This blog post was sparked by a conversation I had with one of my Limitless Hiker students during one of our Q/A calls. As we’re getting into winter, we were talking about trail safety, hiking in snowy conditions, and comfortable footwear.
Over the years, I’ve seen many people wear the wrong footwear in general on hiking trails, especially during the winter months. I’ve seen people slipping and sliding on trails because they’re not wearing microspikes or snowshoes. I’ve seen people trekking through snow in tennis or running shoes. Do you know what happens when you don’t wear appropriate footwear, especially in the winter?
Do you want to lose your toes? If not, then listen up and really read through this blog post. I’m also going to be covering the footwear choices I make for the summer, fall, and spring months, and I’ll be explaining why I wear each type of shoe for each season.
Just like waterproof boots and shoes, keep moisture out, they also keep moisture in. This means your feet don’t air out and dry as you’re hiking and sweating which makes them more prone to blisters. I sadly learned that the hard way. If you get blisters often, read through my blog post on preventing them.
If you are going through river crossings and your feet get wet on accident, they will dry much faster with non-waterproof boots than if you had waterproof boots on. I also take off my boots and cross in Keen Whisper Sandles. This way I don’t risk cutting open my foot or toe on a sharp rock, and I can wear them as camp shoes.
The exception here would be if you’re hiking in extensively wet conditions. My dad went to Kamchatka in Russia in August and it rains there all the time, so he wore the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Boots, which are the waterproof version of my summer boots.
The goal with footwear is to be comfortable, support your feet, and keep your feet dry! So I optimize my footwear based on the season to optimize chances of keeping my feet dry.
Fall and Spring
In the fall and spring months (otherwise known as the shoulder season), I wear the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Boots (here is the men’s version). These are the waterproof version of my summer hiking boots.
In the fall, the weather cools, so the waterproofing and gortex (GTX) keep my feet warmer. There is also increased chance of rainfall and snowfall in the fall months. In the spring months, there is also a high chance of rain, plus the trails usually are still covered in snow.
I don’t quite need the insulation that winter hiking boots have in the fall and spring months because temperatures are more mild. Which is why this boot is basically the middle child between summer and winter.
In the winter, you want to bring out insulated and waterproof boots! I wear the Salomon X Ultra Mid Winter CS WP Boots (here is the men’s version). These are the winter boot version of my summer shoe!
I’m grateful that Salomon makes the same boot that I love in the summer months for every season that I need them. If you have a pair of hiking boots you love, see if you can find them in the not waterproof, waterproof, and insulated versions for the different seasons.
To my point at the start of this blog post, I’ve seen so many people make a mistake in the winter. I grew up in Southern California, and I completely understand what it’s like not understanding what to expect in winter conditions at first. I’ve seen people make this mistake everywhere too! Not just California!
Please do not wear tennis shoes or running shoes in the snow. You risk getting frost bite.
The insulated boots are insulated to keep your feet comfortable and warm in winter conditions. They’re also waterproof so they keep moisture out!
If you’re planning on hiking in the snow, I also recommend getting a pair of gaiters, that prevent snow from getting into your boot through the top. Here is my full post on how to layer for winter hikes.