Hiking boots: What you need to know

You’ll definitely want hiking boots that give you a secure grip. No blisters on your feet and a comfortable boot interior would also be nice. These are the things you need to watch out for when buying hiking boots – here’s an overview for you.


Hiking boot material

You will often wear hiking or trekking boots on your feet for hours at a time during strenuous activity, so your footwear needs to be comfortable. Depending on the material, the fit or the temperature inside the shoes will be different. It’s important to look at the inner and outer materials separately. All-leather footwear has different specs to hiking boots where, for example, the outer material is leather but the inner lining has a Gore-Tex membrane. In footwear like this, you can expect your feet to feel warmer. It’s different with a hiking boot where the outer and inner material is leather. This keeps your feet at a pleasant temperature inside.

The following overview outlines the features associated with the materials.

Hiking boots made of leather, inner and outer material

  • Adapt themselves slightly to the feet

  • Moisture can escape, ensuring a pleasant foot environment

  • Difficult to dry

  • Not waterproof, but if well cared for (e.g. with wax) they are water-repellent

  • Different types of leather also have different properties. Nubuck leather, for example, which is roughened on the fine side resulting in a velvety softness, is very tear-resistant. Split leather, on the other hand, is more prone to cracking, but costs less. This cracking occurs when thick hides are split into several layers.

Hiking boots with leather or textile upper material, GORE-TEX® lining

  • Usually lighter than leather shoes

  • Waterproof

  • Fast-drying

  • Moisture can’t escape easily due to the Gore-Tex membrane. This leads to warmer temperatures for the feet.

So before you buy, think carefully about what you need your footwear for, what your requirements are and which material will best satisfy them.



Vibram soles, which you can recognise from the yellow logo in the sole, are made of a special rubber compound. This ensures good grip, even on wet stones.

Some hiking boots have such stiff soles that you can hardly bend them. Being able to bend the sole is important on steep mountain terrain. It gives you a secure grip on small projections. For easier hikes, you don’t want such hard soles. Hard soles make blisters more likely because you can’t roll your foot from heel to toe properly.

Also, if a boot’s sole wears out at some stage, don’t throw the boot away. With a new sole, the boot will be almost as good as new again.

Caring for hiking and trekking boots

Caring for hiking and trekking boots

With the right care, your hiking boots will last longer. It is important, for example, that you clean them after every hike. The best way to do this is to remove the laces. Then let them dry well – in the air, not in the sun or by a fire. And depending on the material, you can wax or waterproof the boots.

Shoe care



If your hiking boots or trekking shoes don’t fit, not even the best laces will help. To make the shoes comfortable, it’s essential to wear good hiking socks. They create a comfortable shoe interior by absorbing moisture and cushioning the heel and toes.

Before you start lacing, position the tongue centrally on the instep and the lower part of the shin. There should be no creases in the shoe or socks. Then pull the laces – pull hard, but not too hard. On most hiking boots, the first eyelet is a slightly larger, lower one. Thread the laces through this eyelet from top to bottom to form a loop. This fixes the laces and ensures the lacing doesn’t come loose. This is particularly important when walking downhill. It keeps your heels in the back of the shoe and prevents your toes from touching the front. For the following hooks, just thread the laces through from bottom to top, crossing them each time.



Never buy hiking boots that are too small. Sizing differs depending on the brand, but you’ll tend to take a larger size for hiking boots than for everyday shoes. The insole will give you a clue here: remove the insole from the boot and place it on the ground. Then stand on it, with your heel in line with the back of the boot. You should have at least a thumb’s width of space at the front of the boot. This is because when you sweat, your feet get bigger. You also often wear thick socks when hiking, and they need room as well.

If your feet are different sizes, test the sole on the bigger foot. On the smaller foot, you can then use an insole to make the boot fit.

Footwear categories A – D

Footwear categories A – D

Trekking and hiking boots are available in categories A to D. Depending on whether you need your boots for short, easy hikes or for long, demanding routes in the mountains, the sole and the height of the upper are the main differences. Here’s an overview for you.

Die Illustration zeigt, welche Kategorien es für Wanderschuhe und Bergschuhe gibt und für welches Gelände sich dieses eignet.
  • A: Mid-cut hiking boots. The sole on these boots is relatively soft and the upper does not extend above the ankle.

  • A/B: Sturdy mid-cut hiking boots or light hiking shoes. The sole is slightly stiffer than category A shoes, the upper may be a little higher.

  • B: Hiking boots. Sturdy sole for firm support, usually with debris protection band and higher upper.

  • B/C: Trekking boots. These are suitable for difficult terrain, long tours and give you a good foothold – even when carrying a lot of weight on your back.

  • C: Hiking boots for alpine terrain. These boots suit via ferratas, mountain tours and crossing glaciers. Most hiking boots in this category enable you to attach crampons to the heels.

  • D: Hiking boots for high-altitude tours. These boots let you hike through snow and ice and are fully compatible with crampons, both at the heel and the toe. The hiking boots in this category are insulated, so your feet stay warm. They also have a high upper.

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