Monday, March 21, 2016

Consider tongue design when buying boots

The design of your hiking boot's tongue can help keep out water.
An often overlooked consideration to make when purchasing hiking boots is the tongue design.

You’ll want to purchase hiking books that have a gusseted tongue. Such a tongue is attached at its sides to the boot’s upper. Compare this to a tennis or a dress shoe in which the tongue is attached only at its base to the upper. A gusseted tongue is necessary because it helps keep debris and water from entering the boot. This isn’t a significant problem on sidewalks and buildings where people work, so a gusseted tongue isn’t needed for tennis or dress shoes.

There are two types of gusseted tongues. In a half-gusseted type, the stitching connecting the tongue to the boot’s upper stops before reaching the ankle support area, also known as the scree collar. A full-gusseted type has stitching that goes all the way up to the ankle support; this sometimes is referred to as a bellows tongue.

If you’re mainly day hiking on dry terrain, a half-gusseted tongue is sufficient. The rougher the terrain gets, and especially if you must make a water crossing or will encounter snow, then a gusseted tongue is needed. You can cross creeks and walk through snow with a half-gusseted tongue, but splash from your footfalls likely will seek into your boot; further, if the water level rises above the stitching, moisture will enter your boot no matter how tightly you’ve laced the boots.

Regardless of which type of tongue you go with, always ensure it’s padded. In addition to preventing hot spots and blisters from the aces on the top of your foot, a padded tongue will help prevent heel lift.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.