Jemand mit Wanderschuhen in den Bergen, Nahaufnahme.


Buying the right hiking boots: what to look out for

  • #Hiking
  • #Mountaineering
  • #Trekking
Portraitfoto von Torge
Guest author, 4-Seasons
© Fotos

Whether you’re going on a leisurely tour in the lowlands or an energetic hike in the Alps, hiking boots are an essential part of your equipment. Erika is a sales advisor at the Transa Markthalle Bern store shop and is happy to help you find the right model.

Erika, my shoe is pinching. What should I do?
I’m sure we’ll find a solution! Just show me your feet first, as a quick glance reveals a lot about your posture and any problem you may have. Sometimes you don’t even need a new boot – insoles, socks and lacing can also be the answer. But if you are really looking for a new boot, you first have to tell me a bit about your previous experiences and what you’re planning to do in the future. What do you want from your boots? What tours are you planning? And how much weight will you be carrying on your back?

I want to use the boot for hut-to-hut hikes with a backpack and shorter day tours on easy hiking trails. The boot needs to give me a firm grip. Unfortunately, I tend to go over on my ankle...
If you want to reduce the risk of twisting your ankle, you should go for a boot with a high shaft and robust sole. I’ll take a closer look at your feet first, measure them and then pick out some models that match your foot profile. The manufacturers sometimes have very different fits – so some brands may not suit certain customers at all. That’s why it’s important to come in, put them on and try them out. It’s also important to allow enough time to try new boots out. We also recommend trying on shoes in the afternoon or evening: during the course of the day our feet swell a little, so coming later helps to avoid picking a pair that are too small.

How do I find the right size?
Here in the store, we can measure your feet precisely so we know just what size you need. Lots of people have two feet of different lengths. For them, the bigger foot is the one that counts. With hiking boots, you tend to need a larger size than your everyday shoes.

  • Nahaufnahme Schuh längs durchgeschnitten zur Veranschaulichung der Schichten.

    Erika uses a model to explain how a hiking boot is made.

    Photo © Torge Fahl
  • Eine Kundin probiert Wanderschuhe auf einer Teststrecke im Laden aus.

    At the test section, you can quickly tell if the hiking boots fit properly and if your heels are held securely by the boot.

    Photo © Torge Fahl
  • Skelettfuss auf Schuhsohle zur Veranschaulichung, dass die Fussform massgeblich dafür ist, welche Schuhmodelle passen.

    The individual foot shape is key to deciding which type of boot is suitable.

    Photo © Torge Fahl

Why is the fit so important?
If the shoe doesn’t fit properly, hiking can quickly become a real ordeal. When going downhill, your foot will slide forward, which can cause painful blisters and pressure sores on your toes. The firmness of the sole is also important: a soft boot is more comfortable and you will feel the ground better, but the 20 muscles in your feet will also have to work harder. This makes them tire more quickly. You can feel all these differences for yourself at our test section...

What types of hiking boots are there?
Hiking boots are divided into categories from A to D, based on the height of the shaft, firmness of the sole, the weight and their intended use. Category A includes low hiking boots. They have a soft sole and the shaft doesn’t reach above your ankle. This saves weight and makes them a good choice for easy hiking trails on more horizontal terrain carrying light luggage. Category B shoes are made of more stable material, have a more robust sole and a higher shaft to support your ankle. This guarantees a good grip even on rough terrain, allowing you to carry a heavy backpack and preventing you from twisting your ankle. For hiking tours on alpine terrain, you have category C hiking boots: on top of an even harder sole for use on rock and ice, they also have a heel wedge for attaching crampons. Overall, though, this hardness and the increased weight make them a bit less comfortable to wear. Finally, for extreme heights and climbing on vertical terrain, there are alpine touring boots in category D. For you, a model from categories B or BC should suit you best.

Leather or synthetic material: which would you recommend?
Both options have their pros and cons, and the right one for you depends very much on the intended use. It is important to differentiate between the inner and outer material – there are actually models that have leather on the outside and a fabric lining on the inside. However, if boots are made of leather inside and out, this creates a comfortable foot environment because the moisture caused by perspiration can escape very easily. In addition, full leather models can mould to your foot to a certain extent over time, making them more comfortable to wear. On the other hand, they are not waterproof and need to be cared for regularly to maintain their water-repellent properties.

What advantages are there with synthetic material?
These boots are usually slightly lighter than leather models and are fitted with a GORE-TEX® membrane. This makes them permanently waterproof, but also makes it more difficult for moisture to escape. Experience has shown that models with a GORE-TEX® membrane make sense in places where you spend a lot of time walking in the rain, for example in Scandinavia. For hikes in the Alps or in warmer regions, though, shoes without a membrane are often the better choice.

What types of soles are there?
Soles vary considerably in their design depending on what they will be used for. The soles of boots essentially consist of an outsole and a midsole. The outsole makes contact with the ground you are walking on and provides the necessary grip. In mountain boots, the outsole tends to be chunky and stiff to give you a secure grip even on small ledges. With lighter models, however, the sole is more flexible and the tread is finer. The midsole is located between your foot and the outsole and acts like a cushion to absorb shocks and increase comfort.

How long do good hiking boots last?
A high-quality hiking boot can last for many years. With regular care, you can prevent damage, keep the shoes supple and ensure they remain functional. If the tread gets worn off, many models can be resoled. The best thing to do then is to come into the store. We can then look at your boot together and discuss your options. It is important that the boot continues to fit well even after several years of use. After all, our feet do change throughout our lives.

Portraetbild Verkaufsberaterin Erika
Photo © Torge Fahl


grew up in wellies on an alp in the Bernese Oberland. She spent a lot of her childhood outdoors. She joined Transa 18 years ago. Today, she can be found in the Transa Markthalle Bern shop where she is a sales advisor, surrounded by 320 different pairs of boots.

What happens when there are no shoes that fit properly and they all still pinch?
You wouldn’t be the only one with this problem. The vast majority of people have some degree of splayfoot, flatfoot or fallen arches – an entirely natural type of foot deformity. But we can still help in these cases: for example, hiking socks with padding can help relieve your problem spots. If you tend to go over on your ankle, insoles can provide support. Our orthopaedic service can also have your feet measured and analysed in detail. Appointments are free and are recommended if you have foot, knee or back pain. We can help 70 to 80 percent of our customers with simple solutions such as insoles, socks or lacing.

Lacing can help me solve problems with my feet?
Absolutely. Lacing affects fit, support and comfort. You can lace one area tighter while allowing more freedom of movement in another area. For example: if you run downhill for a long time, a lot of pressure is exerted on the front part of the foot and the toes. This can quickly lead to painful blisters, which can bring a nice hike to an unpleasant end. You can improve things by tightening the lacing around the tongue and shaft to keep the heel firmly in place and reduce strain on your forefoot.

So, how do I know when I’ve found the right boots?
It’s simple: if you can put the boots on in the morning, spend the day hiking and take them off again in the evening without your feet hurting, you’ve definitely made the right choice. I would suggest you take some time now and walk around the store. If you forget that you’re even wearing new boots, you’ve probably found the right model for you. And if it still hurts, you know where to find me...

  • #Hiking

  • #Mountaineering

  • #Trekking

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