How to choose the best hiking boots for Mount kilimanjaro climbs
Hiking boots for Kilimanjaro

Choosing the best hiking boots plays a very vital role when you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Just make sure that your boots are not only comfortable but also fit your foot’s arch, perfectly well! Buying the best boots is one thing, but buying the most appropriate boots for the appropriate trek is another important factor that should not be ignored. If you were to compare boots and shoes, boots provide you just that extra edge, comfort, and ankle support and add durability to your long Kilimanjaro trek. Remember, once you begin your expedition to the summit of the mountain, there is no going back, so your boots should be comfortable and well-fitting. Happy feet, happy treks! That should be your number one rule. To just give you an insight into what you should look for in the best boots for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the boots should be warm, well-fitting, comfortable, and water-resistant. So without further ado, let us take a look at what you should look for in hiking boots that will give you summit success on the mountain.

If you have included Mount Kilimanjaro on your bucket list and flown all the way to Tanzania, you will need to have reliable shoes/boots for hiking to avoid injuries and disappointments that could have been avoided. This is not where you want to save money on. Generally, you have to be more practical and find

  1. Boots that can handle all the trail conditions on the mountain.
  2. Boots that are well-fitting and suitable for your feet.

Here is a summary of what you should look for for the perfect Mount Kilimanjaro hiking boots:

  • Rubber soles: You’ll need footwear that can handle a variety of terrain and weather conditions. You should feel comfortable climbing any muddy boulders you come across.
  • Waterproof: Despite being close to the equator, the mountain’s peak is covered in snow, therefore you should prepare for snowy hiking conditions. It is more susceptible to tropical rain towards the bottom. Please be aware that while you ascend, anything that is damp will not dry. You’ll feel cooler if your feet are damp.
  • Ankle support: Along the Kilimanjaro routes, the terrain will be uneven. A suitable ankle support system will lessen your chance of twisting your ankle.

You have the choice of renting from within Tanzania and we can help you with that if you don’t want to purchase hiking boots since you won’t use them after the trip, etc. I wouldn’t advise it because breaking in new shoes might result in uncomfortable blisters. Please contact us before your trip so that we can organize for an earlier hiking boot rental to avoid the last-minute rush and disappointment.

There are numerous affordable hiking shoes available that are decent. Hi-Tec is one of the brands I advise. They functioned admirably despite being somewhat less expensive than high-end brands.

Please, allow us to walk you through the A to Z of hiking boots, from bootlaces to the right soles, and if you will need crampons to climb Kilimanjaro or not.

Boots for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Hiking Boots vs. Hiking Shoes vs. Trail Runners

For trekking Mount Kilimanjaro, hiking boots are obviously the better option over shoes and trail runners as they manage to withstand and offer great support against the rugged terrain of the Kilimanjaro routes and the harsh weather condition that varies across the different mountain zones. The trail conditions of the mountain trails take you through mud, murram, dusty paths, streams, loose scree and gravel,  roots and rocks, and on your way to the summit, the harsh conditions brought about by ice and snow, and more! Due to this alone, a good pair of sturdy hiking boots will help you prevail to the peak.

With such rough conditions that vary in terrain, choosing the best hiking footwear should not be a gamble as they could be the stumbling block between you and your ultimate goal of summit success especially as you will need well-insulated and water-resistant shoes at the ice-covered and snow-capped summit.

It is possible, and most people do this, they use hiking shoes or trail runners on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro since they are light-weight, then they finish their trek, especially the summiting segment with hiking boots but still hiking boots will still be needed somewhere down the line as the rainforest zone at the base of the mountain has unpredictable weather. When it rains, it gets wet and muddy, and you will need your trusted pair of boots to navigate this terrain. Another reason why hiking boots might come in handy is when you reach the colder regions of the mountain as you climb higher and the terrain becomes rougher, boots will provide the much-needed warmth and ankle support while hiking to prevent any avoidable injuries like hurting your ankle or heel.

Our advice is, if you want to attain your goal of reaching the summit by avoiding unnecessary glitches, hiking boots are the sure bet over hiking shoes.

