s Raven 2 GTX, Rapace GTX, Vultur GTX and Crow GTX mountaineering boots are constructed with a 3.5 Combi System that includes a TPU insert at the heel. This compatibility feature provides a quick and precise attachment of semi-automatic crampons.


6. What Hiking Boots offer the Best Trail Performance?

Great trail performance starts with wearing a hiking boot that is equipped for the type of trails you’ll be hiking. As previously mentioned, trail-gripping outsole rubbers and multi-density molded insoles heighten both traction and fit in your hiking boot. Other important performance features that can be found in a number of Salewa hiking boots include the use of ergonomically designed, shock-absorbing midsoles. The multi-density Bilight midsole built into Salewa’s Mountain and Alpine Trainer, as well as many of their mountaineering boots, offers a state-of-the-art cushioning and durability that holds up to even the steepest rocky terrain. Look for either partial or 360° rubber toe rands and heel guards to protect your feet against inevitable impacts with rock and debris along the trail.

7. What is a good upper matieral for my hiking boots?

Hiking boots are available in a dizzying array of upper materials. Although leather remains a reliable staple, new materials such as split grain leather and nylon, and ballistic polyesters offer versatile options. Many hiking boots come in a variety of materials that can provide state-of-the-art durability, offer you a light weight and give you weather-resistance and breathability. The 1.8mm suede & nubuck leathers used across many of Salewa’s hiking boots are extremely wear resistant. Blended with breathable microfiber panels these boots offer a perfect mix of both durability and breathability.

8. Do I need a waterproof hiking boot?

If you anticipate hiking or trekking in damp conditions or mountaineering across snow and ice, you will want a water-resistant or waterproof hiking boot. Most leather boots provide a high-degree of water resistance, while waterproof boots are generally constructed with a combination of water resistant leather uppers and waterproof interior membranes. High-quality, waterproof membranes, such as the GoreTex Comfort Liners, is built into a number of Salewa boots also offers you great breathability. While protecting your feet against rain, snow and ice, the liners simultaneously wick away sweat as you move. If you are a casual day hiker who doesn’t typically hike in wet conditions, the warmer wear of a waterproof hiking boot may not be necessary.


9. How Much Should I Pay for A Hiking Boot?

Hiking boots vary in price, often dependent on the level of technical specificity and construction. For this reason, it’s best to base your hiking boot purchase less on price, and more on whether or not the boot is well-constructed, durable and its features match your particular hiking needs. A well-constructed boot will last much longer than a poorly constructed boot, not to mention they will keep your feet feeling fresh miles into your trek. High performance and protective features built into quality hiking boots will greatly enhance your enjoyment on the trail.

10. Who makes high quality hiking boots?

It’s recommended to look for hiking boots produced by companies that are enthusiastic about and dedicated to the hiking industry. There are many high-quality manufacturers of hiking boots that are constantly revolutionizing the technologies that support the activity. Salewa has been designing specialized hiking, trekking and mountaineering boots for decades and is a proven leader in the category!

*Content provided by Gear Institute