The importance of finding the right shoes for your chosen sport extreme sport, mountain climbing, rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding

I am sure you will have, at one time in your life, cursed the shoes on your feet… I know I have. I had one holiday where we did a lot of hill walking and only belatedly did I find out that I should have bought hiking boots at least a size, if not 2 sizes larger than my feet actually are…

So what are the truths about sports shoes and how do you know what to look for and what to buy?

Here is a very simple breakdown of some points worth remembering when buying new shoes…

Hiking Boots:

You have two choices: leather or lightweight hiking books. Leather has the advantage of moulding to the shape of your foot, but obviously it comes with a higher price tag. However, either of these boots must have ankle support. The boot must be at least one size – if not 2 – larger than your normal shoe size. When you put the boot on, unlaced, you should be able to slide your toes to the end of the boot and fit your finger between your heel and the heel of the boot – this extra space is important because your feet swell when warm and there is nothing worse than being miles out on a hike and find that your feet are blistering and terribly sore.

Your toes must not touch the front of the boot. To make sure you have the right size, when trying on the boots, bang the toe of the boot against the wall – if your toe touches the end… the boot is too small.

When lacing the boot up, don’t lace too tightly. The foot should be comfortable with a little movement around the heel area.

Wear two pairs of hiking socks – this gives extra protection against blisters, gives good padding and also draws the moisture away from the foot. Although it goes against the grain to say this, natural fibre socks are more likely to cause blistering. Thank you to mooutdoors for the video.

Break your boots in before you go for a long hike. Even the best fitting most comfortable boots are likely to cause blisters on their first outing.

Mountain climbing boots:

You will need the stiffest hiking boots possible. These are often called stompers. These will allow you to attach crampons if needed. They also provide better stability when hiking in snow or through icy portions of your trail. Stompers are also best for long backpacking trips where you are carrying a heavy load. They will provide you with the best grip and steadiness when you are under the weight of a stuffed backpack.

Rock Climbing Shoes:

Different types of rock climbing require different types of shoes.

Slippers: these hug the foot tightly, are light and have very thin soles to give maximum sensitivity. They are ideal for training, wall climbing and bouldering.

All-purpose: these are typically cut high to protect ankles and are designed to be comfortable and good performers. They can be used for a wide variety of rock climbing such as multi-pitch climbs, cracks, edging and smearing.

High performance: self-explanatory. These shoes are cut low for added flexibility and lighter weight. High-performance shoes are designed to fit tight for maximum rock-sensitivity and control. They are ideal for high-intensity climbing and difficult sport-climb routes.

Have a look here to see the huge variety of rock climbing shoes available, with thanks to waterstoneoutdoors .

Ski boots

Good ski boots should be snug, and should support your foot and ankle while allowing enough flexibility to manoeuver with. They should keep your feet warm, dry, and padded to protect you against impacts which may result in injuries. Having the proper fit is the most important thing to consider as far as these boots are concerned.

The main difference in ski boots is how to put them on and there are two different type of methods for this – either top or rear entry. In general, rear entry boots are easier to use but top entry boots give more support.

Liners in the boot mould to you feet and over time they become compressed. It is important to look after the liners which means that after a long day skiing don’t go back to the lodge and drop your boots in a forgotten corner – you must either remove the liner and make sure it dries properly or place the boot in a heated environment overnight so it dries out. Boot liners are designed to help regulate the temperature of the foot and to wick away excessive sweat. As it compresses with use, it stops doing this. It is recommended to change your liners every 2 years – if you are skiing about 4 weeks a year.

And a final note on ski boots – the suggested life of a ski boot is 7 years. If you ski 50+ times a year then the time period is shorter.

Good descriptive video here from mhawk98642 showing you how a ski boot should fit.

Snowboarding boots:

Similar with other sports footwear, the most significant factor that ensures your comfort and performance is a good fit. When snowboarding your foot can swell by half a size so it’s important to have a boot a little larger than your normal size. Snowboarding boots should fit snugly around the ankle, and should hold your heel firmly down in the boot.

If you’re going for Soft Boots you should feel some toe movement. For Hard Boots there should be minimal toe movement. Once the boots have been used the internal padding will become compacted, thereby increasing the available space slightly. Your heals must NOT be able to lift at all when the boot is laced up. To check this out, lace the boots up and stand on tip-toe… if your heel lifts the boots are too big.

Here’s a very useful short video of a nifty way to tie your snowboot laces so they don’t loosen during the day. Thanks to DogfunkFilms for sharing it with us.

That covers the footwear of some of the extreme sport catagories we talk about. Next time I’ll see about some of the others…

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