Tips and tricks for buying boots in specialist shops
We recommend buying mountain and hiking boots from specialist retailers because they need to fit like a glove – so you don’t feel like you are wearing a boot! When a boot pinches even the most beautiful hike can turn into torture. But how do you find the right boot? It’s a bit like the story of Cinderella, a quest to find one that is your perfect fit. Here are our tips.
Start by looking for mountain and hiking boots in a specialist shop. Here you will be advised by people with the necessary know-how and many years of experience. You will also find a large selection of different models in different sizes. And here’s the first tip: It’s best to buy boots in the afternoon because your feet will get a little bigger during the day. They will swell just as they would on the mountain.
Think in advance about how and where you want to use your boots.
Alfons Meindl devised a categorisation system in 1976 – of A to D and that’s a good place to start. And follow the advice below from Lukas Meindl, a ninth generation master bootmaker and managing director at Meindl. He is responsible for production and development and enjoys being out and about in the mountains a lot.
Socks and insoles
When buying boots, be sure to take your hiking socks with you. Technical socks that ensure optimal foot climate – especially in GORE-TEX boots – are best. Differences in the material of the socks also have an impact on the foot climate. Please keep in mind that socks of different thicknesses make a difference not only in terms of volume but also in terms of the length of the boot. If you don’t have suitable socks yet, ask for advice and buy them at the same time. Don’t forget your orthopaedic insoles if you wear them as they will change the volume in the boot.
An important step towards the right boot is that you put the boot on correctly. To do this:
1. Step into the boots and ensure the heel is secure in the back of the boot.
2. Centre the tongue at the front and lace up the boot.
3. Note the 2-zone lacing: uphill, lace the lower zone up to the locking hook tightly, zone 1, then lace the upper section more loosely, zone 2 – this increases mobility. When going downhill lace the upper section more tightly to prevent the foot from slipping forward. In the course of a long day in the mountains, you can vary the lacing to avoid any pressure.
When buying mountain and hiking boots, do not insist on your “normal” boot size but have an open mind on size. Different styles fit differently and feet also change their size during the course of the day. Also, with old age feet become longer and wider this is because over the years the foot muscles weaken and the arch reduces. It is recommended you try on a few different sizes to reassure yourself that you have the correct size. Each half size gives 4.23 mm in length and an increase in the width of the boot. It can help to go up a half size to give more overall room in the boot.
Check the fit closely:
1. Does the heel fit and make sure there is no heel lift?
2. Do your toes have enough space?
3. What about the volume?
4. Are there any pressure points?
A good rule of thumb is that your foot has about 1 cm of space at the toe. A boot can be widened and the width will also adjust with wear but the length will not change. Of course, the boot shouldn’t be too big or too wide either.
The uphill test
Always try both boots and use the test tracks in the shop. Most importantly take your time! Wear your favoured boot for at least 10 minutes in the shop so the leather and cushioning in the boot warm up and mould to your foot. When going uphill check that you are not getting any heel lift as this will cause blistering. If necessary, adjust the lacing.
The downhill test
To do this, lace the boots a little tighter in the forefoot and instep area. Be careful not to hit the front. The more difficult the terrain, the more torsion-resistant and laterally stable the boot needs to be. When in doubt, Lukas Meindl always recommends using a stiffer more stable boot. A sturdy boot provides more support and reduces the amount your muscles need to work meaning that you can go longer and further in a day.
Tips when wearing new boots
Wear the right socks and centre the tongue correctly from the start. The central hook on the tongue helps to fix the position of the tongue and use it when lacing up your boots.
Lace the boots correctly and not too tightly around your ankle.
To be on the safe side, wear your boots at home first, then on walks and only then on your “personal Everest”!
If you still need to soften your boots wear them in dewy grass as this will make the leather softer and they will adapt to your foot quicker. If necessary, a local cobbler can stretch your boot to increase the width.