Choosing the Right Hiking Boots
One of my New Years resolutions for last year was to be more like James Bond. As I said in my blog post about it, in any situation he’s capable and ready for whatever comes his way. It’s a very masculine trait, and for the brief time I was in the cub scouts as a kid, I remember the motto as ‘be prepared’.
I’ve never been one for ‘hiking’. I love walking, and will spend all day wandering cities around the world, but trekking through the outdoors has just never really been a huge part of my life. Not because I’m adverse to it, it’s just never happened all that often. The result of that is a serious lack of the right gear, notably footwear!
Ive actually hiked through rainforests a couple of times over the past few years, and thoroughly enjoyed it, despite really not being prepared for it fear wise. It’s quite a challenge to negotiate uneven muddy ground, with branches and roots everywhere, in the rain, in a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors! Haha!
Thanfully, nothing I’ve had to do so far has been overly hardcore, and it’s only ever been a couple of hours max, so I was able to manage with what I had, although the footwear may have died a death!
As I’m writing this, I’m about two weeks away from a trip of a lifetime, and one that’s going to feature a large volume of hiking, so in the spirit of James Bond and the cub scouts, I thought I should probably go prepared!
Now I used to sell trainers when I was a teenager, so I actually know a good amount about footwear, but when it comes to hiking boots, I’m actually clueless about what’s good! I started by asking a few of my friends that I know do a lot of hiking. One of them does mountains and stuff around the world, so there was definitely some knowledge to be gained from her!.
Before heading out, it’s important to know what kind of footwear you want, and is appropriate. Apparently, colour is not as important as I thought, despite how long I considered whether I wanted black or brown!
To begin with, did I want sandals, lows, mids, or highs? I actually have an aversion to sandals and flip flops. I hate them! Plus, this trip is going to be somewhere with a lot of mosquitoes, so covering up is essential. Everyone I spoke to recommended I go with boots over shoes. The main reason being the ankle support. If you’re on uneven ground, the last thing you want is to go over on your ankle and then struggle to walk for the next couple of days. That would put a real downer on the trip!
Next to decide is the climate. There are lightweight boots, and winter boots. For where I’m going, and indeed the other places I’ve hiked, winter boots would be a bad choice. I need something breathable, but also that is waterproof. They don’t call them rainforests for no reason!
So I now had a better idea of what I was looking for, so I headed out into town to try some on. My first port of call was Sports Direct, partly because I just happened to be walking past on the way home from a meeting. I was pretty clueless about which brands were good, and which to avoid. There were a few that I recognised from seeing them on other people though. I tried on a few pairs of Karrimor boots, and they were comfy and had some bargain prices. The problem with Karrimor as I found out from a quick Google search is that whilst they used to be a great brand that made fantastic products, they’d since been bought by Sports Direct, and the quality suffered as a consequence. The last thing I needed was for my boots to fall apart on the other side of the world!!!
After Sports Direct, I went to Blacks where I tried on some Salomons and some Merrells. The price was creeping up compared to what I’d originally planned to spend, but if they’re going to be something that lasts, I don’t mind spending a bit more. The problem I had at Blacks is that they didn’t to half sizes. I was recommended to go up half a size due to hiking socks being thicker, which would take me from a 9 to a 9 1/2. I tried both 9’s and 10’s and they were either too big or too small, which was annoying!
Next up was Snow + Rock in Covent Garden. Their selection was fairly small, and price wise they were a lot more expensive. No doubt they’re all amazing boots, but for the limited amount of times I hike, I couldn’t justify it. I figured I was left with two more places to try, Decathlon, and if all else fails, order something online and hope it fits, but as I was leaving Snow + Rock, I spotted the Jack Wolfskin store and thought I’d take a look.
I know nothing of the brand, other than I’ve seen and heard of it before. So that, combined with a fancy store in Covent Garden at the very least gave me some confidence that the brand wasn’t lame like Karrimor at Sports Direct. To my surprise, the guy in the store was probably the most knowledgable out of everywhere I’d been. What was even better, is that they did half sizes too!
So here’s the boots I’ve ended up with. The Jack Wolfskin Vogo Hike Mid Texapore Men’s boots. They’re super comfy and fit perfectly. The grip on the bottom is nice and chunky, so should be good on trails. They’re waterproof and breathable, which is perfect for where I’m going, so they definitely tick all the boxes for what I need. Of course all of this could be moot if they fall apart half way around the world, but that’s something that only time will tell. I did a search online for reviews, and most were favourable, and the negatives were things like their sizing comes up small, which is irrelevant or that they don’t suit extremely tough trails… which I can’t imagine I’ll be doing too much of. So all in all, the pros outweighed the cons for me.
Whilst I still wouldn’t say I’m too much wiser about what makes a great hiking boot, I’m definitely a little more versed in what to look for, and how to go about choosing. After nailing down the type of thing you should wear for your particular needs, it ultimately all comes down to fit. I keep being told by people that proper hiking socks are vital to prevent against blisters. Jack Wolfskin actually provided me with a pair to use whilst trying on their boots, so depending on where you go, it might be something to ask for if you don’t have your own. Make sure to walk around the store for a bit, and if it has stairs, go up and down a few times to make sure they’re comfy in all directions of travel. Another tip I got was to tap your toe against the floor to make sure your toes aren’t going to be bashing up against the front of your boots as you walk down hills. Ultimately, there’s no such thing as the ‘right hiking boot’, only the ‘right hiking boot for you’, and that is subjective. Make sure to take the time, go everywhere, and try on as many as you can. Your feet will thank you for it… at least that’s what I’ve been told, this is my first pair, so they could be horrendous and writing all of this could have been a waste of time for everyone! Haha! I’ll report back in a few weeks about how I get on!
My plan is to now wear these every day for the next two weeks leading up to my trip to make sure they’re worn in a little bit. They’re a lot more structured to what I usually wear (which is a good thing), so I’ll need to get use to that too. Whatever happens, they’re definitely a lot more appropriate than a pair of Converse, so at least if nothing else, my feet are now prepared for this trip!