When buying footwear, the most frequent question customers ask is: “Which are the best boots for me?”
It’s a tricky one because several factors are involved that have an impact:
Lifestyle footwear is generally lightweight and flexible. These boots and shoes are designed for light activities, i.e. travelling, walking or everyday use. Hiking footwear offers good support and a solid sole design for longer hikes and easy treks. Backpacking boots are partly suitable for crampons and designed for long treks on rough terrain with a heavy backpack. Alpine boots that are fully compatible with crampons and designed for glaciers, mountaineering and ice climbing.
Categorising according to activity makes sense because different lasts, materials and construction techniques influence suitability too.
How fit and experienced are you?
When choosing the footwear, the area you intend to use them plays a pivotal role. But physical fitness and experience are equally crucial. Mountain guides come up against this dilemma when their customers ask: “Why do we have to wear these heavy boots, while you’re only wearing lightweight shoes?”This is because mountain guides are so fit, strong and sure-footed that it’s no problem. Safety is of course paramount though and if in doubt you should always pick more stable footwear.
How heavy is your backpack?
There’s naturally a huge difference between trekking for three weeks through Nepal with a 20 kg backpack and hiking in the Alps with a 5 kg daypack. It’s not just the rigidity and flex of the sole unit that counts, but the design of the whole boot. For longer trekking tours with a heavy backpack, we recommend a more rigid boot, for example from our Backpacking category. For day trips with a lightweight backpack, lighter footwear from our Hiking collection would be more suitable.
What kind of weather do you expect? And will you be able to dry the boots overnight?
Or to put it another way, is footwear with a Gore-Tex® membrane required? Not only are Gore-Tex® boots and shoes waterproof and breathable, they also dry fast. Consequently, they’re definitely the number one choice for multi-day treks, alpine projects (glaciers), rainy weather, wet climates, marshy areas and winter mountaineering. Especially where there’s no opportunity to dry boots out overnight. Even if you’re only occasionally out in these sorts of conditions, you should consider Gore-Tex® footwear.
The leather lining’s advantage is that it adapts better to the shape of the foot. However, leather footwear isn’t fully waterproof, even with the best care and maintenance. Therefore it’s better to wear it in drier conditions or when the footwear has a chance to dry out overnight.
Remember that the Gore-Tex® membrane should not be confused with the upper. Gore-Tex® footwear is available with leather or Cordura® uppers. The Gore-Tex® membrane itself is laminated to the lining. This is generally a highly durable, synthetic, fast-drying fabric. It’s also possible to laminate Gore-Tex® membranes to leather linings (for example our Bajura Gv and Fandango 100 Gv). This combines the benefits of both materials, but some of the disadvantages too.