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Shoes or boots, waterproof or not... Here are our tips on choosing the right model for you!
Depending on the weather conditions, difficulty of the route, state of the snow, etc., there are plenty of factors that you need to consider when choosing the right footwear for a snow hike. We give you all the advice you need for finding your feet!
CHOOSING WARM OR APRES-SKI FOOTWEAR IS BASED ON 3 CRITERIA: THE ACTIVITY, WALKING TIME, WEATHER.
We go further when wearing the right footwear... The choice of footwear is essential when hiking, especially on snow. Warmth, comfort, impermeability, grip will allow you to forget your feet and just think about enjoying yourself! Follow our guide on choosing between shoes and boots.
When it is cold, the body gives priority to protecting vital organs such as the heart or the brain. The blood is therefore directed to these parts to the detriment of all the others. As a result, other areas, such as the feet or hands, receive less blood. All the more so since the body, to keep its heat, constricts the arteries closest to the skin (this is called vasoconstriction): the blood has less contact with the outside and more easily maintains its temperature.
It’s therefore up to you to protect your hands and feet when it’s cold by equipping yourself with the appropriate equipment. Cover your head well too, otherwise you may lose the heat produced by your body to protect your brain, and you will cool down faster.
But before we get into the details of choosing between warm boots or shoes, let's go through the most important criteria to make an informed choice and keep your feet warm!
For a short run (less than 3 hours) a heel cushion will suffice
For a medium or long walk (more than 3 hours) you will need full cushioning.
Some people plan their outings according to the weather, others are more daring. Which category do you generally belong to?
If you're hiking in good weather only, you'll be looking for breathability. This will prevent you from fermenting in your perspiration (and ultimately getting cold from your own sweat!)
If you're hiking in all weathers then you’ll need waterproof footwear. And even if it doesn't rain, snow is still water (in solid form, okay). If you're walking in powder or deep snow, without waterproof footwear, you're going to get your toes wet.
The good news is that there are shoes and boots that are both waterproof and breathable, so you don't end up with a pair of mini-saunas on your feet.
Boots or shoes, more than just fashion or style
The difference between winter boots and shoes is not just a matter of aesthetic preference. The very shape of the boots or shoes will impact on their performance (for example the height of the upper which will prevent snow getting in if you’re walking in a deep layer of snow). We explain this in more detail in the following paragraphs.
The snow hiking shoe is like a hiking shoe, but adapted to winter conditions thanks to its sole, among other things, which provides grip and traction on this particular terrain that is snow, hard, soft, icy... They are available in different heights, from the ankle ("Mid" or medium) to the top of the ankle ("High"). Shoes offer comfort, breathability and grip, with the added benefit of being lightweight and supportive.
The boot is generally higher and also exists in mid and high versions ("Mid"= high ankle - and "High"= mid-calf). It’s looser and a little heavier, and provides less support for the whole foot, but offers more warmth and waterproofing thanks to its anti-ingress properties. Its height allows better snow protection.
A pair of poles will provide you with better balance and ensure you more on slippery ground. For hiking on snow, choose poles with a basket so you don't get stuck in the snow!
Boots or shoes depending on the terrain
Are you going for a hike on a signposted path, with packed or not very deep snow? On uneven, winding or steep terrain, shoes will give you greater freedom of movement. And a good grip in case of frozen snow, for maximum safety. If you're hiking on flat ground, the boot will also be perfect, and the best ally for the most skittish.
If the snow is really high and you’re afraid of getting wet, wear gaiters to prevent the snow from sliding into your shoes! There are also warm shoes with built-in gaiters. Very practical!
The weather forecast announces 30 cm of fresh powder overnight? Get your boots ready! They are ideal for walking in deeper snow, offering you protection and warmth for shorter hikes (less than 3 hours for example). They’ll be perfect if you decide to go sledging with the kids or play in the snow.
However, if you decide to walk down the snowy slopes on snowshoes, you should choose shoes that provide good support for your feet. Boots are not suitable for snowshoeing.
Are you more like a small beginner bear, an agile lynx or a skilful hare?
Depending on your athletic level, your experience, the planned route, your physiology, the weather conditions or the people accompanying you, you'll need to put on different footwear!
If you are going for a hike with the family, with a picnic, selfie breaks and snowball fights, plan to wear boots instead. Boots are suitable for calmer walks, with less elevation and less walking time. More covering, they will be ideal in wet or cold weather to keep your feet warm, and to alternate between a more contemplative hike and games in the snow with the family.
Choose footwear that match your hiking intensity: very sporty, with good elevation and a duration of several hours, you will sweat faster, so you will need a lighter, breathable shoe. Hikes with steep slopes require shoes with good grip.
Whether you’re a beginner or advanced, the shoe is suitable for all types of hiking, with or without snowshoes.
Because as we all know, when you're in the mountains or on the ski slopes, there's not only one step between the hiking trails and the snowy town. And because no one likes to walk around with a second pair of warm shoes just to tread the pavements, it's better to bet on a versatile warm shoe or boot!
The best thing to do is to choose a pair of warm après-ski boots or shoes with a sole designed for snow, such as the SnowContact® sole. Be aware that some components of the soles that grip well on snow will not hold up as well on tarmac that isn't covered in snow (a bit like snow tyres that get damaged more quickly if they are driven directly on tarmac). In short, as long as there’s snow to walk on, opt for the same shoes or boots as for snow hiking.
You hear about "boots", 'booties' and winter "boots", but you don't quite see the difference? Well, that's normal! "Bottes" means "boots" in English. And while it’s true that in some sports, in French, we differentiate between boots and botte (for example, in horse riding, where the boot has a much lower shaft than the botte), this is not the case for the winter hiking boots or après-ski boots in our range! However, from one model to another, and from one brand to another, the upper height can vary. Whether you call them "boots" or "not", make sure you choose the model that you feel most comfortable in and that is high enough to keep your feet warm, depending on the depth of the snow you will be walking in.
As for the "bootie", it literally means a "high boot that hugs the ankle". And that's exactly what the après-ski models on sale on our website look like! The French language is definitely rich in vocabulary.
Whether you wear boots or shoes, the choice of socks is very important. They must be:
- Adapted to the weather (warm and quite breathable) all are breathable, but some are warmer than others
- Adapted to the height of your snow or hiking boots: there’s nothing worse than a sock that slips down and gives you blisters!
- Suitable for boots or shoes, i.e. thicker or thinner so as not to compress the foot and prevent the blood from circulating.
Tip: never put two socks on top of each other, as this will compress your foot and reduce your blood circulation, resulting in cold feet!