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When choosing the right footwear for outdoor activities, you should take your time. There are some questions that should be answered in advance to avoid problems with unsuitable shoes or aching feet. Not only physical ailments such as the well-known blisters are among them, but also a shoe that does not fit the purpose will not be a pleasure or will not offer sufficient stability and safety.

Categories of walking and mountaineering boots

The traditional German company Meindl has established an interesting and useful categorization for hiking and mountaineering shoes, which hikers can use as a guide when it comes to finding the right footwear for trekking, hiking and mountaineering. It is intended to serve as a first orientation in the shoe jungle:
Lowa – Tibet GTX Hi
Lowa – Tibet GTX Hi

Category A:

Lightweight hiking boots (usually low-cut) for forest and meadow paths with flexible soles and little cushioning for everyday life as well as for shorter hikes with light luggage (daypack) on largely flat and paved paths.

Category A/B:

High-cut hiking boots for extended day trips or tours with overnight stay and medium-heavy luggage (backpacks up to approx. 35 litres) as well as for largely paved paths with (significant) ascents and occasionally loose ground. The sole is twistable, but relatively stiff and thick.

Category B:

Classic trekking boots with torsion-resistant sole, thick midsole for lots of cushioning and with high lacing. Mostly made of leather and can be resoled depending on the model. Suitable for tours lasting several days with a large backpack (trekking backpack 40-70 litres) and mountainous and sometimes rough terrain, but still with clear routing. Can be used with snow spikes. Not recommended for long mountain tours, under very cold conditions or for high altitudes (over 3,000 meters). However, in combination with thick wool socks, it is ideal as a light winter (hiking) shoe.

Category B/C:

Salewa - Women's Condor Evo GTX - Bergschuhe
Salewa – Women’s Condor Evo GTX – Mountaineering boots
Heavy trekking boots for tours on rough, steep terrain, possibly without direct access and for shorter winter tours in icy weather. Stiff sole with deep lugs, very high lacing and stable upper. Suitable for fixed rope routes and at higher altitudes (around 3,000 to 4,000 meters). Compatible with snow spikes and crampons with double strap-on binding. From this category upwards it is usually possible to resole the shoe.

Category C:

Mountaineering boots for touring on very rough and steep terrain, ice and firn as well as off-road paths. They can also be used for winter tours lasting several days or at higher altitudes (up to about 5,000 meters). Very high collar, usually additionally insulated. An edge at the heel allows the use of step-in crampons (heel clip at the back, simple strap-on at the front). High weight, very deep lugs and extremely robust materials.

Category D:

Expedition boots with removable, insulated inner boot, extremely robust and durably made for high altitude and extreme mountaineering or expeditions. Fully crampon proof. Ideal for glaciers, long winter tours, ice and mixed climbing. In addition to the differences in the primary purpose, the upper material (leather or synthetic), weather resistance (waterproof shoe with a membrane or a particularly breathable, membrane-free shoe) and the material of the inner lining (mesh or leather) must be considered. However, these are questions of demand and comfort that everyone must answer for themselves. For example, not everyone can cope with natural products. Although leather is generally more robust and durable, it also requires more care than synthetic fabrics, which dry quickly and are lighter.

Low-cut outdoor shoes

Furthermore, there are some subcategories, especially among the low-cut shoes, which depend on the purposes and are associated with the A-category.
  • Multisport shoes are light walking shoes that have a
    Scarpa - Women's Zen Pro Mid GTX - Approachschuhe
    Scarpa – Women’s Zen Pro Mid GTX – Approach shoes
    design that’s suitable for everyday use or are running shoes, which combine an extra light upper fabric with the sole of a hiking shoe. They are look nice, are light and are suitable for everyday use as well as for easy hikes or walks. They are also suitable for speedhiking at moderate altitudes as long as you have little luggage with you.
  • The so-called approach shoes are interesting for climbers. These are usually mid-cut shoes with a robust and relatively stiff outer sole, which have an edge at the front of the inner foot for easy climbing (as with climbing shoes). The appearance and construction are comparable to hiking shoes, but in addition to the sole, the lacing that extends far forward is also similar to climbing shoes. These shoes are ideal for the way from the car over slopes and scree to the rock as well as for securing or for simple via ferrata. Approach shoes are mountain oriented and belong to the A/B shoes. The design is casual and suitable for everyday use. Models with softer soles can also be used for hiking. The cushioning makes the shoes suitable for use with touring backpacks and hardware.

