Hiking Boots & Shoes Explained

Serious engineering shields your feet from the scree beneath. Here's the layman's version.

Jun 1, 2004
Outside Magazine
2004 Buyer's Guide : Hikers Explained

   Photo: Illustration by Steve Stankiewicz

 •  Fast hikers are built light and flexible for quickness and agility. They're great for speedy trail travel or scrambling with a light pack. Day hikers, like the one shown here, provide more support for heavier loads and higher mileage.

 •  The outsole of a fast hiker should be lightly lugged and flexible through the forefoot. Day hikers need deeper lugs and more stiffness. Dual-density soles combine grip where it's needed with durability in high-wear areas.

 •  About fit: Light hikers should wrap snugly across your toes for control; day hikers should have a little more room to roam. Both should cup your heel snugly to prevent blisters.

 •  The spring in your step arrives courtesy of the midsole, which is glued or stitched in above the outsole. Running shoes and many approach shoes use expanded vinyl acetate (EVA), which is cushy but wears out quickly. Polyurethane is the firm and long-lasting choice for most all-terrain footwear.

 •  The layer closest to your foot, the insole, provides an extra layer of interior armor. Some fast hikers do without them—a construction known as slip-lasting. Boots with insoles are described as board-lasted.

 •  A rand—a thick perimeter strip of rubber above the sole—helps protect the upper from abrasion and adds traction for toe jams.

 •  Yank on those laces: They should easily tension without creating pressure points. Lace locks at the ankle allow you to tension the upper and lower laces differently—tight on the bottom for control, loose on top for flexibility.

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