The Parts And Pieces Of The Hiking Boot
When I was in my early teens, I practically lived in my hiking boots. I wore them to school, to the mall, to the beach, you name it. Hey, I lived in Washington State and it was the grunge era: hiking boots went perfectly with the ever so stylish flannel shirt. Of course, despite my personal profligate use of this footwear, hiking boots are specifically intended for any activity that takes place in the un-landscaped outdoors. This category includes hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering, trail running and casual outdoor pastimes. Upon closely examining the different parts of a hiking boot, it becomes apparent that every component is designed to contend with the challenges of the wilderness.
Hiking boots are an extremely important component to outdoor activities. They are designed to protect the wearer’s feet from water, mud, rocks and other obstacles encountered in the wilderness. This protection begins with the uppers, which extend up the wearer’s ankle, covering the fibula. This extended coverage provides extra support and helps prevent twisted ankles. Additionally, the uppers are usually made of a water resistant or repellent material, which is useful when splashing through streams and puddles. A properly fitted boot will have uppers that support the ankle without restricting its movement.
The soles of hiking boots are of thick, tough rubber. This material provides excellent friction, which is especially important when hiking in places with wet rocks. The thickness of the sole also helps to absorb and redirect any jolts that occur while hiking. For example, when a hiker jumps from one rock to the next, his or her feet are cushioned from the shock.
The laces of hiking boots can be fastened all the way to the top of the uppers. On the lowers, the laces are fitted through eyelets as on a tennis shoe. On the uppers, however, they are usually wound around D-rings or hooks. Such a system allows the wearer to determine the height of the boot’s lacing, which correlates directly to the level of support provided. Hiking boot laces are almost always of braided nylon, a tough and durable material.
The interiors of hiking boots are just as specialized as the exteriors. Lining and pads always cover the insides of these boots. Foam is often used for padding, as it is excellent for protecting feet from both cold and pressure. The insoles designed to fit the wearer’s feet as closely as possible, the better to ensure optimal support and balance. And at the back of the inside of the uppers, right at the Achilles tendon, there is usually a little indent called a scree collar. This adaptation protects the area at the back of the ankle from chaffing, a common problem for ill-equipped hikers.
Finally, there are the parts of the hiking boot that you cannot see. Inside the sole, there are plates of stiff plastic or metal called shanks. These plates add to the stiffness of the boot, which in turn adds to its durability. It is possible to purchase boots with full, three-quarter or half-length shanks, depending on the level of stiffness desired.