By Julia Eskins
Photography courtesy of Hi-Tec Canada
The familiar phrase “less is more” has long been touted by minimalists. Now, it’s trending in the hiking world — by way of soles that support the journey.
With the rise of urban hiking and a growing interest in healthy lifestyles, trekking is no longer reserved for elite adventurers. But, if there’s one thing that both casual and experienced hikers can agree upon, it’s that they want it all: style, durability, comfort and affordability.
“There are some key elements that are always needed in a hiking shoe, but we wanted to strip everything else out and go back to the basics,” says David Battler, CEO of sportswear company Hi-Tec Canada. “People realize that they don’t need a heavy, $400 Italian hiking boot to hop in their Land Rover and go to Starbucks.”
Re-thinking the traditional hiking shoe
Hi-Tec re-branded their hiking footwear to combine style and functionality after spotting a relatively untapped area of the market two years ago. They noticed that skateboarding brands were increasingly showing up at outdoor trade shows in North America. The reason? Traditional outdoor suppliers weren’t giving young people the products they wanted.
“We thought, ‘Let’s take our traditional hiking shoes and build them for a 20-year-old. Let’s put in all the performance features of a traditional, bulky shoe, but let’s make it look like a cool street shoe.’”
The three essentials of the perfect boots
When finding the perfect pair of summer hiking boots, Battler recommends always “starting from the bottom” — always look at the bottom of the shoe.
Next, comfort is key. “It’s the ‘ah’ factor. When you put your foot in a shoe, it should feel nice and springy. We want to make sure that stays there after a month or two of heavy use,” explains Battler.
Finally, look out for the unique features that suit the type of hiking you would like to do. For urban hiking in the summer, breathability is often more important than waterproofness. And the need for quality outsoles that will take the abuse of walking on pavement is paramount, adds Battler.
For serious trail-hikers, specialty features can make a world of difference. One of Hi-Tec’s most interesting elements is the Ion Mask, a technical treatment that prevents anything from sticking to the shoe, including mud and dust from the trail.
And for those looking for an essential summer shoe to take them across Toronto?
“It’s got to be comfortable, breathable and lightweight,” says Battler. “In that kind of footwear, you can walk from Lakeshore to Bloor and be happy.”