These boots are for those multiday trips with heavy packs and which might involve bush-bashing, river-hopping, and crossing alpine passes.
Deep, multi-directional lugs combine with a sticky rubber compound to grip all terrain types and quickly shed mud. The outsole will be sharp-edged to provide purchase on loose and slippery surfaces, making it safer and easier to traverse steep slopes.
Gusseted tongues (also known as bellows tongue) prevent water and debris from entering. Once tightened, the gussets and tongue should fold together to rest comfortably against the shin. A lacing stud on the tongue keeps it in position.
The boot’s upper will be protected with a rubber toe bumper and heel guard. Many boots have a full rubber rand running around the outside.
Most boots have an EVA midsole, with some opting for PU (polyurethane). All have an anatomical three-quarter or full-length shank offering a solid, stiff platform for the foot. PU is heavier but more durable, while EVA has greater shock absorbency. A medial post provides stability and prevents torsional twisting. Flexible crampons can be attached.
Thick leather uppers with few seams offer support and structural integrity. They may require extra wear-in time, but when cared for properly, the leather will mould to the foot for years of comfort and performance – often outlasting the sole. A lighter grade of leather is used around the ankle to reduce pressure on the Achilles tendon.
A high cuff offers greater protection to ankles – especially important considering the heavy packs carried and uneven terrain the boots are used on.
Durable metal eyelets and lugs are the norm. Laces should flow smoothly to provide even tension all around the foot. A lace-locking lug allows tension to be fine-tuned across the foot and around the ankle.
This should be stiff enough to protect toes from falling rocks. Allow a thumb-width space between the end of the boot and the longest toe.
Throwing your boots into the cupboard without a good clean will wreck them. Follow this three-step plan instead:
- Scrub your boots as soon as you get home and rinse the inside with fresh water and dissolved natural soap to wash away perspiration and body oils
- Dry the boots naturally but not in direct sunlight. Don’t put them in front of the fire or in the hot water cupboard
- Once dry, warm them up to open the leather’s pores and apply a leather conditioner.
Now you know what to look for, it’s time to choose a boot