Training Boots – How to choose the correct boot

How to choose the correct Training Boots?

By Tom Clarke

Choosing the correct boot for training will play a vital role on how your weight is dispersed, how you can bear weight, walk on rugged terrain and so on. If you do not choose the right footwear you will damage your foot. Common ailments from improper footwear include morton’s neuroma, bunions, calluses, corns, metatarsalgia, and plantar fasciitis. All of these cause unnecessary pain and will interfere with your training regimen.

If you end up with plantar fasciitis, which causes excruciating pain, it can take between six months to a few years to heal and may require surgical repair for treatment. This requires rest and if you don’t rest, the time to heal increases and you may end up with permanent damage. And who has time to rest?

So preventative injury is the best form. Do not cut corners and choose the least expensive boots you can find. Also, do not choose a boot that is soft and comfortable because without the proper arch support and firm sole, your foot will flex, feel the rough terrain and be damaged. The goal is to get a supportive boot that is durable, fits your foot appropriately and suits your training needs.

If you are overweight, over-pronate or have very high arches, a quality insole is a must. Some high quality boots are actually equipped with stock insoles that provide enough support for those with an average arch height. But those individuals with exceptionally high arches are asking for trouble if they don’t purchase insoles to replace the stock insoles. Please refer to the blog on arch supports for more details.

There are questions you want to ask yourself when looking for a boot that will best serve you. What type of terrain do you train in and for what periods of time?  Sometimes just standing on a range with rocks pushing up into the bottom of your boot can cause tremendous damage. You need to make sure the sole is thick and durable enough so that your feet do not feel the rocks under foot.

If you are going to be carrying a heavy pack then you will need a thicker sole to support the weight and good arch support is a must.

Hiking through the jungle or in moist environments compared to the dry desert climate all plays a role. Gortex is nice for moist environments and mesh or other breathable materials will allow your feet to breath in the desert or hot climate.

What kind of tread will you need? Some brands offer materials that grip more than others. There are some tread designs that you will want to avoid that trap rocks. Will you need rounded edges for running and tactical moves or rigid cutting edges for climbing cliffs and steep mountains?

Many, including myself, have made the mistake of getting the most comfortable boot with no break in time. Yes, they fit like a glove, no blisters and had great support, but in the beginning only. They will quickly lose any support that they offered. Looking back, I would never choose a boot like that again. If there is no break in time, in most cases, it is not going to be rugged enough for a 3-7 day hike with a pack or have the long-term support necessary to last.

What height do you need-low, mid (6″) or high (8″)? The higher the boot, the more ankle support is offered, with less debris entering the boot. The lower the boot, the greater range your ankle will move with more ankle injuries possible.

Going through the break in period will take some time. You can’t just break them in while walking the dog. You need to work the boot during the break in time exactly the way you would during your intended use. An example of the break in time is as follows:

Day one, wear them inside the house, make sure you made the right decision. Doing this you will not damage the boots and be able to return them if they are not the right fit.

  • Day two to three-Wear the boots about 1-2 hours and no more.
  • Day three-Take off
  • Day four-Take a 1.5 mile walk with up and down hill minimal grades.

Day five-Take a 1 mile walk off pavement in the woods, rocks, terrain you expect to be in. Be sure to adjust the laces each time you go out. As boots break in and form to your feet, expect some minimal slip, like a half inch in the heel. As they start to break in, you can tighten the laces around the ankle and sink your heel into the boot.

  • Day six-Take a 2 mile walk in the same rugged conditions.
  • Day seven-Take a 2 mile walk in the same conditions with a pack on with minimal weight 5-25 lbs. depending on your physical condition.

You may get some minimal soreness; just elevate your feet and ice.

Going into the next week, pick up the pace of your break in period for longer durations and conditions.  You are now well on your way to a much more enjoyable, comfortable pair of boots.

Some suggestions:

Oboz: http://www.obozfootwear.com

  • Pros:  A rugged boot with minimal break in. Reinforced rubber toe boxes and heels. Nice insole for medium arched feet.
  • Cons: No wide sizes.
  • Use: Medium shank, rugged use

Lowa: http://www.lowaboots.com/

  • Pros: Comfortable, great traction in a variety of terrain. Reinforced rubber toe boxes and heels.
  • Cons: Medium in width. Beyond size 12 only come in full sizes.

Asolo: http://www.asolo.com

  • Pros: Naturally have a large toe box in width and height. Available in wide sizes.  Very rugged, allow long break in time. Durable, will last you a long time.
  • Cons: Take a longer break in time, but worth it.
  • Use: Stiff shank, rugged use.

Merrell: http://www.merrell.com/US/en?grp=B

  • Pros: Break in is minimal. Large selection
  • Cons: Does not have reinforced rubber toe boxes and heels.
  • Use: All types from medium to rugged.

Learn how to choose the correct arch supports for your boots, but first understand the arches of the foot and their function by reading the blog here: http://tommyclarke.com/arch-supports-for-training/

Tom Clarke

ATAC Global