Hiking Boot Types – Different Types of Hiking Boots
There is no such thing as "the Hiking Boot". There are many types and variations and knowing about them is the first step to Buying the Right Hiking Boots. All Hiking Boots come with their own Hiking Boot Features & Characteristics. The categories differ from country to country and from person to person. Choosing the right fit and function when buying boots is important for performance and safety.
In general, manufacturers and experts agree on a scale that goes from very light and flexible to heavy and rigid footwear. They use letters A to D to classify their boots. From light to heavy, we can distinguish the following types of Hiking Footwear:
Sandals (Class A)
Sandals were the first footwear invented by man and were used for serious hiking in ancient times. Sandals give all the comforts of ventilation and lightness but of course this comfort comes at a price when it comes to support and durability. More technical sandals will be able to take you places where you might expect that only boots would do the job. For serious use, look for adjustable but solid straps, molded arch support, and shaped footbeds. Sandals are great for warm weather hikes on easier terrains. Some hikers choose to pack a pair of sandals and bring them for crossing streams or to give their feet a rest and some air when the hiking conditions allow sandals.
Trail Running Shoes / Cross Trainers / Adventure Racing Shoes (Class A)
These shoes are actually running shoes that have special features to facilitate mountain trails and rougher terrain. In general, they will have higher cuts and extra padding and sole reach for your toes. The soles are generally tougher and the shoes will be constructed in a way that they give better protection from bad weather and trail conditions. Trail Running has greatly increased in popularity and most of these types of shoes are used for running but they can be used for walking as well.
Hiking Shoes / Approach Shoes / Trail Boots / Light Boots (Class A to B)
These are the entry level Hiking Boots for use on well-maintained trails and other smooth terrain. They are mostly made out of suede, nylon, or other light fabrics supported with leather. They are easy to break in and are generally flexible enough to offer comfortable walking from day one. Many of these boots have a frame architecture that will provide good support for your feet and ankles eventhough the cut generally does not reach higher than your ankle bones. More advanced versions of these boots will have fully gusseted tongues to prevent water and debris from entering the boot. The fashion world has also discovered this type of shoe resulting in a large range of fashion boots that lack the support needed for Hiking. Make sure to check the intended use of the boot you are buying.
Cross Hikers / Mid-weight Boots (Class B)
The typical mid-weight or B class boot looks like your classical Hiking Boot. These are boots intended for less smooth trails and light off-trail terrains. Their increased support will also help on longer or even multi-day hikes. They are generally made out of slightly tougher leather or a combination of tougher synthetic materials and leather parts. The sole and the general construction are less flexible and give increased support to your ankle and bridge. The cut reaches over the ankle which may cause discomfort if you are not used to having your footwear reach that high. These boots generally require some breaking in.
Off-trail Boots / Heavy Boots (Class C)
As the name suggests, these boots are intended for rough terrain. They have more technical constructions with the use of toe caps, cemented outsoles, molded midsoles, and synthetic linings. Inner membranes often feature Gore-Text or other multi-purpose materials. Some variants are compatible with Crampons for Mountaineering purposes. The constructions of these boots are intended to give maximum support and shock absorption while remaining water resistant/proof and breathable. The increased weight and stiffness of these boots require getting used to and training.
Mountaineering Boots (Class D)
These are the boots that you would use to climb Mount Everest. They are often used in combination with Crampons and typically have special attachment points at the top of the sole for securing Crampons. Some Mountaineering Boots have a hard plastic shell with a pivot at the ankle almost like skiing boots. These work best with ice climbing but are understandably uncomfortable for long Hiking. More flexible variations use leather in combination with highly technical fabrics to achieve the best combination of maximum support while maintaining some level of comfort and breath ability. Mountaineering Boots have additional insulation to protect against lower temperatures. These boots actually cross the border from Hiking and venture into the realm of Mountaineering. For more information on Mountaineering and Mountaineering Gear, check out ABC-of-Mountaineering.com.
From the hundreds of different Hiking Boots available in the market today, you can narrow down your selection if you are familiar with the different Types of Hiking Boots. Know the features of these types and determine which kind suits your needs.