When buying average hiking boots (for day hikes, short overnights and all but the most grueling backpacking trips), follow a simple rule: the less they weigh, the better you feel. Having just one extra pound of weight in your boots requires as much energy from you as carrying an extra 6 lbs. in your pack, which can make a big difference in the length and difficulty of your hike. Most waterproofing materials, like various versions of Gore-Tex and the newer eVENT, are constructed to be as lightweight as possible. Keep in mind that most waterproof boots incorporate both waterproofing and mesh areas to improve breathability. Search your style online by visiting the Web page for a boot you're considering, where you'll usually find a sheet of specifications--weight, height, width and materials used.
The Style You Need
Waterproof boots come in all styles--low, mid and full--and for all types of terrain. Make sure you're buying the right kind of boots for what you're planning to do--not only can it save you money by leaving off some extra features, but it can also be healthier for your muscles and joints. In addition, remember that just because your boots are waterproof doesn't mean they're made for swimming in! With the exception of heavy-duty mountaineering boots, the average waterproof hiking boot is not completely immune to water absorption due to the use of breathable fabrics. Also, excessive water exposure or a long soak can damage the other materials used to make the sole, tongue, laces and body of the boot.
Sizing and Care
If you're trying on a pair of boots, take a pair of socks like the ones you'll wear on the trail--the thickness of socks can change the way a boot fits. Also, remember to make sure there's lots of room in the "toe box," the wiggle room for your toes at the tip of the boot--a downhill hike can be incredibly painful if the toe box is too tight. Other things to look for when sizing a boot include the fit around the ankle, whether the side support is too rigid or if it rubs against your bones, and whether any areas feel as though they might create blisters on a long hike.
If you've purchased a pair of waterproof boots, never spray them with waterproofing solution! These materials are waterproof already, and the areas that are not have been left open to vent the shoe. Spraying with a waterproofing solution will close up the mesh and cause the boots to build up sweat and germs over time.
Article Written By Emily Elder
Emily works as a Greenway coordinator and parks project manager in her local community, and has been hiking, camping, fishing and riding all over the mountains of western North Carolina. She enjoys being outside with her family, especially her two children, Creedence and Mason, and her husband, James, and lives on a small farm surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.