When choosing the right footwear, the surface on which you are going to walk on is decisive. Wearing shoes that are not suitable for the purpose is not only uncomfortable but also dangerous. The steeper, more challenging and demanding the terrain, the more stable the shoe hast to be.
The effects of poorly fitting shoes
If you are hiking with unsuitable footwear, you risk blisters on your feet and posture-related pain. In the long term, these can lead to malpositions in the musculoskeletal system.
On the other hand, unsuitable shoes offer neither stability nor security. The consequences are twisted ankles, torn ligaments and falls – in the worst case, this can be fatal.
We recommend this type of footwear for...
...strolls and easy hikes
Comfortable running shoes for easy hikes
Photo: CC0, pixabay.com
In flat terrain and on well-developed paths, classic running shoes with a shock-absorbing sole are often sufficient. The light upper material adapts well to the foot – but does not protect against moisture.
Lightweight hiking shoes offer a good alternative. They are usually only half high and also have a flexible yet more sturdy sole than running shoes. Lightweight hiking shoes are usually water-repellent or even waterproof and have also proven their worth in everyday life and on city trips.
Mid-high hiking shoe made of waterproof material
Photo: Svenja Trachte, Outdooractive Editors
If you are traveling over longer distances, with more luggage or in varied terrain, you should get a mid- or ankle-high shoe with a stable sole and a suitable footbed. A reinforced toe cap protects the shoe from wear as well as against the moisture penetration.
So-called approach shoes are often the first choice for via ferrata climbers. They have a semi-stiff sole and, in the toe area, an edge called the "climbing zone" for short and easy climbs. Long lacing allows a perfect adjustment to the foot.
...trekking and mountaineering
Sturdy hiking boots for rough terrain
Photo: CC0, pixabay.com
Long distances, rough terrain, lots of luggage, cold and wet weather – these are factors that definitely call for an ankle-high shoe with a well-cushioned sole and a waterproof, breathable upper layer.
If necessary, the shoe should be suitable for crampons; lined versions are specially designed for winter use.
Attention: Winter boots are not suitable for hiking or mountaineering. They are not cushioned and usually have a too soft sole.
What else to consider?
Good shoes need good socks. Hiking socks should be well-padded and fit the foot like a second skin. They must also be long enough to prevent them from slipping down the bootleg. If you get blisters quickly, we recommend double-layer socks. These absorb the friction energy between the inner and outer layers and do not transfer it to the foot.
We recommend buying a good hiking boot half a size or a full size bigger to ensure that it fits well with thicker socks and that your toes do not touch the front of the shoe when walking downhill. Also, throughout the day, your feet get bigger - so you should go and buy your new walking shoes in the afternoon.
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Photo: airFreshing, CC BY-ND, flickr.com