How to

13 May 2016

The Importance of Proper Footwear

When preparing for a cold-weather trek or a winter holiday, people are well aware that they need to invest in suitable clothing lest they suffer for their mistake upon arrival. One aspect that is often neglected, however, is proper footwear for the task at hand.

The correct footwear should provide support, grip and insulation, but with so many variants on the market, including increasingly specialised ranges, it can be a nightmare trying to find the perfect fit. Exactly what kind of footwear you require will of course depend heavily on the activity in which you are partaking. After all, wearing hiking boots on a snowboard won’t get you very far, except maybe face first into a snowdrift.

When it comes to snowboarding, you will need certified snowboarding boots, there’s no way around that. These boots are designed to attach to your board bindings and are generally taller in order to provide extra support and insulation around the ankle. The most important factors here will be ensuring the correct sizing, fit and flex rating. Your boots need to match your bindings and board, fit snug around the foot and ankle, and have a flex rating to match your style. Soft flex ratings tend to be favoured by beginners; more experienced riders tend to sway towards a stiffer boot for added control. Freeriders should look for a boot with a fairly soft upper to pad the shin, whereas those who prefer the park and pipe approach will need to keep weight to a minimum. Consider your most common usage and select footwear to match.

For skiers the considerations are pretty similar. You can’t go skiing without a ski boot (preferably two, to be honest), but exact recommendations are difficult to give as a properly designed boot will match your personal preferences in terms of fit and function. For both boarding and skiing, you are best off consulting with an established supplier such as Apex, Ellis Brigham or Snow+Rock.

Moving away from winter sports, all of which generally require a specialist product, hiking boots are probably the range where most people make mistakes in terms of purchasing. With so many variables to consider, from climate to elevation to journey length, many people fall at the first hurdle and end up buying footwear that actually causes discomfort and pain when put to use.

Ideally, you will want a hiking boot that is waterproof, lightweight and warm. Leather uppers provide a measure of stability around the ankle while providing good water protection, generally serving as your best option in terms of material. Fabric, while providing extra freedom of movement, doesn’t provide the same support or waterproofing, so should only really be considered for dry climates. In particularly wet areas you may want to consider a plastic upper instead as this will be completely waterproof. If you do go for this option however, be prepared to lug around the extra weight. For my money, leather is the way to go.

You will also want to pay attention to the sole of the boot. The rubber used in the manufacturing process will have a larger effect on the performance of your new footwear than you might think. Harder soles, while often preferred for their longevity, will not provide the same levels of grip as a softer sole. With this in mind, go for softer soles for particularly challenging or steep terrain. If you more commonly partake in regular excursions on more level ground, a hardwearing stiff sole will last a fair while longer and could be the better option. Overall soft, grippy soles are better for those would-be explorers pushing themselves to new limits. In cold weather, be sure to invest in a suitable liner as well.

Some highly recommended options include Scarpa's R-EvoPro GTX Trekking Boots, FlexiTog’s IceWalker 460s or Meindl’sVakuum GTX Walking Boots. Of course, don’t just take my word for it; there are plenty of reviews out there to scan through before you invest, and I highly recommend you do.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.