Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Walking boot sole design

What’s the best type of sole for a hiking boot?

We regularly get questions and comments about the soles of walking and hiking boots:
  • What’s best for mud?
  • What’s best for roads?
  • Why do mine always slip on wet rock?
So, here’s a quick guide to some of the different materials and grip patterns we know of.


  • Historically used to give extra grip to leather-soled footwear on soft surfaces.
  • Very durable.
  • Good grip on snow and ice.
  • Poor grip on hard, flat surfaces.
  • Very poor cushioning.
  • Heavy.


  • Used on boots designed for fly fishing.
  • Excellent grip on smooth, wet rock.
  • Poor grip on mud.
  • Not very durable.

Smooth rubber

  • Used on rock climbing and bouldering shoes.
  • Excellent grip on dry rock, due to providing maximum surface area of rubber in contact with rock.
  • Dangerously poor grip on wet grass and mud.

Heavily cleated rubber

  • Open, ‘tractor tyre’ type tread pattern, used on some military jungle boots.
  • Excellent grip on mud.
  • ‘Lumpy’ sole makes walking less comfortable on hard surfaces.
  • Reduced surface area of lugs accelerates wear and reduces grip on hard surfaces.

Cleated rubber

  • Designed to give a good balance of grip and durability under most conditions.
  • Rubber grips hard surfaces, such as rock and asphalt.
  • Cleats give ‘bite’, providing extra grip on soft surfaces like wet grass and mud.
  • Used on the majority of modern hiking and mountaining boots.
  • Will not give the best performance in all conditions, but will give good performance in most conditions.

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