The PureKit Blog

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

A Boot for All Seasons | Understanding Walking Boot Classification

It may be tempting to buy the beefiest and most technologically advanced boots for your walk, but too much technology can be a bad thing.  You wouldn’t buy a Ferrari as a little run around to do your shopping, just the same as you shouldn’t buy mountaineering grade boots if you are not going to be heading up the north face of the Eiger. To make the job of choosing the right boots for your requirements easier, the usual convention is to use seasons as the classification of how each boot fits into the grand scheme of things. Whilst a 4 season boot may give the impression of being a boot which can be worn throughout the year, the opposite is in fact the case. Seasons refer not to the physical seasons, but to the grade of boot, with 1 season being the lightest and 4 being the most robust for serious hiking over the toughest terrain.

1-Season Walking Shoes and Boots
One season walking boots and shoes are the lightest weight boots on the market, and are often trainer styles which have been converted into a mid boot. These boots usually have quite lightweight uppers, often with mesh to maximise breathability. The soles will be flexible, and they are highly comfortable to wear for not just walking, but for general purpose wear as well. Your ankles will not be particularly well supported, which adds to the comfort on level walks and if you stick to the pathways, but you will need a better class of boot to take on more serious off road terrain.  Due to the lightweight construction they are best suited for spring and summer walking. There are plenty of shoes in this category, if you want to keep the weight down to a minimum.

2-Season Walking Shoes and Boots
The 2-season class offers a little less flexibility, with a stiffer sole to cope with harder off road walks, and for are suitable for most trails, and can cope with a little tougher terrain and varied gradients. They are great for taking on low level hikes, but are predominantly used for walking. The treads tend to be a little more robust, with multi-directional lugs and deeper grooves to cope with heavier ground. This class is still pretty lightweight, flexible and comfortable and can take on varied terrain with ease.

3 Season Walking Boots
As you move up into the 3-season category, you start to have the full functionality for serious off road adventuring. These boots are robust, and use heavier fabrics and hides for greater protection on tough terrain. Full grain leather and Nubuck are the materials which are most used, offering a good degree of waterproofing, often with a Gore-Tex lining or equivalent one way waterproof fabric. They have greater stiffness in the uppers for good ankle support. There tends to be much fewer mid boot styles, with improved ankle support required for taking on rocky and uneven ground. This class is ideal for hill walking, and will give you a great day out at relatively higher altitudes, with this class also a good choice for backpacking with a light pack. They are designed for taking the path less trodden, and for choosing your own route through the countryside. The tread patterns are more aggressive for better off road traction, the boots tend to feature a full length shank for support, and at the upper end of the scale, crampons can even be used, however generally speaking they are not ideal for snow and ice and mid winter walking.

4 Season Walking Boots
The 4-season category is the biggest, burliest and toughest class for general walking and hiking. Whilst not full mountaineering grade boots - there are two further grades for mountaineers - they are designed for the toughest challenges, and the perfect choice for mid winter walking. They are reinforced longitudinally and have little flex, with side to side movement all but eliminated. The best choice for crampons, but outside of the winter months they can be a little uncomfortable. This category is also ideal for trekking and backpacking with a heavy pack, and for long multi-day hikes over tough terrain.

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