Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Boot "Camp" Part 1: Hiking Boot

      With more snow on the ground here in the city and winter’s end nowhere in sight, I’m going to explain my recommended boot system.  I’m also going to clear up much of the confusion about the different styles and materials available to you when you do decide to do your boot shopping.  After you read this post, do yourself a favor and read over my post on socks linked here if you haven’t done so already.  It will complete the three-layer system I suggest for your feet.

     I would like to give a bit of a disclaimer here before we go on.  There are many different shapes, sizes, materials and everything else you can think of when it comes to boots these days.  I am suggesting what I like and prefer.  Many people will disagree with me because there are so many variables such as, if you have a preference for mesh, cloth, leather, high-cut, low, knee height… you get the picture.  I recommend using this post as a guideline, and then testing different styles and materials to fit your personal tastes.  This guide is meant to give you direction and an explanation of where different styles could be applicable.

Hiking Boot

     This will probably be the first, most generic boot style you will look at when you’re buying a new pair of ‘outdoor’ boots.  The purpose of the hiking boot is to give you a lightweight option with decent support for flat to somewhat rocky terrain.  If you opt for a mid- to high-cut, which I suggest, you can get good ankle support as well.  Typical hiking boots will be fine if you are carrying about a 20lbs pack or less.  Anything heavier, you will need a more specific “backpacking boot” explained here.  Hiking boots are meant to be light so you don’t tire too quickly while on the trail.  They can also be waterproof and insulating, but these additions will add to the weight of the boot which really defeats the purpose of a hiking boot.  They are really just the “jack of all trades” of the different styles.  Good in most conditions, ideal at none.

     I personally find that there really is no purpose for hiking boots in the bush and let me explain why.  If I am hiking in warm/hot conditions with a light daypack on, I would choose to wear mesh low-cut running or trail-running sneakers instead.  No bells, whistles, or Gore-Tex, just normal light running shoes.  I do that because wearing a low-cut hiking boot lined with Gore-Tex to make them waterproof is mostly pointless, as your feet will still get wet as soon as you step in ankle deep water.  Also, Gore-Tex is an amazing product and I am a fan of it, but in a lightweight shoe or boot it will just add to the weight of the item and not allow them to dry as quickly.  Not to mention that your feet will sweat a bit more with Gore-Tex lining the shoe.  If you wear a lightweight mesh running shoe your feet and socks will get wet, but the shoe will also allow them to dry much faster.  Make sure to have a good sock system and an extra back-up pair of socks if you decide to wear mesh sneakers.  The general rule of thumb with footwear made for hiking is that every pound you lighten on your feet is equivalent to lessening your pack by five pounds.  If you have weak or bad ankles, then you can stick with a high-cut lightweight, cloth or synthetic hiking boot.  Though, I would suggest wearing a good backpacking boot for the best ankle and back support, lowering your risk of injury.

     For our concrete jungle in the city, hiking boots can actually come in handy.  Wearing a Gore-Tex lined low- or high-cut boot can make getting caught in the rain or light snow much more manageable.  Since New Yorker’s are a part of the elements 365 days of the year, having a good pair of hiking boots can keep your feet much warmer and dry when necessary.  I find I wear low-cut hiking boots often during the warmer months.  They are also becoming much more fashionable, allowing you to blend into your surroundings and be just another face in the crowd (which is a good thing.)  

     Here are some mesh and trail running sneakers I suggest from Amazon;

     Here are some low and mid-cut hiking boots I suggest for city trekking from Amazon;

Here is the link to Part 2 of Boot Camp: "Backpacking Boot.


No comments: