As a winter sports enthusiast, I really enjoyed the snow of the past few months. Several times I went for cross-country skiing, open-air ice skating and alpine skiing on a private ski slope in the Black Forest. But now while it’s slowly getting warmer, it is time to change my ski boots for walking and hiking boots. As a balance to my job and home office, I simply need fresh air and exercise on a regular basis.
No matter whether you want to climb the Italian Dolomites, the French coastal mountains or a rustic hut in the Alps, in any case – even as a cyclist – you need adequate clothing and optimal footwear.
When I’m on my tours, I keep wondering how carefree people are. For lack of experience, many of them underestimate the unpredictability of the weather in the mountains. Particulary during summer, they often enter a cable car wearing only a t-shirt and slippers or ballerinas and wonder, how cold it is at about 2,000 meters above sea level. Sometimes there is still snow up there, but also simple clouds and wafts of mist can cause such a high humidity, that each step might turn into an uncontrollable, risky slide.
Well, my good old walking shoes are no longer in top shape and when buying I pay attention to the price-performance-ratio, but for safety reasons I would never start off for the mountains or go on a forest hike with sneakers or sportshoes. It takes only a little pebble rubble, a few pine cones or a major tree root on an uneven path and you have cracked your foot without sufficient ankle and heel stability.
Especially on longer hikes, it is much easier and more comfortable to walk with a higher shaft and some sole cushioning. Furthermore a non-slip, robust profile ensures a better grip, especially on wet surfaces. With regard to the material, for my purposes I usually prefer a so-called light hiking shoe (category A) made of modern, breathable materials. While some friends of mine who tend to be high-alpine tourers rely on compact leather hiking boots. Both are highend-quality, functional materials, in which the feet sweat less and are largely protected from the ingress of water. With proper care and impregnation, both variants can be loyal companions for many years.
What should also be considered when buying hiking shoes or boots is that they should not be bought too small. Because when trying on you often forget that your feet swell over time and you usually choose a pair of thicker socks for a tour. Depending on the type of foot and fit, you should choose at least half a size, possibly one size bigger. Once you are out and about, unsuitable shoes can cause real agony or at least unpleasant pressure points and blisters. No fun anymore.
My tip: At the beginning test new shoes on a shorter route for their individual walking features in order to find out if „you both“ will become a good walking team. Because of the extreme hardness of my competition iceskating shoes, I “broke them in” for at least a week each time while walking with them beyond the ice rink for at least an hour day aiming to stretch them a little bit and make them more smooth.
If you explore the market, you will encounter numerous manufacturers of hiking and outdoor shoes, such as the brands Jack Wolfskin or Polarino. The range of hiking boots is so diverse that there are even „ventilated“ trekking sandals with toe protection. In general one can say, the lighter the shoe, the less tiring the hike.
In contrast to conventional “street shoes”, hiking boots convince with a relief of the foot muscles. The untrained foot in particular values stability and support when walking. A solid upper material – mostly leather – also protects the foot from external impacts or bumps against hard edges.
The type of leather used as upper material (like nubuck or suede) is not so important and ultimately a matter of taste. Smooth leather is generally less sensitive to care off and easier to clean. Sometimes the inner lining is also made of leather. What you choose usually depends on your skin tolerance and whether the hiking boots should be used all year round.
Stable shoes are not only important when going into the mountains, they are also essential on soft surfaces such as sand or mud. Two years ago I took part in a kind of “Suvival Camp”. All day I went through swamp areas and up an down various sand hills. I also love, for example, the climbing of the large shifting dunes in Europe such as the “Dune du Pilat” near Arcachon respectively Bordeaux or the dunes of Lleba next to the Polish Baltic coast. Even in Germany there are extensive sandy areas, such as the “Lieberoser Heide” in the Lausitz region or the “Monte Kaolino” in Hirschau in the Upper Palatinate.
As soon as “post-Corona” allows a more open border crossing again, I’ m planning a trip to Iceland, an eldorado for outdoor fans. Here rocky mountains and glacier landscapes meet endless areas of black lava sand traversed by streams of meltwater. For such a trip I would certainly need some new footwear. So far, I have always visited the appropriate sports shops or the shoe store of my trust. At the moment – for the known reason – I prefer to use the corresponding offers from online shops such as Universal, Amazon or for example at Vamos, a true specialist with an extensive product range that always offers a solution.
So, what to look for when buying walking shoes/ hiking boots?
- Depending on the activity you should select the appropriate model. Hiking shoes are distinguished from category A (multifunctional shoes for shorter hikes) to category D (expedition boots for high mountain tours and extreme mountaineering).
- Try on the shoes in the afternoon if possible. At this time of day, the feet are a little bigger, just like on longer tours in the nature. Also take your hiking socks with you when you go shopping.
- It is important that the shoe offers a good hold for the heel. At least half a centimeter should be free in the front.
- Ideally, you should test going downhill on an incline to avoid unpleasant surprises such as later pressure points.
And one more thing: even the best shoe is of no use if the shoelace snaps for whatever reason. So always check the condition of your shoes beforehand or have a replacement pair with you.
Anyway, let’s go … or as it is said in Spanish: vamonos! … ya me voy … I’ll be gone for now.