Special outdoor sports shoes

  • Climbing shoes and bouldering shoes are more or less
    Mammut - MTR 201 Tech Low - Trailrunningschuhe
    Mammut – MTR 201 Tech Low – Trail running shoes
    pre-curved and asymmetrical, have a perfect fit (the more of these features, the more uncomfortable and the more ambitious), have a prominent climbing edge at the front of the inner foot and lacing or hook-and-loop fasteners that reach far forward (usually a matter of comfort). The upper and lining are often in one and usually made of leather. They also have a completely smooth rubber sole. This guarantees the best grip on the smallest footholds. You can find out more in our buyer’s guide to climbing shoes.
  • Trail running shoes are very light and have a highly flexible and cushioned sole. The synthetic upper material is very breathable and depending on the model, there is a waterproof membrane between the outer fabric and mesh lining or not. There are special quick lacing systems as well as differences in the sole tread depending on the preferred training surface. Running shoes are also versatile, casual companions in everyday life.
  • Cycling shoes are available as MTB shoes or racing bike shoes. Here, special attention must be paid to the suitability of the pedal plates and the locking system. You can find out more in our buyer’s guide to cycling shoes.

Summer shoes

Summer shoes include different types of sandals and water shoes. They are great for holidays in the summertime, when kayaking or canoeing, as well as for use in the water and on land. Sandals are particularly suitable for everyday use – here design and comfort are important. Trekking sandals have an outsole like light hiking boots and are moderately cushioned. They can be used for day hiking tours with little luggage or as a second shoe for summer trekking. There are waterproof models as well as variants in soft leather and quick-drying synthetic materials. The strap arrangement should definitely meet the comfort requirements. Water shoes are made with a quick-drying mesh or sandal-like upper and a non-slip, aggressive sole for rocky, wet surfaces. They are particularly suitable for boat trips.

Winter boots

Lundhags - Women's Polar Quest - Winterschuhe
Lundhags – Women’s Polar Quest – Winter boots
When it comes to winter boots, we need to differentiate between actual winter boots and winter hiking boots. The latter are A/B or B shoes in boot form. They are always waterproof, lined on the inside, and have a particularly non-slip sole, thus distinguishing them from their three-season colleagues from the hiking sector. A smooth upper material is easier to clean. The insulation is either made of soft fleece, a particularly light and warm synthetic fibre, or natural, odour-resistant new wool. Sometimes, there is a removable inner shoe that can be used as a hut shoe. Winter hiking boots are sufficiently cushioned for touring backpacks up to about 50 litres. Regular winter boots have a non-slip sole and insulation, but are not made for hiking, as they are not cushioned. There are mid-cut boots, fashionable boots and light down boots. Here, the optical aspect and details such as the lacing, the insulation performance (down is warmest, followed by synthetic fibre, then wool and fleece) and the upper fabric (leather or synthetic) play a particularly important role.

Everyday and casual shoes

Slippers are also made to keep the feet warm, but can be worn all year round. There are very soft and light models for walking around in the house and variants with stable soles for taking out the garbage. Typically, these are made of wool felt, down, synthetic fibre or leather. They should be comfortable and have a design you like! Wellies are also considered everyday shoes and can be used all year round. They come in various heights and with different closures. Sneakers and leisure shoes are suitable for slacklining, after training, commuting to work or uni and come in different designs with various features.

Tips for choosing the right size

In general, men’s models are usually cut wider and women’s lasts are often slim. If in doubt, buy outdoor shoes that are a little larger. Typically, people go up one size when it comes to hiking boots and boots. Many models are now sustainably produced and are completely or partially recycled and made of biomaterials. Important note: try on the footwear in the afternoon and with socks! This will help you choose the right size.

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One Comment on the Article

  1. Keith wadsworth 15. Mai 2021 09:08 Uhr

    Very good post on boots lots of useful information

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