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why are hiking boots necessary?

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  • 31-01-2008 3:37pm
    #1
    Closed Accounts Posts: 2,577 ✭✭✭


    I am in a hiking group, but i always wear trainers as i find them more comfortable. This week though, my group are going hiking in Snowdonia and the leader says it's not safe for me to wear trainers on this one. Why are hiking boots considered safer?


Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 21,676 ✭✭✭✭smashey


    Warmth, water proof, grip and ankle/sole protection.


  • Registered Users Posts: 21,465 ✭✭✭✭Alun


    Mainly ankle support. A large number of mountain rescue team callouts are related to lower leg injuries of some sort, more often than not sprained or broken ankles sustained while walking over rough ground. They'll also give you better protection when hiking in wet muddy conditions, i.e. pretty much anywhere in Ireland, especially Wicklow :)


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,946 ✭✭✭BeardyGit


    Snow.

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/loutdoor/mountainsafety/snowdonia.html

    I've attached a picture....Now seriously, tell me you want to wear a pair of trainers for a day or two out walking in that! ;) (and of course Alun's quite right too)


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,577 ✭✭✭StormWarrior


    I wear goretex socks under my trainers, with goretex trousers pulled over the top, so my feet always stay totally dry. I use a pair of trainers which never get used for anything else. I guess the ankle support makes sense though, but I can't really wear hiking boots. I can't wear any shoes which rub against my achilles tendons as they become inflamed. I spent 2 weeks in a plaster cast because of that once. I suppose I'll just have to give this hike a miss.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,922 ✭✭✭fergalr


    Why are hiking boots considered safer?

    Good question...

    A lot of people I've met consider hiking boots safer to the point where they insist on the use of boots in the hills, and consider it near negligence to go out without them. Sometimes they get annoyed if you suggest that wearing hiking boots isn't as important as they think.

    Hiking boots are certainly nice and warm and dry, but as you say, good socks can go a long way towards keeping feet warm. (Definitely would rather the boots in heavy snow).


    The main part of the issue seems to be ankle support when walking off trail.
    I've some thoughts and questions on this, and the issue came up on a recent thread here too.
    A large number of mountain rescue team callouts are related to lower leg injuries of some sort, more often than not sprained or broken ankles sustained while walking over rough ground.

    Yep, this seems to be a fairly reliable stat.
    This shows lower leg injuries cause problems - but the question, to me, is what causes lower leg injuries?


    I haven't seen any good data or research that establishes a causal relationship between lower leg injuries and non-boot footwear.

    nb: You might say that many of the lower leg injuries seen are in people wearing trainers but that doesn't help me much, as perhaps this is just because boots are the footwear of choice for more hardened walkers (for different reasons, eg, warmth, fashion, club rules).

    Is such research available?


    Some say it's just obvious that a boot is safer for your lower leg.
    Certainly, a boot that comes up around your ankle, fairly tight to it, would seem to prevent your foot twisting beyond a certain degree, and thus providing support. However, I'm not so sure this is as cut and dried as people say - I think I've seen people twist ankles when wearing hiking boots, and I think there's still enough give in the boot to twist your ankle - am I wrong here? In other words, how completely do boots solve this problem?


    And then the other side of the coin - does the 'support problem' really need solving? I think people can learn to walk on broken terrain in such a way that twisting their ankles becomes extremely unlikely, even in shoes without support. I believe I went through such a learning process myself, getting much more confident walking over broken ground with lots of practice.
    Fell runners, orienteers, and other outdoors groups run over broken terrain really fast, and generally manage to not twist their ankles, despite not having support in their footwear. (Some of them do twist their ankles, but so do some hill walkers using boots, and that's walking). (Also, some of those groups tape their ankles for support instead, but far from all).


    I'd love to see more thoughts on *why* people believe boots are better from a safety point of view - hard data, research, physiological argument etc - as said, it's not enough to convince me to point to large amounts of lower leg injuries as a cause for callouts, or to say 'just because'.

    But I have a very open mind, and would like to see more info on this.
    It just seems unlikely to me that people would have evolved to be unable to walk safely over broken ground (eg the hills of wicklow), without using structures such as boots which do not occur naturally..?
    It's also an issue which I've seen a lot of over the top opinion voice on in the past (not on the bastion of reason that is Boards, of course), which makes me question how much is pragmatism and how much is dogma.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,164 ✭✭✭cavedave


    Fell runners, orienteers, and other outdoors groups run over broken terrain really fast, and generally manage to not twist their ankles, despite not having support in their footwear. (Some of them do twist their ankles, but so do some hill walkers using boots, and that's walking). (Also, some of those groups tape their ankles for support instead, but far from all).

    I know of no research on the injury rates between hiking boots and runners in mountain hiking. However there is a fair bit of research into barefoot running. Essentially it seems to be a good idea. The increased perception in your feet seems to compensate for the lack of cushioning. Of course you cannot go barefoot in areas where glass or other dangerous substances could puncture your skin.


    http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/UserFiles/File/Wall_Street_Journal6-6-2006.jpg
    http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2006/aug/14/q_ken_bob_saxton_barefootrunning_pioneer/
    http://www.rps.psu.edu/probing/barefoot.html


  • Registered Users Posts: 23,157 ✭✭✭✭Alanstrainor


    I just read this thread with great interest. I'd just say that almost everyone in this country has lived their whole lives in shoes therefore creating, almost a dependency on the support of our runners on a day to day basis and when we step out of the paths and roads of cities/towns it becomes essential for Boots. For me i wear boots for almost all walks i do, but i have VERY bad ankles that will take any chance to go over, I think for me to try any walk, which is in any way off the "track", in regular shoes or runners would result in injury to my ankles.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,468 ✭✭✭Evil Phil


    StormWarrior, If you had boots properly fitted do you think you'd still have problems? How about something with a lower profile around the ankle like this. I have the runner version of those boots and they're quite comfortable.

