Hiking Boots Tips

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How can I avoid blisters?

Beating Blisters

Blisters are the bane of any hiker's existence. They can be avoided, however. Blisters are caused by moisture, heat, and friction against your skin. Wear boots or hiking shoes that fit properly. If you are hiking for an extended period of time, bring a change of socks. Switch pairs about halfway through your hike (or sooner, if your feet get wet during your trip). If you consciously decide to get wet during the trip -- by cooling off in a stream, for example -- be absolutely sure you thoroughly dry your feet before replacing your socks and boots.

Some suggestions for buying the right shoes to avoid blisters:

- If you find a comfortable pair of running shoes, you can wear them on your hike, providing it's a short hike on flat terrain.

- Find retail brands that make shoes and boots, like montrail hiking boots, which provide options for men and women.

   
Are all hiking boots waterproof?

Waterproofing Boots

Good boots are either already waterproofed, or can be waterproofed at home with special waterproofing solutions. Look for waterproof fabric boots, like Lowa hiking boots or leather boots that can be treated with Sno-seal or other more durable waterproofing solutions. Don't underestimate the importance of waterproof boots! When hiking, if your feet become wet, blisters will form. This will not only make for an uncomfortable hike, but the blisters will take time to heal, limiting your hiking experiences considerably!

   
Do I need a hiking boot or a hiking shoe?

Hiking Shoes vs. Hiking Boots

Not sure if the hiking you're doing requires a boot or a shoe? Consider the length, terrain, and weight you'll be encountering on your journey. Bigger jobs require sturdier footwear. A short day hike will only require the solidity of a firm hiking shoe. Longer hikes -- and hikes over rockier and uneven terrain -- will need boots that offer more support, particularly for the ankle. Also, if you will be carrying a heavy load such as a backpack or firewood, etc., boots are probably your best bet.

   
What is the best sock for outdoor use?

The Best Socks for Outdoors

Keeping your extremities warm and dry is a priority when hiking and camping. Believe it or not, one of the most essential pieces of outdoor clothing is socks! What happens if you find a great-fitting boot but it is not waterproof? Buy a pair of Gore-Tex socks to put inside the boot to keep your feet dry. Gore-Tex is a heat-retaining fabric that is used in many other clothing items as well, such as gloves, jackets, scarves, and hats.

   
How important is running if I'm going to hike?

Run Before You Walk

The best way to get yourself in overall shape before a hike is to start a jogging or running program. This will prepare your legs and feet for the hike. You will also increase your stamina and breathing skills. Whenever possible, run on inclines, which will strengthen your ankles and calves. You might consider wearing your hiking or trekking bootson a couple of the fast walks to break in the boot. Whether you are running/jogging outdoors or at the gym, introduce a backpack to your workout at some point. Even if it is light, you will be preparing your body for the situations you will encounter on the trail.

   
Is it worth it to save money on buying hiking boots?

Testing for Good Support

Saving money is a good thing. But be careful when shopping for discount hiking boots. A great way to test the integrity of a hiking boot is to grab the top of the boot and try to bend it over side-ways. If it bends easily, it's probably not going to provide the level of protection needed on the trail. The top of the boot should be stiff to hold the ankle in place and provide it with good support.

   
What socks should I wear when I buy hiking boots?

Don't Change Your Socks!

Your hiking socks should be warm, breathable, and not too thin. When buying hiking boots or hiking shoes, it's important to wear the same socks you intend to wear on your hike. As you try on the different pairs of boots or shoes, wearing the same (or similar brand) of sock will ensure a proper fit come trail-time. New boots and shoes can cause abrasions as you break them in. Too thin a sock will not be enough protection for the skin on your feet.

   
What is Gore-Tex?

Gore-Tex: A Hiker's Best Friend

A good waterproof garment is also breathable. Essentially, the theory behind making a good waterproof garment is that a water drop is larger than a molecule of water vapor. By combining waterproofness with breathability, a membrane with a pore size much smaller than a water drop but much bigger than a water vapor molecule is needed.
This is where Gore-Tex comes in! About thirty years ago, a petrochemical polymer called polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE) was developed, better-known as "Gore-Tex." Since 1976 many variations of Gore-Tex have been developed which fall under the category name of "PTFE laminates."

Many brand names use Gore-Tex these days as part of their hiking lines from Amadeus of Austria raincoats to vasque hiking boots.

   
How important are the sides of womens' hiking boots?

Hiking Boots: Taking Sides

It's not just women who care about a good pair of shoes. In the case of men's hiking boots, quality and durability is important. All good boots provide good protection on the sides. Hiking boot sides should be heavy with extra padding to protect your foot from stones, rocks, and branches you may step on. These could gouge into the side of the boot. Some fabric boots have protective "welts" 1/2-inch or more up from the soles to give added protection.

   
Can I return hiking boots if they don't fit?

Returning Hiking Boots

Finding the perfect pair of hiking boots can be a daunting task. Luckily, many retailers understand this. Retailers specializing in hiking gear often offer refunds or exchanges on boots, provided they are in relatively new condition when you return them. That is, take them home, walk around in the house and get as good a feel as you can for their fit. If you try to return boots that have been on the trail (i.e., are muddy and caked with dirt), you're less likely to find a merchant who is willing to take them back.

Be careful if you buy discounted hiking boots as they may be non-refundable.

   
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Patricia Walters-Fischer