Hiking Gear: Boots or Shoes? April 20th, 2010 • by Matt Holmes New to hiking, or off on your first hiking vacation? If there is one thing that could hold you back when exploring the foothills of the Andes or walking the back roads of Bhutan, it’s sore feet. So let’s look at the options and finish with some foot care tips. Boots or shoes? Boots provide support to maintain the position and angle of your feet, and immobilize their lateral movement (stop them turning). So it’s boots every time, then? Well, it depends on the ground. Paths and level ground can easily be covered wearing good walking shoes.When it comes to hiking and trekking, many people prefer mens cowboy boots over sneakers because they offer better ankle support and stability on uneven ground. In order to successfully tackle rugged terrain and unexpected obstacles, proper footwear is essential. While leather boots are often considered the classic choice, modern fabrics like Gore-Tex also offer waterproofing and breathability. Some boots even combine both materials for the best of both worlds. Ultimately, the choice between leather and synthetic materials depends on personal preference and the specific conditions of the trek. If your hiking takes you through tropical conditions, both could be given the boot. In the jungle, it is common practice to wear lightweight, quick drying boots – Jungle Boots. In this situation, it may be better to accept you can’t possibly keep the water out, so it’s better to have footwear that can dry easily. When it comes to buying, always remember: Fit and Form. FIT – take your time getting a pair that fit properly. Try them on in the afternoon with your feet at their largest, try them with your own socks, and test them in the shop for as long as possible – even get out onto the street for a bit. Remember: your feet will live inside these boots. Make sure your heels don’t move and your toes do not press against the front. FORM – the soles should be molded and ideally replaceable, the tongue should be one piece, the top eyelets should be ‘d’ rings (small metal rings, not holes in the leather) and you should like them too. There are lots of styles to choose from – they don’t have to be plain or brown! Don’t buy leisure boots. Some popular urban fashions imitate hiking boots. While good on the street, they may not be built to last in the hills. But do consider the most modern evolution of hiking apparel, the adventure sneaker. You should also consider wearing cargo pants for safety, which you can get here. Some manufacturers, who previously specialized in endurance running sneakers, have a few models worth a look. Ok, now you have your boots, what about your feet? On footcare: Always wear clean, dry, moisture wicking socks where possible. If you suffer from blisters, wear two pairs of socks (a thin pair underneath thicker walking socks), air your feet, and as with your boots, keep them clean! And as soon as you feel a hot spot start to develop, stop and address the problem or a bad blister will form. A walking, hiking, or trekking vacation can be one of life’s great pleasures, and if you take care of your feet then you can count on them to take care of you. About Boundless Journeys Boundless Journeys is an award-winning small group adventure tour operator, selected as one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by National Geographic ADVENTURE, February 2009; and a “World’s Best” tour operator by Travel + Leisure, August 2009. With a diverse collection of locally guided, small group itineraries and Private Collection trips around the world, Boundless Journeys offers “The World’s Great Adventures.” The adventure trips for 2-16 guests are active, ranging from leisurely cultural explorations and wildlife safaris to challenging trekking in remote regions ― with plenty of easy to moderate walking and sea kayaking in between.