    I wouldn't tackle Snowdonia without boots in the conditions posted above. Have you spoken to a physio or a sports therapist about your problem? I've had terrible trouble with shin splints in the past but a few sessions with a sports masseuse* sorted it out.


    *I said sports you filthy beggers.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,164 ✭✭✭cavedave


    creating, almost a dependency on the support of our runners on a day to day basis and when we step out of the paths

    That is a fair point comparing how we would act without shoes to someone who rarely wears them is unlikley to be accurate. Just because a Masai warrior can run around without shoes does not mean we could. Having said that on clean beaches and fields i do like running barefoot.

    I would not go near anything with the word snow in the title without good shoes. Even this guy in 3300 BC had snow shoes. Just in case it needs to be said. You should wear new boots around the house and even on short hikes before trying anything serious in them.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,577 ✭✭✭StormWarrior


    Evil Phil wrote: »
    StormWarrior, If you had boots properly fitted do you think you'd still have problems? How about something with a lower profile around the ankle like this. I have the runner version of those boots and they're quite comfortable.

    I wouldn't tackle Snowdonia without boots in the conditions posted above. Have you spoken to a physio or a sports therapist about your problem? I've had terrible trouble with shin splints in the past but a few sessions with a sports masseuse* sorted it out.


    *I said sports you filthy beggers.

    Unfortunately those boots are way too high for me. I can only wear ballet shoes or trainers with the backs cut almost totally off. I'm interested that you say massage helped your shin splints. I had to give up running due to shin splints which nearly crippled me. Anything more than a walk, such as running or trampolining, causes them to flare up again.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 11,205 ✭✭✭✭hmmm


    3 reasons

    - Ankle support like others have mentioned
    - Waterproof
    - Grips, particularly on wet muddy ground.

    The hiking group I'm with will not take someone wearing runners onto the hills under any circumstances. We're not going to have our hiking interrupted by someone who can't get grip going up a hill or who injures themselves on a downhill.


  • Registered Users Posts: 938 ✭✭✭the GALL


    Evil Phil wrote: »
    StormWarrior, If you had boots properly fitted do you think you'd still have problems? How about something with a lower profile around the ankle like this. I have the runner version of those boots and they're quite comfortable.

    I wouldn't tackle Snowdonia without boots in the conditions posted above. Have you spoken to a physio or a sports therapist about your problem? I've had terrible trouble with shin splints in the past but a few sessions with a sports masseuse* sorted it out.


    *I said sports you filthy beggers.
    yep theres nothing llike a pair of merrils ive two pair myself one for walking and the other for biking.... have you tried meindel the short boot good for cross country hiking, sh*te for road walking.


  • Registered Users Posts: 938 ✭✭✭the GALL


    the GALL wrote: »
    yep theres nothing llike a pair of merrils ive two pair myself one for walking and the other for biking.... have you tried meindel the short boot good for cross country hiking, sh*te for road walking.

    sorry guys that meindal army/army pro


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,922 ✭✭✭fergalr


    hmmm wrote: »
    We're not going to have our hiking interrupted by someone who can't get grip going up a hill or who injures themselves on a downhill.

    Having sufficient grip going up hill doesn't necessitate boots... Plenty of trail runners (eg some innov8s) have loads of grip.

    Can you tell me why you are so certain that people will injure themselves going downhill without boots? I mentioned this in my earlier post - I understand it's a pretty common belief, but there seems to be hard to find more than hearsay to back it up?


  • Registered Users Posts: 11,205 ✭✭✭✭hmmm


    fergalr wrote: »
    Having sufficient grip going up hill doesn't necessitate boots... Plenty of trail runners (eg some innov8s) have loads of grip.
    Look at this from the point of view of your average hike leader. If someone turns up in a proper pair of boots I can have some confidence they have brought the right kit. If someone turns up in runners and starts explaining to me why their runners are special, I can
    a) choose to trust this person I don't know and who will put the hike and the club at risk if they injure themselves or
    b) choose to send them away to get what I consider to be proper kit.

    The leader of a hike gets to set the rules they are comfortable with. If you're not happy about those rules you should lead your own hike. I appreciate there are technical hillrunning shoes that have excellent grip (i see them come running past me) but your average hike leader would not be aware of the brands and types of shoes to look out for.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,922 ✭✭✭fergalr


    The leader of a hike gets to set the rules they are comfortable with. If you're not happy about those rules you should lead your own hike.

    Hey - I'm with you here, I completely respect the prerogative of the leader of a hike to define their rules, and to refuse to go hiking with people that won't play ball. Never suggested otherwise; would be more than happy to don my pair of boots (meindl, about 6 years old, still going :-) when heading off on a hike.
    For what it's worth, I do 'lead my own hikes', so I'm not trying to change anyone's opinion here.
    I'm also willing to accept that there's damn good reasons to always wear the boots (although I've a bit of experience that runs contrary to this) but I want to know what those reasons are.

    What I'm interested in is whether hiking boots are really as objectively necessary as some people make out, and if so, then what are the hard reasons behind this?
    I appreciate there are technical hillrunning shoes that have excellent grip (i see them come running past me) but your average hike leader would not be aware of the brands and types of shoes to look out for.

    Sure, completely understandable - but that's very different from saying that wearing footwear other than hiking boots is highly dangerous, which is what I took from your previous post.


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