My wife and I love walking. In fact, we spent our honeymoon in Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and the northern and southern edges of the Grand Canyon. But before we set foot on a trail, we went out and bought the essential equipment needed for weeks of uninterrupted walking. Mountaineering shoes.
Even if we walked the same paths, in the same conditions, the fundamental differences between men’s and women’s feet meant that we would not have the same boots. So what are the differences between our feet that make men’s hiking boots and women’s hiking boots so different.
Obviously, women’s legs are shorter and narrower than men’s legs. This in itself is predictable, because (in general) women are shorter and lighter than men. However, part of this is because there is less cartilage between a woman’s leg bones and her joints and ligaments are softer and more flexible. Also, women’s heels are narrower than men’s. Boot manufacturers are now compensating for this by molding a stronger heel box or adding an extra stiff cover to keep the heel firmly in place to reduce slippage.
The effect of increasing the flexibility of the female foot led to the improvement of two designs in women’s boots. First, a more flexible woman’s foot needs more support to cope with the constant stress of walking. This is usually done by adding a stiffer support than the middle part, such as an insert. This insert is usually molded into the floor to maintain the required traction for all types of ground, but it has enough flexibility for a comfortable movement. The second and probably most important difference in the middle of the sole of the foot is the reinforcement of the reinforced arch in the boot.
In general, a woman has a higher arch than a man who needs more support. However, due to monthly changes in the level of female hormones, especially estrogen, her arch is actually reduced, because estrogen is a soft tissue relaxant. This relaxation of a flexible foot makes the shape of a woman’s foot rotate between a relatively long arch and a flat foot. This fluctuation in the arch causes the middle part of the women’s boots to have a reinforced arch.
One of the manufacturers (Lowa) has taken the difference in the structure of the foot one step further, because it also creates a difference in the position of the body. A man’s posture and steps are not as correct as a woman’s, so Lowa has designed two degrees of offset on the ankle axis of his men’s hiking boots to create a more balanced position. Because women are naturally more resilient, this design is not included in the ankle design of their women’s hiking boots.
Understanding the difference between men’s hiking boots and women’s hiking boots makes it very easy for you to choose the right boots. Just because a woman’s foot is naturally smaller, do not think that buying men’s shoes with a smaller size is the way to go. The best option is to try hiking boots that are specifically designated as women’s hiking boots. It immediately tells you that the manufacturer understands the difference between a man’s foot and a woman’s foot and has designed their boots to eliminate these differences.