Although there are a wide variety of choices and designs along this spectrum of mountain footwear, there are just three key distinctions between them: weight, durability, and the degree of ankle support and stability they offer.

Anatomy of hiking boots

A stard hiking boot is made up of different important features and parts that make it useful for hiking over varried and tough terrain that is usually coupled with harsh mountainous conditions. Knowing the anatomy of hiking boots and the usefulness and function of each part of this important footwear will aid in choosing the best boot for your trek. Below is an illustration that will help you to get to know how each part is assembled on a hiking boot to serve the main purpose of trekking.

anatomy of hiking boots

What makes a good hiking boot?

Fully understanding how to arrive at the best option when settling for a hiking boot is another milestone in the preparation and planning of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

There is more to hiking boots than just brands or just entering a gear shop and pointing to a boot or simply just ordering a boot online based on how attractive it looks or how cheap it is sold. There are some principles to adhere to when choosing the best boot for climbing a high mountain like Mount Kilimanjaro.

When you want to shop or choose the right boot for hiking the mountain, please consider the following points:

  • The upper boot
  • Fit
  • The soles

When your feet a comfortable, you can concentrate on your ultimate goal of making it to the summit without worrying, this leads to a more enjoyable climb as you soak in the experience and enjoy the scenery of Mount Kilimanjaro. Lets look at the important ingredients that make a good hiking boot.

The upper boot

This is what constitutes the upper part of a hiking boot, and it includes the following items:

  1. Boot material
  2. Weight
  3. Toe caps
  4. Insulation
  5. Ankle support

1. Boot material

Without the material that makes the physical part of a hiking boot, we would call it a boot anyway, so it plays a very important role in the structure of a hiking boot. Hiking boots fabrics come in different types like pure leather and synthetic material. Choosing the best fabric for your hiking boot is a thing or personal choice provided it works for you. Most people prefer pure leather for durability but it doesn’t really matter, to be honest.

What should matter are just two important points when it comes to choosing the best boot for climbing Kilimanjaro, breathability, and absorbency, full stop. When it comes to deciding, you have to sacrifice one aspect, it is either you take one that is breathable or waterproof, there is no in-between, unfortunately.  Let us get into further details of what these different fabrics mean in the making of the upper boot.

Leather Material

Hiking boots made of leather, a natural fiber (typically cowhide), are extremely durable and long-lasting. Many people find it to be a great option, and leather hiking boot wearers frequently vouch for them. Full-grain leather, reverse full-grain leather, or nubuck are frequently used to make hiking boots. As pores are present in animal skin, leather boots are ventilated. But they can become waterproof if you wax them extensively. For climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, leather hiking boots work well as long as they have been properly broken in, a very important thing to consider when you want to use your boots on the mountain.

Advantages of leather boots
  • Leather makes boots tough, resilient, and long-lasting.
  • They can persevere through tougher conditions and cohesion much better than synthetic material.
  • The durability of leather makes them withstand wear and tear, lasting for years.
  • By waxing leather, you can make it water-repellent.
  • They keep you warmer in chilly weather.
  • By breaking into your hiking boots, they adapt to your feet for more comfort.
Disadvantages of leather boots
  • They are more expensive than synthetic boots.
  • They need a longer time to get used to them.
  • Leather boots are heavier than synthetic boots.
  • The more you wax them, the less breathable they become.
  • They demand more care and maintenance than synthetic boots.

Synthetic Material

Synthetic boots are pretty much the opposite of organic. While leather is made of animal skin like cowhide, synthetic is made up of manmade fabric like nylon, polyester, or synthetic leather. Modern boots are mostly made of synthetic material and many climbers use them to climb Mount Kilimanjaro just fine.

Advantages of synthetic hiking boots:
  • Cost lesser than leather.
  • They’re very breathable, which aids in the prevention of blisters.
  • They’re quicker and easier to break in.
  • They also require less maintenance.
  • They weigh less, they are lighter.
Disadvantages of synthetic boots:
  • They’re not as tough and durable as leather boots.
  • They are NOT water resistant.
  • They’re not as warm as leather boots.

