Your shoes play a huge role during your trek. A good pair of shoes can feel like an extension of your feet and a bad pair can feel like thorns on your feet. So, how do you choose the perfect shoes?
Different shoes are suitable for different kinds of treks, depending on the weather, trail condition as well as duration of the trek. The ever-increasing number of choices of trekking shoes makes choosing very difficult for a trekker.
Before making a choice, be aware of the different types of trekking shoes and boots.
1. Hiking Shoes: Hiking shoes are a lot like trail running shoes. They are lightweight and have flexible soles. They are meant for short treks (one day or weekend). These shoes are good when you don’t have to carry heavy loads. They are superb for warm weather and dry terrain. Some of the popular and recommended hiking shoe brands are Forclaz Fresh, Arpenaz Flex series, Salomon, Woodland and Weinbrenner low ankle series.
2. Trek Boots: These are high-end versions of hiking boots. They have added support for your feet and ankles. The constructions are stiffer too. Their uppers are usually leather, suede or synthetic, like Gore-tex (GTX) or Nova Dry. Trek boots are ideal for those looking to do longer treks, usually week long, which involve carrying have loads. Trek boots provide excellent support for leg muscles on rough terrain, especially when you are prone to occasional slips and twisted ankles. These boots are good on snow, rain and are moderately water resistant.
The trade off is that they are heavier and more constricting, again because of the ankle support. For first timers, these shoes can take a while to get used to.
Trek boots differ with their build, design and choice of patented materials. The prices range between Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 7,000. Some of the popular and recommended brands are Forclaz 500, Forclaz 600, Kingcamp and so on.
3. Expedition Boots: These boots are designed for trekkers heading for challenging treks that involve tricky pass crossings, glacial traverses and so on. These treks last longer, sometimes more than ten days. The boots have thicker and more aggressive out-soles. The fabric used in these boots are more robust too. They have an insole padding which helps in cushioning the feet. They also have better ankle support and come with crampon-ready features. In that sense they are “bridge trek boots” – they offer more than “trek boots” but are not designed to be “mountaineering boots.”
These boots are more expensive, with prices starting upwards of Rs. 8,000. Some of the popular and recommended expedition boots are Forclaz 900 and Salomon Quest 4D-GTX. Other brands such as Merrell, Scarpa, Keen and La Sportiva can be considered, but they are rarely available in India.
Things to keep in mind while choosing trekking shoes
1. Select the right type of shoes. Factor in the duration of the trek, trail conditions (well-defined trail, rugged trail, rain, snow, glacial-pass traverse, etc.), and the load to carry.
For warm, dry terrain use low-ankle hiking shoes. For cold, rugged conditions go for trek boots. Trekking on glacier and extensive snow, on the other hand, will require trek boots with crampon-ready features.
2. Trekking boots should ideally have industry-accredited material used in their build. For example, look for waterproof and breathable fabric such as Gore-Tex or Nova dry. Also, the use of patented anti-slip soles by Vibram adds to the reliability of the boots.
3. Always test the shoes for the right fit. Ideally you should buy trek boots one size larger. Factor in this space keeping in mind the multiple woollen socks you wear on colder treks. Also a larger size helps in avoiding blisters.
Wear your shoes for about a week or so to break them in. Happy trekking!