Walking boots buyer’s guide
Try carefully before you buy and find the brand that best suits your foot shape. Check the ankle cuff is comfortable – especially at the heel where rubbing can be a problem – and the tongue sits neatly across your foot to prevent water getting in.
Leather or fabric
Both are breathable and waterproof. Fabric boots tend to be lighter and more comfortable at first, but the waterproof liners they often use can be sweaty in hot weather. Leather boots are harder wearing in the long term.
Boot construction consists of an upper, a midsole and a sole. Stiff uppers are better for rocky ground and winter use, so crampon straps can be added comfortably. Softer uppers are more comfortable and best for valley walking where less support and and protection is required. The midsole is responsible for providing longitudinal and lateral stiffness. To test the midsole, grab the boot by the toe and heel, and bend the heel towards the toe. Then twist the toe while holding the heel steady. The harder it is to bend the boot, the better suited it is to rocky ground, where you need more stiffness. Also, look for a flex point that corresponds to where your foot bends.
The front of the boot gets the most abuse so a protective toe box is a useful feature. Press the toe box with your thumb to see how rigid and protective it is.
Look for an aggressive pattern of lugs on the sole. The deeper the lugs, the more durable and grippy they’ll be. Decent-sized gaps between the lugs will prevent clogging.
Stamp your feet and try bouncing on the heels. Some retailers provide sample rock and boulder surfaces to try walking over.
Foot and ankle support will make uneven terrain more comfortable. A higher ankle cuff provides more support – especially important if you’re carrying a heavy load, and helpful for keeping out mud and grit. Good padding will keep this area comfortable.
This should be stiff and supportive. Pinch it between your fingers –if it’s soft and flexible it won’t offer much support.