There was a time when hikers could only buy one type of hiking boot: a huge clodhopper of a thing that weighed more than twice their own body weight, took six years to ‘break in’ and mould to their feet, and only caused blisters when there was a vowel in the month.
Things have changed. Not only do today’s boots feel like slippers as soon as you slip them on, but they can be three-season or four-season, lightweight, fabric, breathable, and come with anti-clogging soles or traction control. This makes life difficult.
Walk into an outdoor gear shop and ask for a pair of ‘ordinary walking boots’ and the red flashing lights with foghorn sirens will erupt telling everyone within a 50-mile radius that you are a complete greenhorn.
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A few minutes getting up to speed on the technicalities should save you from discomfort of both kinds.
Crampons Not excruciating calf pains that cause you to leap out of bed screaming in agony, but an additional contraption for extreme winter hiking. These vicious-looking metal spikes strap onto your boots, enabling you to trek across snow and ice – the hiking equivalent of snow chains for car tyres. If you’re going hiking in such conditions, you will need a sturdier and more solidly constructed boot made from thicker leather, often referred to as a four-season boot. Start talking crampons and the outdoor gear shop assistants will respect you. Only nutters like them go out hiking on snow.
Three-season boots Self-explanatory. If you have the good sense to stay in the pub in winter, you’ll need only three-season boots. The idea is that they keep your feet dry and secure for at least nine months of the year.