Water-resistant vs water-repellent vs waterproof

Let’s talk briefly about absorbency. You’ve probably heard the phrases waterproof, water-repellent, and water-resistant, and you may have even assumed they meant the same thing. Well, not really.

No drop of water can pass through materials that are waterproof because they are totally impenetrable. A step down from waterproof fabric, the water-repellent material keeps the majority of water out but isn’t completely waterproof. The least dependable material is one that is water-resistant; all it does is deter water.

“Waterproof”, “Water-repellent” and “water-resistant.” are completely different things entirely.

 

On Mount Kilimanjaro, you occasionally cross ice and snow as you go through a rainforest. In this situation, having waterproof footwear is quite beneficial, however often, a water-repellent boot would do.

You can learn about the ideal time to climb Kilimanjaro if you wish to avoid the rainy season there.

Choosing between leather and synthetic hiking boots for Kilimanjaro

Both materials more or less do the same thing and are equally good, it just depends on your preference. Choosing between leather and synthetic material will also depend on a few scenarios. For example, you will need breathable boots if your feet tend to be sweaty and smelly when they are not aerated. In that case, you will require synthetic boots to avoid blisters, or alternatively if you use leather boots, avoid waxing them to make them more breathable. 

You will just need hiking boots that will keep your feet warm and dry as at the base of the mountain where you find the rainforest zone it tends to rain from time to time, it might be muddy but not supper marshy and wet.

Just opt for water repellent shoes as at the summit area, in the arctic climate, you will encounter ice and snow and it will be important to keep your feet warm and dry.

2. Weight

Avoid wearing boots that are too heavy to allow you to easily walk for extended periods of time. On a Kilimanjaro climb, you hike for hours each day, most of which is spent ascending.

As previously said, leather boots often weigh more than synthetic boots. To determine if the boots are the proper weight for you, we advise you to stroll about the store while wearing them while lunging, crouching, air-kicking and generally putting on a show.

In fact, you can test out the boots on treadmills at select shops. We suggest spending some time using them to thoroughly test out the boots because they are an excellent resource.

The main reason we insist on breaking in your hiking boots is that a hiking boot might not seem heavy when you’re standing in the store, but it could feel troublesomely heavy after several hours of walking. We advise you to seek guidance in this matter from the salesperson.

3. Toe caps

The corky and hard surface that is wrapped around the outside of the toe box is called a toe cap (or toe shield). Sometimes they use some kind of metal to make toe caps in boots.

The toe cap is a crucial component that helps shield your delicate toes from objects like falling pebbles, thorns, and bashings (as well as the fabric of the boot).

Softer hiking boots have toe covers attached to them to assist prevent your toes from getting damaged or crushed.

Toe caps are not a must for all hiking boots if the material is already durable enough, such as certain leathers. However, if purchasing boots manufactured from a relatively soft material, such as Gore-Tex, be sure they have sturdy toe caps.

4. Insulation

The warmth of your feet when hiking is significantly influenced by the interior lining of your hiking boots. This is crucial when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro since the trek takes you through several extremely cold climates, including drop in temperature at the peak and around the arctic area and alpine zone.

You need boots that will keep your feet warm since it is chilly at the top even when there isn’t snow at the peak.

Different materials, such as leather, microfiber, and insulated or vegan lining, are utilized to line the interior of boots. Sometimes, synthetic linings might cause excessive perspiration and unpleasant odors.

Although winter hiking boots sometimes have fluffy lambskin or an insulating lining, you don’t actually need them for Kilimanjaro.

5. Ankle support

When selecting hiking footwear, it’s critical to consider your ankles. Your trip up Mount Kilimanjaro can be over if you twist an ankle. Many people advise picking high-cut hiking boots for this reason.

High-cut boots have a high collar that supports your ankles by wrapping it around them. Finding boots with a decently cushioned collar will make them more comfortable for your ankles, shins, and lower calves.

