There is a wide variety of footwear suitable for hiking and trekking; Almost as much variety as land and types of trekking can be found. We can make a journey of several days through which we will have to cross broken and bad terrain, with areas of half mountain, but we can also do a hiking activity of few hours by easy road.
To feel comfortable when doing these activities, we can choose between boots, half boots, slippers, with or without waterproof and breathable membrane, of greater or lesser protection. The variety of material allows us to choose the most suitable for us, but the variety of activities complicates our choice enough.
We will try to clarify it. But in general, the choice of footwear will depend on a combination of external factors (type of activity, place in which it develops-orography, terrain, meteorology, weight that we must carry, etc-) and personal factors (physical form, experience, morphology, etc).
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Requirements for hiking and trekking footwear
Trekking shoes need to protect our feet. When we walk through nature or the mountain, it is easy to receive or hit rocks, roots, etc. Therefore, trekking shoes should have a reinforced rubber toe to protect our fingers, a heel that protects the back of the foot, and instep and side protections. Without these protections, we risk injury, in addition to losing confidence in complex terrain, which translates into a loss of security.
These protections also serve to hold the foot. Something very necessary, for example, crossing a hillside; with a normal sports shoe, the foot will force the shoe towards the slope, preventing our movements; with trekking shoes, it will stay firm in place and we will walk safely through all types of terrain.
Something important: the protection we need from trekking shoes not only includes the foot; it also does it with the ankle. Therefore, in many cases the choice of medium or high boots will be adequate. On the topic boot-boot half-boot high, we will talk later.
And let’s not forget something that is often overlooked: it is not the same to go hiking or mountain with or without weight. When we carry a backpack in crossings of several days, it is essential a good footwear / boot that stabilizes us, and that cushions our feet under the greatest pressure. It is the difference between having aches and pains and not having them. In addition to the security we receive in the stabilization; nothing more dangerous to our integrity than an imbalance in the mountains.
Any sports shoe must have a sole that allows us to practice the sport for which it is designed. However, in the mountains, when talking about the sole, we not only talk about something that helps us in practice: we mainly talk about our safety and physical integrity.
The sole is what unites us to the terrain, which allows us to advance through complex places. The compound with which they are manufactured and their design are fundamental and require a lot of research. In addition, it has to work in dry, wet, compact, loose, snow, mud, etc. To achieve this, the designs show multidirectional tacks that allow us to climb efficiently, not to skate, to make half-slopes with confidence, or to brake in descent thanks to their tacos prepared for it.
The sole also acts as a protective barrier. A very soft shoe -for example, running- will make us suffer in hard areas, with stones, edges, etc.
Like every time we talk about mountain material, the binomial breathability seems fundamental.
On the one hand, we need to be comfortable, dry, avoid overheating, and for that we need shoes to breathe.
On the other, outdoors, we need to be protected against the elements. Not just rain or snow; in the mountain there is mud, puddles, rivers to cross, the meadows in the morning are wet with dew.
The footwear with membrane solves this problem in part, since it allows the foot to perspire, while it is waterproof. But keep in mind that, despite being breathable, it is not so much as a shoe without a membrane.
Actually, it is the consequence of all the above. A footwear that grip in all situations, that protects us from bumps, friction, the orography, the inclement weather, which allows us to carry a backpack with weight, will make us go safe in a complex terrain such as mountain and nature.
Comfort is important not only because it will allow us to enjoy the activity (we all prefer to be comfortable …) but because a shoe that hurts us, or even chafing and blisters, will make us tread insecurely, increasing the chances of an accident.
High boot or middle?
The shoes made for trekking are obviously very comfortable, and also, unlike running shoes or other types of sports, they are usually climb up just below the malleoli, which rest on them, which allows an ankle support, less than a boot, but protection after all.
In addition, they incorporate front, side and heel protections, and a suitable sole for the mountain (although in the case of the trail shoes, and the lightest, they can be too soft, and not protect us completely from the irregularities of the terrain).
And having no cane, they perspire better.
Does this mean we can use them as trekking and hiking shoes? Of course, they are designed for it. Do you mean that in any situation? The quick answer is no.
The shoes are more agile and lighter. This has its advantages, but also its disadvantages
The lower leg of the shoes unprotects the ankle. This does not matter in easy terrain, or in short excursions. But in a very long day, when forces fail, the support that gives us a boot is essential. Who has not lived on the mountain the feeling that our ankles bend at each complex step due to lack of energy? They are also problematic when we have to carry enough weight in the backpack.
Obviously, this will depend on the physical form and experience of each one. That in no case is it the same for a professional or someone with a lot of form and experience that for the occasional practitioners in better or worse form. Before imitating the way, we dress, fit, and do things, we have to assess if we are truly like them, and we can do it.
If we use trail shoes for hiking or trekking, we must bear in mind that the sole is softer. This is good for walking on roads, not irregular terrain, or for those in shape and experience who like to “feel” the terrain. But most casual practitioners who walk off-road will do better with the protection and safety of a somewhat stiffer sole.
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