Deciding on the best footwear for day hiking is easier than choosing something for long distance or mountain climbing but its always good to consider type of terrain and any possible weight you may be carrying before purchasing.
In days past the only way to achieve any long lasting strength from boots designed for the outdoor enthusiast was to use heavy hard wearing materials. This has changed considerably in the last decade with lightweight plastic and polymers and the weight of a product doesn’t necessary mean its going to survive longer. The switch in construction has also introduced a greater level of waterproofing along with better sweat and heat control with the use of breathable material.
Short day hikes of a few hours generally give the hiker more control over the type of weather they have to deal with allowing any outing to be scrapped altogether if things are too bad meaning paying extra for a specialized pair of waterproofed boots may be a waste of money.
The soles of any hiking boots are the parts that are going to get the most abuse so make sure these are solid all the way through. A vast number of budget boots come with a hollow soles and these can easily be shredded by sharp rocks or when scrambling on small lose stones.
Always take a good look at the stitching and how well the boot is put together, another weak point is where the sole meets the boot upper with lower quality stock making use of cheap glue to keep them together.
The Fatal Price/Quality Trade Off
Always one for a bargain me (who isn’t) but have taken a look back at prior purchases recently after my latest “cheap” acquisition decided to fall apart way before its time in what was possibly the worst situation ever. Unfortunately it seems that manufactures of products spend more time deceiving the consumer by making items look better than they are instead of marketing reliable gear.
The quality outdoor footwear companies are the ones who have stood the test of time and still keep producing hard wearing gear year on year. I’m talking about the likes of Meindl and Merrell where the lifespan of their higher priced items is measured in decades of use instead of maybe just scarping through a whole season.
There is still plenty of outdoor gear where a cheap product will preform just as well as the higher priced version but based on a lifetime of trudging up more hills than I care to remember footwear is certainly not one of them.
As with everywhere here in the UK we have an abundance of discount supermarkets that do like to trade in lower priced items and it was from one of these that Michelle (the other half of Wild Terrain) proudly paid for a good looking pair of hiking boots a few years ago (in my absence). These boots lasted all of 2 pretty calm trips finally failing on a 3 day hike in wales, I would have been perfectly within my rights to point out to Michelle that boots that cheap will never last but years of living together and her anger at the gear failure made me keep my tongue until we returned home.
Investing in something that will survive years of use will ultimately save money and hassle in the long run. Finding good footwear is just a matter of having a quick look at one of the many hiking/climbing forums on the internet and looking for recommendations from the people who use the most reliable hiking footwear on an almost daily basis.