Dossier: Hiking

Oh no, the sole has fallen off!

Michael Suter, editor at Sanitas, lost the sole of both boots on a mountain summit while out hiking. Expert Andy Planzer explains what he should be looking out for when buying new boots.

Text: Michael Suter

What’s the best time of day to buy walking boots?

I would generally recommend trying on shoes in the afternoon or evening. Your feet swell, flatten out and change size during the course of the day – although this doesn’t apply if you have flat feet. When you go to a shop, make sure you have enough time to try on different models so you find the best shoe for you.

I always seek advice from a specialist. What makes for a qualified shoe salesperson?

A qualified salesperson will ask about the kind of hike you plan to do and what terrain the shoes or boots will be used for. They’ll also measure your feet and let you use a tilted surface to simulate walking up and downhill. When trying on the boots, be sure to wear the socks that you plan to wear when you hike. The salesperson should also ask whether you have any problems with your ankles.

OK, now I’ve got the boots on, what do I have to watch out for when wearing them?

Keep them on for 10 to 15 minutes and take a few steps. Observe how the foot rolls with the boots on. The boots should sit comfortably and feel good. Ideally, the rolling point should be under the ball of the foot. If you tend to suffer from rubbing, I recommend trying an insole that supports the foot and optimises the fit.

The shape of my foot isn’t important?

Oh yes it is. It’s an important point. The shape of the boots must match the shape of your foot. If they don’t sit comfortably, they’re not the right boots for you. When you’re buying shoes you also have to think about the terrain you’ll be covering on your hikes. For gentle hikes you only need a sporty, low-cut shoe, while for mountain hikes you should look for medium-stiff, ankle-high boots.

On my last hike I lost the soles of both boots. Was it because I didn’t store them properly?

The service life of a shoe depends on a number of factors. Of course, the design – the way the sole is connected to the uppers – plays an important role. Quality varies significantly. In general, the more detailed the workmanship, the more robust the shoe. If you want your walking boots to last, you need to care for them and store them carefully. If boots aren’t looked after properly, they’ll quickly become porous and permeable to water.

How to find the right boots

  1. The heel shouldn’t move as this can cause blisters.
  2. The middle part of the foot should fit snugly to ensure a steady stance.
  3. The toes need around a finger-breadth’s space at the end to ensure they don’t touch when you’re walking downhill.
  4. The uppers of the boots shouldn’t press on the ankle, but should surround it comfortably.
  5. The laces mustn’t put pressure on the back of the foot.  

Andy Planzer works in the shoe department at the Transa flagship store in the Europaallee, Zurich. 

Michael Suter loves the outdoor life and regularly goes hiking with friends on moderately difficult routes.