Before hiking into the hills, you need to choose the best shoes for walking up mountains.
But each mountain is so different. And every hiker has their own footwear preferences, so it can be hard to know where to start.
You need to consider several factors:
- What’s the terrain going to be like?
Summiting Mount Snowdon is very different to reaching the peak of Cotopaxi.
One features a simple smooth trail (there’s even a train for those not wanting to walk at all). In this instance, a lightweight walking shoe or trail runner will be more than enough.
The other has steep rocky sections, snow-covered routes and even a glacier to contend with. Your lightweight shoes won’t suffice here. You’ll need stiff construction boots that offer a ton of traction and support. You’ll also want to ensure they can take crampons!
- Will you need crampons?
If you’re tackling high-level hikes or snowy peaks, crampons are an invaluable piece of kit. Boots are generally rated from B0 to B3. This denotes what type of crampon they can be used with. B0 are not suitable for crampons due to being too flexible. B3 are rigid enough to take almost any type of crampon while B1 and B2 boots can only be used with certain types.
- What’s the weather like?
Conditions are always unpredictable in the mountains. But a Scottish Graham in the summer is much less challenging than a 5000-metre Andean peak.
For smaller mountains in favourable conditions, light breathable boots may be more suitable than chunky waterproof models. Especially if your feet are prone to overheating.
If there’s a lot of rain or snow, you’ll need to ensure your boots will keep you safe and dry. Shoes made from breathable, waterproof materials like Gore-Tex, or boots with a waterproof membrane, are a must for hiking in poor weather.
- How much gear are you carrying?
If you’re out for the day and only need to carry a small daypack, you don’t need to worry about this one too much. Most hiking shoes are up to the task.
However, if you’re going on a longer expedition with a lot of gear, you’ll want shoes that’ll help you carry the load. Look for boots with a lot of ankle support and rigid soles. These will take the strain out of your feet and legs, protecting you from injury.
What to look for in shoes for walking up mountains
When choosing shoes for hiking in the mountains, the key thing to remember is that your shoes need to keep you safe. Even small injuries can lead to big problems in the hills. For this reason, sandals or opened toe shoes are not recommended. You want full foot coverage for maximum protection. Stone guards around the toes and heel will add even more protection.
You want a light shoe to help save energy while walking. Heavy shoes are a chore to walk up steep hills in.
You want a shoe that provides plenty of grip across the sort of terrain you’ll find on the mountains. Scree, slick rocks, gravel, even snow and ice can all cause major traction issues.
Look for shoes with a chunky tread pattern and good rubber outsoles. Remember that although softer rubber provides more grip, it will wear quicker than harder rubber so there’s a compromise to be made.
Mountainous terrain is challenging, uneven and slippery. You want shoes that will protect your feet from twists, slips, falls and impacts.
You also want shoes that offer arch support and have good cushioning — trust me, getting hurt in the mountains isn’t fun.
For hiking in tough mountainous terrain, you’ll want boots that are pretty rigid. They offer more stability and reduce the strain on your body. However, you don’t want to be hiking in ski boots so make sure there’s a small amount of flex where you need it — namely around the toes and ankles.
If you’re hiking in the summer months, you’re likely to want shoes that breathe well and keep your feet as sweat-free as possible. Wet feet leads to blisters and injuries.
This is especially important if you’re hiking up high or in poor weather conditions. Shoes with a breathable waterproof membrane will keep your feet dry and warm.
You want shoes with a well-cushioned midsole. It will absorb shocks, protecting your knees, hips and back in the process. It will also keep your feet feeling fresh as they’re protected from sharp rocks and hard stones.
Do you want high cut boots that offer a ton of ankle support or will the terrain allow you to get away with a more minimalist shoe? This comes down to some level of personal preference as well as evaluation of the kind of terrain you’re going to be tackling.
You need your shoes to survive the rigours of hiking in the mountains. If they fail on you in an isolated spot, you could be in real trouble. Stick with brands known for their reliable footwear and never cheap out when buying shoes for walking up mountains.
While there are several things to consider when choosing the best shoes for walking up mountains, personal preference will play a role. If you like more flexibility in your walking shoes, make sure to factor that in when making your choice. Likewise, if your feet overheat easily, you’ll want to ensure you have a breathable shoe to keep you comfortable.
Stay safe and enjoy the mountains!