High-cut boots might be difficult to break in if you’re not used to them.

This is another good reason to break in your boots well before embarking on your Mount Kilimanjaro expedition with Tranquil Kilimanjaro!

The very best ankle support

It is important to note that strong joints and muscles in the foot and lower legs provide the finest ankle stability.

Artificial ankle support, according to proponents of a more “natural” style of hiking footwear, is essentially useless. They say that you don’t truly want this anyhow because no ankle support can entirely immobilize your ankle (to avoid sprains or fractures).

Those who detest high-cut boots will probably hear the case against ankle support rather nicely! If you do decide to wear low-cut boots, make sure they are appropriate hiking boots and not just plain sneakers. The additional qualities of good hiking boots, such as insulation and toe covers, are desirable.

Fit

Perhaps we should have started this article by saying, number one on the list of the most important thing to look for when looking for a hiking boot is your shoe size. Not just your shoe size, but get boots that fit you well as you are going to be spending many hours hiking for many days on the mountain.

Online shopping for hiking boots might be alluring, especially when a great offer pops up, but you’re left to your own devices when the boots arrive to decide whether they’re a decent fit. It is preferable to have a shoe expert assist you in selecting the ideal pair and actually trying them on.

You should visit a reputed outdoor retailer to discover the ideal hiking footwear for you.

You should visit a reputed outdoor retailer to discover the ideal hiking footwear for you. We advise you to consider both the boot size and the toe box when determining fit.

Shoe size

If you typically wear a size 6, for example, don’t allow that thought to come to mind when looking for hiking boots. Regarding the size, you should buy, keep an open mind. To begin with, the sizes of each brand can not match exactly. Second, you frequently require a larger boot size than your typical shoe size. We’ll talk more about that shortly.

The index finger test is a useful tool for determining the appropriate size of hiking footwear. According to this test, your index finger should fit between the rear of the boot and your (sock-covered) foot while your boots are on and laced. You want a boot that safeguards your feet without bending or unnecessarily squeezing them. A boot that offers protection while yet allowing for some contact with the ground is ideal.

Wear your socks when trying your boots on

When you go to the outdoor store to get your hiking boots, it’s crucial to have your various hiking socks with you. Your hiking socks for Mount Kilimanjaro should comprise sock liners, thermal socks, and standard hiking socks, as will be covered below. If you don’t already have these socks, ask the salesperson to lend you a pair that goes with the boots so you can buy them as well.

You require thick thermal socks in addition to boots that can accommodate a sock liner. It is useless to decide a pair of hiking boots fits you well just to find out they are too small once your Kilimanjaro socks are in the picture.

You can wind up purchasing hiking boots that are a size (or half a size) larger than you anticipated for this reason as well.

Did you realize it? Many people have feet that are slightly varied in size. In actuality, around two-thirds of everyone on the planet has uneven feet! According to experts, you should purchase shoes for your larger foot if one of your feet is half a size larger than the other.

The toe box

The majority of hiking boots over the last few decades have had somewhat small (or tapered) toe boxes, which keep your toes squeezed together quite tightly. (The toe box refers to the front portion of the shoe that shelters your toes, as you can see in the infographic above.)

Some now claim that a broad toe box that promotes natural toe splay is ideal. When you walk barefoot, your toes will naturally stretch apart. This is known as toe splay. Toe splay is crucial for helping you keep your balance.

When a shoe eliminates or minimizes toe splay, it frequently makes up for the compromised balance by providing you with a broader front sole.

But is this ideal? Naughty conditions like ingrown toenails, neuromas, or even dead toenails can occasionally result from narrow toe boxes.

No matter what form you decide on for your toe box, keep in mind that they shouldn’t touch the front of the boot. In actuality, far from it. The distance between the front of the boot and your toes should be around a finger’s breadth. They are excessively constrained if you are unable to move your toes at all. Additionally, the edges of the boot shouldn’t be pressing on your toes; if they do, your boot is likely too small.

