We’ve spent decades trekking and travelling worldwide. Here we offer our 10 top tips on choosing the right boots for backpacking or expedition travels.
Forget getting new boots at all if you have not got the time to feel totally comfortable with them. Go with your old trusted pair and pack something spare just in case.
All of our feet are different. Just because you have heard a particular make and model are excellent, does not mean they will necessarily suit you. Also remember that the size you need between different makes may vary between brands of boots, because some are based on U.S, European or English sizes.
Comfort is king so getting the right size in any particular make is the first step. Larger is generally better than smaller as your feet will swell over a days hike.
I’ve trekked Kilimanjaro in a pair of army boots and Machu Picchu in a pair of desert boots. If you are an experienced walker the technicality of a boot is less important. For the less experienced walker having good ankle support, good shock absorbency and a slightly more rigid sole will help a lot.
One of the main functions of a boot is to support the ankle to safe guard against sprains. You will need to make the choice between a full height boot or what is called a mid. As the name suggests, the mid is not as high and will only give some support to the ankle. These can be more practical and comfortable for wearing generally if the trek is only part of your trip. For very severe treks you cannot beat a full height boot.
When you try them on, without doing up the laces push your foot to the very front of the boot. With your foot in this position you should be able to comfortably place your index finger in the heel. Your finger should snugly fit the gap – you should not be able to move it around nor should it be so tight you have to force it in.
Make sure you are trying on the boots with the thickness of sock that you will be trekking in. this can change the fit of the boot considerably.
When you have chosen a pair you like, ask the assistant if you can keep them on and wander round the shop whilst you look at other products for ten minutes. Your feet will soon tell you if the boots are right.
Once you get them home walk up and down stairs a dozen times before you commit them to the great outdoors. Going up and down stairs will tell you if the boots are going to slip in the heel because they are too big, or stub your toes because they are too small. It will also be much easier to return them to the store if the fit is poor, as they will not be covered in mud!
Finally don’t underestimate the value of socks, walking poles and Compeed. Don’t scrimp on your socks; they can make the world of difference to the comfort of the boot. Poles will stop you twisting your ankle as much as good ankle support from your boots and will support you getting up and down hill. Make sure you pack that Compeed! If all goes wrong with those super boots you bought, Compeed could save your feet!