Give a trekker a right pair of trekking shoes, and he or she can conquer any mountain.
That being said, a pair of trekking shoes is the most important gear for a trekker. A trekker spends more time in his shoes than he spends in the tent. And only a right pair of shoes can save her adventure from becoming an utter disaster. Especially during winter treks, you must keep a few important points in mind.
Having doubts about how to choose a perfect pair of trekking shoes? Here is a 101 guide for you to ensure a blissful experience rather than a blister breakout:
First of all,
Know the terrain, duration, and the load you will be carrying on your next adventure
Are you going on a one-day hike with a lightweight pack? A multi-day rigorous trek with a heavyweight pack? Or a full-stride mountain climbing?
The trail you are walking on and the extra weight you carry will take a load on your shoes. Therefore, it is critical you choose your hiking boots keeping these factors in mind. There is an array of boots to select from depending upon the nature and rigour of the trek.
They are low-cut models with flexible rubber soles. They are lightweight and offer less support.
Choose them if you are:
- Going on a one-day hike
- Walking on easy and well-paved trails like Chopta Chandrahsila, and Triund
- Carrying a lightweight pack.
They are easily available in the range of INR 2000 to 3500 from regular brands like Woodland, Wildcraft, Himgear, and Quechua. Other brands like Columbia, etc. are costlier but have different useful features.
Trekking Shoes are higher cut versions of hiking shoes. The water-resistant, mid-rise ankle trekking boots are made with stiffer construction to provide more support and protection on rough terrains.
Choose them if you are:
- A beginner to multi-day hiking or an occasional trekker.
- Going on a multi-day hike on rough terrains like Kedarkantha Trek, Goecha la Trek etc.
- Carrying a moderately heavy backpack.
This is the category needed for most of the Himalayan treks. The shoe is available in the range of INR 3500 to INR 6500 from regular brands like Wildcraft, Himgear, and Quechua. Other brands like Columbia, etc. are costlier but have additional useful features.
Mountaineering boots are big, burly, and stiff to stand any gnarly terrain or weather. The high-rise ankle are more robust and suitable for challenging treks. They have an extra layer of insulation for extreme conditions like snow.
Choose them if you are:
- Carrying a heavy load.
- Going for longer treks and off-trail excursions like Friendship peak expedition or Gangotri III
- Going on a snow and winter trek conditions.
These are technical boots and should be purchased only by professionals. These may be required on some challenging treks like Stok Kangri or Friendship Peak but these are available on rent for occasional use.
Let’s pay attention to the finer details for the Trekking Shoe category:
Limiting our discussion to the Trekking Shoes, let’s pay attention to its construction and aesthetic which determine the durability and comfort of the shoes.
The trekking shoe has 3 main components to its construction: The upper, midsole, and the outsole.
1. The upper
The upper part impacts the weight, durability and the water resistance of the shoe. It is also important that the upper material provides proper ventilation to your feet. The upper part of the shoes is made of mainly two materials: leather and synthetic.
Leather shoes are the best option for ensuring durability, protection, and comfort. The type of leather affects the aesthetics and waterproofing capacity. Full grain, pigskin, and split leather are few available options in leather.
However, if you are looking for a vegan option for your shoes, you can go with synthetic leather which has the same functionality as leather.
‘Sole is the soul of a shoe’
Touche! The sole is where the comfort and stability of a shoe live. It provides stiffness to the shoes and cushioning to your feet. Therefore, a sole should be hard enough to protect you from any abrasive shock while walking on long, rocky terrains. The most commonly used material that you will find in your sole are: EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) and Polyurethane.
3. Outer sole
The lug patterns at the bottom of your shoes define your grip while trekking in the mountains. It eases your walk through dirt, trail, or ground. Deeper and thicker the lug pattern is, more traction it ensures to your feet.
The raised heel zone at the bottom of your shoe, also known as the ‘heel brake’, reduces your chance during the steep descents.
Also make sure your shoes are:
Because no one likes wet feet.
Check your shoes for an added layer of resin on the outside. Your trekking shoes should be water resistant so that when you step into a puddle of water or cross a river stream, the water does not get inside your shoes making it difficult for you to walk.
Also, not only your shoes should be waterproof but also breathable. Otherwise you will have a an unpleasant stench in your feet. Your tent mates may end up calling you ‘Stinky Feet’.
Having boots that are compatible with crampons and mid-spikes is essential when you are trekking in snow. This is a serious safety issue.
Picked out a shoe, how’s the fit?
A tight fit can give you blisters. A right fit, bliss!
Since you are going to spend most of your time on the trek wearing shoes, the size is of paramount importance. Do not ignore these points below to have a snugly fit.
- Know your size: A shoe must be large enough to have room to wiggle. Your toes should not touch the front of the shoe box when laced up.
- Wear appropriate socks.
- To avoid shoe bites, break in your boots before your first trek.
- If you are shopping online, buy from the brand you have worn before.
Heading out to buy trekking shoes for yourself? Go easy on your feet and follow the above simple steps before you complete your packing list.
And here is a bonus read for which you can thank us later: How to avoid and treat blisters on the Trek.