Walking and Hiking Boots Gear Guide - What's Available
For most of us the purchase of a good pair of walking boots represents a significant investment. More than that, it’s something you really want to get right as anyone who’s experienced the misery of a day in the wrong footwear will readily testify. If you plan to walk all year round, then it’s even more important to make sure you’re in the right kit - starting with your feet.
To walk comfortably and safely in moorland, hill & fell country, you need to protect your feet in purpose designed walking shoes or boots. In an ideal world, you would have different footwear to suit all the different terrains and conditions that you might encounter year round. However, this could prove too expensive for most people. Therefore, your footwear will have to perform in a range of circumstances.
Inevitably, this involves some trade-off between the features necessary for winter, high-level walking (crampon compatibility, ankle support, shock absorption, warmth and water-proofness) and those designed for less challenging summer & low level walking (flexibility, lighter weight, breathability).
To a large extent, you will get what you pay for. That having been said, there is no point paying for features that you won’t really need. So it’s best to start your search for footwear by thinking about the type of terrain in which you plan to walk. You should also take into account your foot size/shape, your build/weight and whether you are likely to be carrying a heavy backpack. The classification below will be useful in identifying the type of boot you need.
1-2 Season Walking Boots: Low Level Walking
For use in spring/summer conditions, on firm low level paths that are not particularly steep. Footwear in this category is designed to offer relatively more flexibility and often comes in the form of low-cut boots or shoes.
3 Season Walking Boots: Hillwalking/Trekking
For use on paths that are much rockier and steeper than those encountered in low level walking and where you will be walking all year round and in most weathers except snow & ice. These boots can be made from leather or fabric usually have a waterproof liner. The sole and ankle cuff will be designed to provide a good level of support and the boot will be water-proof and will have aggressively treaded soles to provide good grip in rough terrain. The overall support provided for feet and ankles will be enough should you be carrying a full backpack.
4 Season Walking Boots: Winter Walking
For use when you’re likely to encounter snow/ice. These boots will be stiffer (longitudinally and laterally) than Hillwalking/Trekking boots and so can take crampons for short periods of time. The overall level of support offered is enough for use when carrying a heavier pack on longer backpacking trips.
There are 2 further categories of highly technical footwear designed for use in the high mountains where snow and ice exist all the year round, on glaciers or when climbing. These categories are outside the scope of this gear guide.