Now that is out of the way, here is some guidance on what boots are and which ones to buy. Hiking boots are tough with thick soles, ankle protection and generally some level of waterproofing. It is these features, not present on trainers, which are important and prevent us from taking people out without boots.
There are many boots for sale but they can generally be split into two categories, summer and winter. Summer boots generally range in price from £30-£150 and are suitable for all our Sunday and weekend trips but not the two winter trips. Winter boots (explained further down) generally range in price from £150-£300 and are suitable for all our trips.
This is what most of you will be looking for. How much you're willing to and should spend depends on how much use you expect to get out of them.
Fit is probably the most important factor. If they are not comfortable, you may get blisters and it could ruin your day. Go into the shop and try as many pairs as is necessary until you find a good fit. Don't be afraid to ask the shop assistants for advice and to keep trying pairs on until you're happy. Take the socks you walk in with you to the shop!
Make sure your boots come up high enough to support your ankles; this is particularly useful in preventing sprained ankles during small slips and trips.
This should not be an issue if you are at a good shop buying walking boots however just in case, make sure you have a look at the sole. Ensure it is thick and treaded to provide grip and stop you feeling stones as you are walking along.
Most boots will offer some level of waterproofing and will generally keep your feet dry unless it is a really wet day. It is up to you how dry you want your feet to be; the drier you want them, the more expensive it is likely to be. When you're trying boots on in a shop is an ideal time to ask about how dry they will keep your feet. Waterproofness will also depend on how well you look after your boots (article on this coming soon) so don't worry too much but generally the more waterproof the better as nobody likes wet feet.
Buying summer boots
For a good range of cheaper boots, Blacks usually has a good selection. For more expensive boots, more choice and better advice Cotswold is good.
It is also generally a good idea to wear your new boots around the house before you come on a hike to break them in before going on a longer walk with them.
YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED ON THE WINTER TRIPS WITHOUT A PAIR OF THESE!
If your boots are rated B0, don't have a rating or you are unsure whether they do or not, they are probably not winter boots and are not crampon compatible due to the sole being too flexible. A sole which is too flexible could result in the crampon becoming unattached from the boot (clearly problematic) as well as putting a lot of strain on the heel to toe connection bar. These boots are not suitable for our winter trips.
Winter boots fall into 3 categories, B1, B2 and B3, all of which are crampon compatible and suitable for our trips.
Crampons also fall into 3 categories; C1, C2 and C3, which boots fit which crampons will be explained below.
- 4 season hillwalking boots with a semi-stiffened sole.
- Durable and supportive upper often made from leather or a leather and fabric combination.
- Suitable for use with C1 crampons.
- 4 season mountain boots with an almost fully stiffened sole, high supportive ankle and thicker, more insulating uppers.
- Suitable for summer/winter hillwalking and easy climbing.
- Suitable for use with C1 crampons but optimised for use with C2 crampons (although a pronounced heel welt will be required if used with heel clip bindings).
- A totally rigid leather or plastic mountain boot suitable for everything from winter mountaineering and technical climbing to alpine climbing and some high altitude mountaineering.
- Optimised for use with C3 crampons although can also be used with C1 or C2 crampons.
B3 boots tend to be more expensive than B1 or B2 but if you intend to start ice climbing then go for it. Although fit is important with winter boots, as with summer boots, there is much less choice so price may become more of a factor. We recommend looking on ebay, and the sale part of the forum on http://www.ukclimbing.com and http://www.ukhillwalking.com where you might find some bargain second hand pairs. Get looking early to find the best deals.
Boots rating info taken from http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=1330, a useful page if you're looking for more info.