The standard A, B, C and D categorisation for hiking and mountaineering footwear is a useful starting point to select the right boots or shoes. However, as this system mainly only refers to how stiff the soles are, we go one step further.
At Hanwag, we also classify our footwear according to the following areas of use: ALPINE, TREK, HIKE and TRAVEL.
Using these categories, we can classify our footwear based on the stiffness of their soles, but also according to a further range of factors, such as the flexibility of the uppers at the ankle (sideways and lengthways, heel pitch (= the difference in height between the heel and the ball of the foot), toe spring (= the difference in height between the centre of the toe, where it curves up, and the ground), the last itself, the materials used and more. The individual experience and fitness of the mountaineer or hiker in question also play an important role.
When choosing footwear, the area you intend to use it plays a pivotal role. But physical fitness and experience are equally crucial. Mountain guides are familiar with this issue, when their clients ask: “Why do we have to wear these heavy boots, while you’re only wearing lightweight shoes?” This is because mountain guides are so fit, strong and sure-footed that it’s no problem. Safety is of course paramount though, and if in doubt you should always go for more stable footwear.
There’s naturally a huge difference between trekking for three weeks through Nepal with a 20 kg backpack and hiking in the Bavarian Alps with a 5 kg daypack. It’s not just the stiffness, rigidity and flex of the sole unit that counts, but the design of the whole boot. For longer trekking tours with a heavy backpack, we recommend a more rigid boot, for example from our TREK category. For day trips with a lightweight pack, a lighter model from our HIKE collection would be more suitable.
Or to put it another way, do your need footwear with a GORE-TEX® membrane? Not only are GORE-TEX® boots and shoes waterproof and breathable, they also dry fast. Consequently, they’re definitely the number one choice for multi-day treks, alpine projects (glaciers), rainy weather, wet climates, marshy areas and winter mountaineering. Especially where there’s no opportunity to dry boots out overnight. Even if you’re only occasionally out in these sorts of conditions, it’s worth considering GORE-TEX® footwear.
Leather lining has the advantage that it adapts better to the shape of the foot. Many mountaineers and trekkers prefer the pleasant wear climate and comfort provided by full-grain leather.
It does provide a great fit. However, leather footwear isn’t fully waterproof, even with the best care and maintenance. Therefore, it’s better to wear it in drier conditions or when the footwear has a chance to dry out overnight.
To avoid confusion: the GORE-TEX® membrane should not be confused with the upper fabric. The membrane itself is positioned between the upper fabric and the inner lining. Our GORE-TEX® footwear is available with a leather or Cordura® upper. The GORE-TEX® membrane itself is laminated to the lining. This is generally a highly durable, synthetic, fast-drying fabric. Find our more about our different linings here.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING NEW FOOTWEAR
Trekking and hiking footwear should fit comfortably, without rubbing. Make sure that your heel sits securely and that your toes have enough space. Check to see if the heel fits properly by trying the shoe on first with the laces undone. If it’s loose at the sides, the heel is too wide. There should be a finger’s width of space between your toes and the tip of the shoe – an import aspect during descents to stop your toes hitting the front of the shoe.
In particular, if you are buying lightweight, multifunctional shoes with a more flexible textile upper, you will often find that you need a slightly longer fit to ensure that your toes don’t get bruised at the front of the shoe. Even if a shoe feels comfortable when you try it on in the shop, always try the next half size up to compare, just to be on the safe side. Our stiff alpine boots should not be too narrow at the toes, to prevent frostbite from occurring. Hanwag alpine boots feature the triple-adjustment Vari-Volume system to make sure they fit with one or two pairs of thick or thin socks. This way you can adapt your footwear for all conditions.
However, approach shoes and boots worn expressly for climbing should fit snugly and not be too long. For more ambitious mountaineering, direct and sure-footed rock contact is more important than greater comfort on descents.
It generally makes sense to take your time and not rush to buy new boots for your next adventure. We recommend going to a specialist outdoor footwear retailer to get professional advice. Trying on footwear is a science in itself, however there are a few things you can do to simplify the process. We’ve put a few guidelines together.
Fit of course is paramount, but lacing can play a major role in enhancing fit and comfort. Surf the internet for lacing tips and it’s amazing what you’ll find. Most of the information has to do with appearance. But there are some very effective tips too. Here are three lacing tricks which we think are useful.
ALL HANWAG FOOTWEAR IS FULLY RESOLEABLE
THE BASICS: SHOE CLEANING AND SHOE CARE