Categories of walking and mountaineering bootsThe traditional German company Meindl has established an interesting and useful categorization for hiking and mountaineering shoes, which hikers can use as a guide when it comes to finding the right footwear for trekking, hiking and mountaineering. It is intended to serve as a first orientation in the shoe jungle:
Category A:Lightweight hiking boots (usually low-cut) for forest and meadow paths with flexible soles and little cushioning for everyday life as well as for shorter hikes with light luggage (daypack) on largely flat and paved paths.
Category A/B:High-cut hiking boots for extended day trips or tours with overnight stay and medium-heavy luggage (backpacks up to approx. 35 litres) as well as for largely paved paths with (significant) ascents and occasionally loose ground. The sole is twistable, but relatively stiff and thick.
Category B:Classic trekking boots with torsion-resistant sole, thick midsole for lots of cushioning and with high lacing. Mostly made of leather and can be resoled depending on the model. Suitable for tours lasting several days with a large backpack (trekking backpack 40-70 litres) and mountainous and sometimes rough terrain, but still with clear routing. Can be used with snow spikes. Not recommended for long mountain tours, under very cold conditions or for high altitudes (over 3,000 meters). However, in combination with thick wool socks, it is ideal as a light winter (hiking) shoe.
Category B/C:Heavy trekking boots for tours on rough, steep terrain, possibly without direct access and for shorter winter tours in icy weather. Stiff sole with deep lugs, very high lacing and stable upper. Suitable for fixed rope routes and at higher altitudes (around 3,000 to 4,000 meters). Compatible with snow spikes and crampons with double strap-on binding. From this category upwards it is usually possible to resole the shoe.
Category C:Mountaineering boots for touring on very rough and steep terrain, ice and firn as well as off-road paths. They can also be used for winter tours lasting several days or at higher altitudes (up to about 5,000 meters). Very high collar, usually additionally insulated. An edge at the heel allows the use of step-in crampons (heel clip at the back, simple strap-on at the front). High weight, very deep lugs and extremely robust materials.
Category D:Expedition boots with removable, insulated inner boot, extremely robust and durably made for high altitude and extreme mountaineering or expeditions. Fully crampon proof. Ideal for glaciers, long winter tours, ice and mixed climbing. In addition to the differences in the primary purpose, the upper material (leather or synthetic), weather resistance (waterproof shoe with a membrane or a particularly breathable, membrane-free shoe) and the material of the inner lining (mesh or leather) must be considered. However, these are questions of demand and comfort that everyone must answer for themselves. For example, not everyone can cope with natural products. Although leather is generally more robust and durable, it also requires more care than synthetic fabrics, which dry quickly and are lighter.
Low-cut outdoor shoesFurthermore, there are some subcategories, especially among the low-cut shoes, which depend on the purposes and are associated with the A-category.
- Multisport shoes are light walking shoes that have a design that’s suitable for everyday use or are running shoes, which combine an extra light upper fabric with the sole of a hiking shoe. They are look nice, are light and are suitable for everyday use as well as for easy hikes or walks. They are also suitable for speedhiking at moderate altitudes as long as you have little luggage with you.
- The so-called approach shoes are interesting for climbers. These are usually mid-cut shoes with a robust and relatively stiff outer sole, which have an edge at the front of the inner foot for easy climbing (as with climbing shoes). The appearance and construction are comparable to hiking shoes, but in addition to the sole, the lacing that extends far forward is also similar to climbing shoes. These shoes are ideal for the way from the car over slopes and scree to the rock as well as for securing or for simple via ferrata. Approach shoes are mountain oriented and belong to the A/B shoes. The design is casual and suitable for everyday use. Models with softer soles can also be used for hiking. The cushioning makes the shoes suitable for use with touring backpacks and hardware.
Special outdoor sports shoes
- Climbing shoes and bouldering shoes are more or less pre-curved and asymmetrical, have a perfect fit (the more of these features, the more uncomfortable and the more ambitious), have a prominent climbing edge at the front of the inner foot and lacing or hook-and-loop fasteners that reach far forward (usually a matter of comfort). The upper and lining are often in one and usually made of leather. They also have a completely smooth rubber sole. This guarantees the best grip on the smallest footholds. You can find out more in our buyer’s guide to climbing shoes.
- Trail running shoes are very light and have a highly flexible and cushioned sole. The synthetic upper material is very breathable and depending on the model, there is a waterproof membrane between the outer fabric and mesh lining or not. There are special quick lacing systems as well as differences in the sole tread depending on the preferred training surface. Running shoes are also versatile, casual companions in everyday life.
- Cycling shoes are available as MTB shoes or racing bike shoes. Here, special attention must be paid to the suitability of the pedal plates and the locking system. You can find out more in our buyer’s guide to cycling shoes.