Hiking boots are especially designed to offer the correct support to your body as well as protect your feet from blisters, soars, sprains and other injuries. Each part of a hiking boot is designed with great attention to the specific needs of different types of hikers, from the so-called day-hikers to seriously committed mountaineers.
The science behind designing good hiking gear doesn’t simply end with creating the perfect sole but it even extends to details such as the tongue and the heel. Consequently, when you try a pair of walking boots, you should not only consider whether the sole feels good but examine each and every part of it.
What, then, are the various components of hiking boots and what purpose does each fulfil?
Uppers: this is the part of the hiking boot that is above the sole and which mainly supports the foot. It can be made of full-grain leather, suede or full-grain leather that resembles suede. It is resistant to water and allows the feet to breath, while also preventing the concentration of moisture inside the boot.
Outer sole: this is the part of the sole that grips to the ground and is usually made of hard rubber or Vibram with deep lugs, in order to provide good traction and prevent slipping. This is also the part of the sole that absorbs vibration acting as a protective ‘cushion’ for the legs.
Insole: the part of the boot that is right under your foot, inside the boot. This also acts as a protective ‘cushion’ and protects the feet from the cold as well as further eliminating the pressure. Good insoles can make all the difference ensuring maximum support and balance.
Heel: Most hiking boots have a padded notch at the heel to further reduce any pressure on the heel. Boots with such a notch are highly recommended.
Tongue: hiking boots’ tongue is usually different than that of most shoes. Any respectable pair of hiking boots should have a tongue that attaches to both sides of the boot to prevent water, dirt and mud from getting through.
Shank: this is a nylon or steel plate that is intended to provide extra support to your arch as it stiffens the boot and makes it harder to bend.
Toe box: decent hiking footwear should also have a toe box to keep the toes even safer from rocks and rough tracks. If you are planning to also go mountaineering a toe box is a must.