The soles

Soles are another integral feature of good hiking boots. Just make sure they are not worn out and have good tread, are waterproof, comfortable, and durable. You will come across challenging terrain and it wouldn’t be ideal if you had slippery soles.

Sole thickness

When it comes to the appropriate sole thickness for a hiking boot, there are two opposing opinions. According to conventional wisdom, your foot’s sole will be more protected if the sole is thicker. When you tread on items like sharp stones, a thick sole keeps your foot from being hurt and lasts longer.

Another benefit of a thick sole is that it lasts longer when you’re carrying greater weight, like a large knapsack, for example. Due to the fact that troops frequently carry heavy equipment, the army provides thick-soled boots. With Kilimanjaro, you only need to carry a slackpack filled with your essentials for the day because the porters will carry the rest of your belongings, along with all of the food and camping gear.

The competitor contends that a thick sole is overly stiff and keeps your foot in one place. More particular, you are unable to sense the demands of the ground under you and make little modifications as a result. A thinner sole, according to proponents of this position, lowers your center of gravity and enhances your balance.

Especially while scaling the iconic Barranco Wall, flexibility is a must!

The outsole

The insole, midsole, and outsole of boots may be separated into three components, as you saw in our examination of the anatomy of hiking boots. You want a hiking boot with an outsole that is moderately wide, especially in the front half, for good balance.

You have grip thanks to the lugs on the outsole, which prevents you from slipping. You need strong traction to prevent slipping on hikes that require you to transverse terrain like grasses, streams, scree, or ice. For climbing Kilimanjaro, you’ll need good traction because the forest floor can be muddy and there may be snow and ice close to the top.

For the best grip when trekking, you want lugs that are deep and not too close together.

Rubber, plastic, or polyurethane are just a few of the materials that may be used to create outsoles. You must have a strong, waterproof outsole for your hiking footwear. A company that manufactures high-quality outsoles ideal for hiking footwear is Vibram. Their robust, abrasion-resistant outsoles can withstand challenging terrain like that of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Given the abuse they receive, hiking boots’ outsoles do tend to deteriorate before other components. The good news is that when the sole of a boot becomes too worn out, you can frequently have it resoled rather than throwing the entire shoe out.

Tread

The lugs on an outsole’s tread pattern have the power to improve or reduce a boot’s traction. To provide you strong grip while you walk, you need lots of deep lugs with some room between them. The depth of the lugs is also crucial since walking will gradually wear them down from abrasion. While this should be present in the majority of hiking boots, look for lugs that cover the boot’s ball and heel.

Particularly while walking on slick surfaces like a wet forest floor, a boot’s grip is important.

The insole

Memory foam insoles are popular among hikers. Walking causes your feet to warm up, and as the memory foam spreads the heat, it begins to conform to your feet. Additionally, you need an insole with strong arch support. Women frequently have insteps, and poor arch support might result in foot issues.

It goes without saying that going to a podiatrist would be the best course of action if you do have troublesome arches. If necessary, they may provide insets created to order. If you use such orthotics, make sure the hiking boot’s sole is detachable because, often, there won’t be enough place in the boot for both.

Kilimanjaro and crampons

For excellent grip when walking on snow and ice, you may connect metal frames with spikes to the bottom of your boots. You don’t require the extreme crampons employed by climbers on mountains like Everest while climbing Kilimanjaro. A pair of lightweight crampons will work in its place.

Crampons, however, are often not required for a climb up Kilimanjaro. The only time you might want to have them is if the peak is especially icy.

In this situation, renting strap-on crampons in Tanzania before traveling is simple. Whether you go with us, we’ll let you know when you get to Tanzania if we believe they’d be useful and help you rent a pair.

The good news is that you don’t need to purchase crampons in order to climb Kilimanjaro.

Practically every hiking footwear may be attached with a crampon.

You can walk slowly across the snow and ice that occasionally blanket Kilimanjaro’s summit by using crampons.
It’s important to discuss bootlaces while discussing hiking footwear.

