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The sun is out, nature lures you out of the house and you can hardly wait to lace up your walking boots and get out there? Blimey! Your old shoes are worn out, the market has become oh so confusing, what footwear should you go for? You end up going around in circles and can't make up your mind. The technical terms, the different technologies and the variety of brands are just too much.
But don't worry – help is at hand.
Walking or trekking shoes: What's the difference?
Walking, Hiking and trekking shoes for men differ mainly in the height of the shaft. Trekking shoes usually have a shaft that extends over the ankle to provide more protection against twisting when carrying heavy loads - when trekking, the backpack can quickly break the 15 kg mark. They also reduce the risk of injuring the ankle on uneven terrain in the semi-dark. Conversely, for short, technically simple hikes, low, ankle-high shoe models are sufficient - lighter hiking boots fall into this category. Shall mean: Hiking shoes are available with a wide variety of shaft heights; trekking shoes are usually "high shaded".
Innovative hiking and trekking boots for men have little in common with heavy mountain boots. Often, manufacturers of lightweight high-shaft hiking and trekking boots already come very close to the magic 1000-gram mark (per pair) or even undercut it. Low, i.e., only ankle-high hiking boots usually undercut this limit by a few hundred grams.
Modern hiking boots and trekking shoes are also characterized by one thing - they are waterproof, breathable and - at least ideally - lightweight. Over the years, more and more manufacturers have developed lightweight hiking and trekking shoes - and competition stimulates business. In the meantime, you can find hiking and trekking shoes for a wide variety of niches of use, in a wide variety of colours and from a wide variety of companies. Even companies that originally had little to do with the footwear sector have launched hiking and trekking shoes on the market - for example, The North Face.
Waterproof is a given
Hiking and trekking shoes that do not have a waterproof membrane now play only a secondary role. After all, it's not only on more extreme mountain tours and long-distance hikes that you have to ford streams, pass dewy meadows or spend more or less long sections of the tour in the rain - this can also happen on the weekend tour in the local mountains.
With its various waterproof membranes, the market leader Gore-Tex still dominates the market for waterproof hiking boots - now and then the word "hiking boots" is also used. They are joined by Sympa-Tex (abbreviation: STX); other manufacturers equip their shoes with waterproof technologies they have developed themselves.
Ankle-high walking boots or mid-heigh walking boots?
Whether you choose ankle or mid-height hiking boots is a bit of a matter of conscience and depends on what you want to use them for. For easy hikes with little luggage in moderate terrain (dirt roads, easy paths...) ankle-high hiking boots are sufficient. If you venture into more difficult terrain - i.e. if the trails become stonier, steeper and rockier, you should go for a mid-high (often referred to by the abbreviation "mid" in the product description) or even high hiking boot. They offer more twisting stability in difficult terrain and ultimately more protection from injury. The same is true if you are hiking with more luggage on your back. With a heavier backpack, the risk of twisting around increases. On a challenging tour with a large backpack, it only makes sense to wear an ankle-high shoe for fashion reasons.
What categories imply
The Bavarian shoe manufacturer Meindl has developed a system according to which men's mountain and hiking shoes can be classified into categories divided by letter for easier purchase orientation. For hiking boots, the categories A/B, B and B/C are particularly relevant.
Category A/B includes hiking boots or high hiking boots that are suitable for easy hikes in the lowlands, low mountain ranges or the foothills of the Alps and can be used on good and less good trails or hut climbs. Category B includes trekking boots that can be used on demanding hikes in low mountain ranges and light trekking tours in the mountains of the world, providing high walking comfort and stability even on poor trails and climbs. Heavy trekking boots of category B/C, designed for demanding trekking and hard tours up to high mountains and conditionally resistant to crampons, meanwhile, can also be used on poor paths and trails, scree, via ferrata and short glacier passages.
Hiking shoes and boots are made of a wide variety of materials. Friends of light weight should look for a hiking boot made of synthetic materials and fibers, but also fans of classic leather shoes will still find what they are looking for, but usually have to accept a somewhat higher weight. In return, they are "rewarded" with a longer product life. If you are looking for hiking boots that have been manufactured according to vegan guidelines, you will find a growing selection in stores - more and more manufacturers are referring to this increasingly important attribute.
Which trekking shoes for men do I need?
The answer to this question is similar for trekking shoes as it is for hiking boots. You should ask yourself where you want your trekking shoes to take you. Is it the demanding Annapurna circuit in the Himalayas and do you need a waterproof high-end trekking shoe with all the finesse that will have your back even in snowfall and icy temperatures? Or are you more interested in a lightweight trekking shoe with which you can hike a long-distance trail in the foothills of the Alps in summer with comparatively little luggage? At Bergzeit you will find the right shoes in both categories.
Fit & size for men's walking boots and trekking shoes
Different manufacturers means different lasts at the same time - every cobbler has his own, as is well known, to stay with. For the prospective buyer, this ultimately means that shoes of the same size from different manufacturers can only be compared with each other to a limited extent. A change of brand therefore always carries the risk that one will also feel different in the new shoe from a different manufacturer and that the fit will differ significantly.
Individual manufacturers have therefore thought about how to offer more comfort to men with wide feet in particular - and have developed shoes with a slightly wider fit, usually marked with the letter W for English "wide". The pioneer in this sector is undoubtedly the Bavarian manufacturer HanWag, but also Meindl, Lowa, Aku, La Sportiva, Scarpa, Salomon and even Hoka One One offer "wide" models, the latter, however, especially in the field of running shoes and very light semi-high hiking boots. So it's worth asking in any case!
When should I replace my walking footwear?
There is no rule of thumb, as there is for example for running shoes (you should change them after about 600-800 km at the latest), for hiking shoes. So only common sense can help. If the soles are already severely damaged and no longer provide the usual support, a replacement is necessary - if you do not have a more expensive, solid hiking shoe that can be re-soled. In addition, hiking boot stitching also has a limited shelf life. Although a cobbler can sometimes try to save what can still be saved - but at some point, you should do your feet a favour and think about a new purchase, especially with worn-out, damaged shoes.
How can I break in walking boots?
If you have something bigger in mind - for example, a multi-day hike with a lot of altitude - you should always break in your new hiking boots. Especially if you are trying longer distances for the first time, you should not expect too much from your feet. A few short tours to get used to the shoes are not a bad idea - if the temperatures are low and you are not too warm, you can also break in lighter hiking shoes in everyday life.
Did you know?
Did you know that Gore-Tex is the market leader when it comes to waterproof shoes? This doesn't just apply to heavy mountain boots - the American company also guarantees that feet stay dry in hiking and trekking shoes.
If you value grippy, durable outsoles, you're in good hands with the sole market leader Vibram. The Italian company, whose soles can be recognized by a striking yellow logo, probably has the most experience with soles on the market.