A basic guide to walking boot construction

Fitting walking boots in our store regularly involves explaining how various boots have been constructed, and how this will effect things such as the fit, comfort, weight, protection, waterproofness, durability, and price. A premium quality trekking boot will have been assembled from around 180 different components, and incorporates many design and construction elements that will not be obvious when the boots are sitting on a shelf in a shop.

The example here is a board lasted, cemented construction, nubuck leather and fabric trekking boot with a Gore-Tex™ lining and a Vibram™ outsole. 'Board lasted' means that the boot has been built around a firm lasting board, and then the sole unit (the mid and outsole layers) has been attached onto the bottom with adhesive. This is a more traditional form of manufacture, which is certainly more costly than alternatives like injection moulding, but does give advantages such as more shape being given to the boot during manufacture, and the ability to replace the sole unit when the tread wears down.

External parts and features

  1. Cuff - The part of the boot that extends above your ankle onto the lower leg - Provides support and protection to the ankle joint, and helps keep water and trail debris (stones, sand, etc) out of the boot.
  2. Fabric - A synthetic woven material (N.B. this is NOT the Gore-Tex bit) - Increases softness and flexibility of the boot upper in specific areas, such as the tongue and cuff, but does reduce weather protection.
  3. Locking lace hook - A metal lacing hook set back from the other lacing hardware, which intentionally jams the lace - Helps to lock the your heel into the back of the boot, to provide a more secure fit.
  4. Lacing hardware - D-rings and eyelets - Allow connection of the laces to the boot with limited friction, making it easier to securely lace up the boot when putting on, and making it easier to unlace the boot when removing.
  5. Full-grain leather - The premium, outer surface of a cow hide - Provides durability, weather resistance, ease of cleaning, and allows 3D moulding of the boot during manufacture and use, which in turn provides a better fit.
  6. Rand - A thin strip of rubber glued onto the surface of the leather upper - Provides extra scuff protection, but will increase weight, reduce breathability and drying time, and will limit the natural stretch and moulding of the leather parts of the boot to your foot.
  7. Sole unit - The base of the boot, comprising of the midsole and outsole layers - Provides underfoot protection, stability, traction and cushioning.
  8. Toe spring - Sometimes referred to as a toe rocker or Shepards Toe, this is where the toe part of the boot is slightly raised off the ground. - Aids a natural walking action in stiff footwear by rolling the foot forward onto the toes during push-off.

Internal parts and features

  1. Tongue gusset - A fold of thinner material along the edge of the tongue - Prevents entry of trail debris and weather down the side of the padded tongue.
  2. Tongue padding - A foam layer between the outer and lining - Protects the bridge of the foot from the pressure of the laces.
  3. Waterproof liner - A separate, seam-sealed 'sock' made from a waterproof and breathable material such as Gore-Tex or Sympertex - Prevents water that has penetrated the outer leather and fabric materials of the boot from reaching your socks.
  4. Ankle padding - A foam layer between the outer and lining - Protects the ankle from rubbing and from knocks against rocks or boulders.
  5. Heel counter - A stiff cup-shaped insert between the outer and lining - Keeps your heel centered and supported within the boot.
  6. Lasting board - A graded plastic or plastic composite board that the boot upper is connected onto around the manufacturing last - Protects the underside of the foot from injury on rocks, etc., and also braces the foot, reducing stress and strain, and therefore helping to reduce fatigue and risk of injury, especially over longer distances, on rough ground, or while carrying a heavy pack.
  7. Midsole - A layer (or sometimes multiple layers) of PU or EVA foam - Provides cushioning, shock absorption and reduces weight.
  8. Outsole - The lugged, hard rubber layer on the very bottom of the boot - *Provides grip and traction.
  9. Toebox - A stiff layer between the outer material and lining - Protects toes from direct injury on rocks, etc.
  10. Flex point - The location at which the lasting board has been designed to bend a certain amount - Allows the forefoot to bend naturally, aiding walking comfort.

NB: The example here does not include an insole or footbed, which sits under the foot, directly on top of the lasting board (which would otherwise feel hard to walk on).

Lasted updated: February 22, 2021