Choosing the best bootlaces

Most people don’t give bootlaces much thought. We only make use of the accessories that come with new footwear. And typically, those work just well. However, if you’re interested in learning more about the perfect bootlaces, keep reading.

The significance of having sturdy shoelaces for your hiking boots is mostly unknown among hikers.

The best bootlaces for hiking boots

For hiking boots, circular bootlaces—like those in the image above—are preferred to flat ones. Round bootlaces are a little tougher and can withstand harder knots and tugs.

Recall that bootlaces made of polyester or nylon are stronger and more water-resistant than those made of cotton.

Nylon bootlaces made of paracord or braid are incredibly durable and make a great choice for hiking boots. Although slightly more costly, nylon laces are exceptionally durable.

Laces with aglets (plastic-coated ends) will make it easier to thread them through eyelets.

Aglets also have the benefit of reducing lace fraying.

The laces on this boot include aglets at the ends to keep them from fraying, which is quite helpful.

Last but not least, you want bootlaces that extend all the way to the top hooks or eyelets of the boots. The laces that come with the boots that you purchase should, of course, be long enough for this. But if you ever need to buy new laces, make sure they are the proper length by measuring your old ones or bringing them with you to the store.

Long bootlaces are practical since they allow you to tie them in various ways to account for the varied terrain and any foot or pain concerns.

Break in your hiking boots

On Kili, sturdy hiking boots are a necessity. If you have a decent pair, you may ignore your feet and focus only on the climb’s beauty and difficulty. Your adventure may turn unpleasant and even deadly if you choose the wrong partners.

Your preparation for Kilimanjaro shouldn’t neglect your trekking footwear. Give yourself plenty of time to look around and select the perfect pair of shoes since making hasty decisions might result in regret (hopefully at the right price).

Additionally, you must give yourself enough time to fully break in the boots.

According to our discussion in How Should I Train for Kilimanjaro?, you should go on practice treks wearing boots.

Unfortunately, good hiking boots are not inexpensive. However, any experienced hiker would agree with you when they say that hiking boots are an investment. A quality pair of boots may last for years, and perhaps even decades.

Try to envision the kinds of journeys you might want to do in the future as a result of this. To pick which boot is perfect for climbing Kilimanjaro as well as other treks, take into account the climate, terrain, and other factors of those routes.

Before climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, take great care to properly break in your hiking boots. This is particularly crucial for leather boots. Your boots still require breaking in, even if they feel quite comfortable when you test them out (which they should).

After a few hours of strenuous trekking, what appears comfy at the store frequently isn’t comfortable anymore.

Before climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, we advise that you travel at least 100 kilometers with your footwear.

Start by putting the boots on for short trips like grocery shopping and wear them around the home. Gradually advance by taking longer walks, and eventually, take longer and longer treks while wearing a backpack.

Rushing the procedure increases the risk of developing foot pain, especially if you’re wearing leather boots. Another reason not to wait until the last minute to prepare for Mount Kilimanjaro is that you won’t have the time to fully break in your footwear.

A word of advice: don’t take the advice of people who recommend band-aid fixes like soaking the boots. Spending a lot of time in boots is the greatest method to break them in. One of our top ten recommendations for climbing and reaching the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro is to properly break in your footwear.

Toe ‘socks’

You might want to try toe caps if you notice that your toes are aching, blistering, or suffering from poor toenail health during breaking in your boots (or even after your boots are broken in). These toe caps—not to be confused with the top caps that are a feature of synthetic hiking boots—are gel “socks” that you can fit over individual toes to cushion them more and protect them from abrasion.

Again, you wouldn’t do something like this for the first time on Kili; test toe caps beforehand to make sure they function well and have no unfavorable side effects.

Only climb Mount Kilimanjaro while wearing hiking boots that have been thoroughly broken in.

We really hope our guide on the top hiking footwear for Mount Kilimanjaro has been helpful. We encourage you to invest in a set of boots that you can use for a variety of excursions, not only climbing Kilimanjaro! Because you will undoubtedly become addicted to trekking after you have climbed Kilimanjaro.

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