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Choosing the Proper Hiking Boots
While hiking in Glacier Park, hiking in Yellowstone Park, or hiking in Grand Teton National Park, wearing the right boots can make or break your hiking experience. After over 40 years of hiking these parks, and averaging over 1,400 miles of trails each summer for the past 7 years, we have a pretty good idea what type of hiking boots you might need. Now as far as brands, we are going to stay out of that discussion. We have our preferences, and others have theirs.
A Reasonably Firm Sole
For a general purpose, all around hiking boot, we strongly recommend that you stay away from the really soft soles that have no firmness to them. Lately we have noticed that the trend is for manufacturers to simply take their running shoes and extending the top for ankle support, and are calling this a hiking boot. These “hiking” boots feel incredibly comfortable in the store, and they are amazingly light weight. You’ll probably say out loud that these boots are the most comfortable boots you’ve ever worn, and you’ll probably fall in love with them… That is until you actually begin hiking with them. The problem lies in the fact that they provide no support as you are hiking over rough terrain, and this really can create a problem for your feet during your Glacier Park Hikes, Yellowstone Park Hikes or Grand Teton Hikes.
When hiking over rough terrain, you do not want the sole to bend and flex with every contour of the ground surface. This creates incredible fatigue and discomfort, and you’re feet will begin to really tire out and ache. Instead, you want the sole of your boot to be at least reasonably firm (stiff) to keep your feet from flexing and bending with every contour of the ground surface. This keeps your feet comfortable and keeps them from fatiguing so quickly and getting sore.
Another reason you want a fairly firm sole on your hiking boot is the fact that as you climb up a steep hill, the sole of your boot will remain fairly flat, instead of bending like a running shoe would. This really keeps not only your feet but your calf muscles from working over-time and fatiguing. A firm boot reduces the amount of muscle-work your feet and legs are required to do by allowing the boots to do much of the work for you.
This trend right now by many hiking boot manufacturers of simply extending their cross-training hiking shoes into a boot, also leaves these boots with inadequate ankle support. So besides having a sole that is not stiff enough, the ankle support on these “boots” are also quite insufficient in many cases. The last thing a hiker needs is a sprained ankle.
We’ve heard over and over by hikers that Gore Tex boots are “too hot” and their feet sweat too much in them. Well, we’ve tried just about everything, including non-water proof hiking boots, and we always come back to Gore Tex lined boots. We really don’t notice the difference in the “temperature” of our boots, and the fact that our feet will stay relatively dry in about 80 percent of the situations we come across while hiking makes any “temperature” difference well worth putting up with.
There’s nothing more annoying than wet feet while trying to enjoy your Glacier Park Hikes, Yellowstone Park Hikes and Grand Teton Hikes. And as you know, there is always that one little part of the trail that has slushy wet snow on it, or there is a tiny little shallow stream you have to cross, or there are large mud puddles in the middle of the trail after a rain storm, or you have to cross a snow field, or the vegetation is soaking wet with morning dew…. all of these situations will leave your feet soaked to the bone. Gore Tex, or its equivalent, 99 percent of the time will keep your feet dry during these brief instances. Of the tens of thousands of miles we’ve hiked, we rarely got wet feet during typical hiking situations because we chose to wear water proof hiking boots.
Now of course if you’re in a stream too long, or you’re in a massive rain storm, or you hike long enough in wet slushy snow, your boots and feet will eventually get wet. What we’re talking about is the brief encounters with water along the trail… That’s when a water proof boot really pays off.
Now when we say Gore Tex, we mean any of the proven materials that are breathable and water proof. Gore Tex is the original “miracle material” that changed the world, but there are several other materials on the market that also perform quite nicely.
Change the Insole
The first thing you should do after you purchase your new hiking boots is throw away the manufacturer’s insoles, and shop for a more cushioned insole that fits the contour of your feet. Most outdoor stores carry a variety of insoles, so take your time and find the one that works for you….. and don’t get an insole with a lot of arch support if you don’t have a high arch. This will make your feet extremely uncomfortable. Remember, not everyone has an arch!
The Less Seams the Better
We prefer our boots to be made of leather with the least amount of seams possible. We have found these “seamless” boots to last far longer and remain water proof longer than boots that are put together with a bunch of different pieces with stitching every where you look. We’ve also found leather to hold up better than fabrics while hiking off trail in really rough terrain and scree slopes with a lot of loose rocks.
We hope this article proves to be useful to you. Your hiking boots can make or break your hike, and by choosing the proper hiking boot, your hiking experience will be much more enjoyable. So as you embark on your hikes in Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton National Park, remember that comfortable, dry feet makes for a happy hiker!
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