Few years back finding a pair of waterproof shoes in India was next to impossible. You either had to go to the small hill town, find a Tibetan shop, suitable size and design or ask your family member living abroad to get one for you.
Today the scenario has changed. China has made these shoes affordable and Decathlon ensures there is a regular supply in all sizes. If you are thinking you will manage the small Himalayan trek in your sneakers / sport shoes or your tough Woodland's, you are in for a lot of trouble. We Indians love to save money and are the Jugaad race, but there is no alternative to a good pair of waterproof trekking shoes. If you ask any Pahaadi what you can get them as an exchange for the favor they did to you or their honesty, they will ask for a good pair of shoes.
What to look for in a trekking boots. A few pointers:
Sole: Soles are the soul of a shoe, these are what can keep you safe or result in broken bones. Sole of the shoes need to provide traction so that you don't slip on wet surface and moraine. It needs to be flexible to take off some pressure from your tired feet and let the feet move naturally with every step. It should have big lugs for more traction for the same reason that tractor tyre is more suitable for off-roading than the Maruti tyre. It also needs to be sticky, natural rubber is suitable but PU molded one can result in you having broken teeth. Vibram has the technology that makes them the market leaders where soles are concerned and come at a higher price. Though, others are doing a pretty decent job too.
Support: We personally prefer high ankle shoes as they provide ankle support. You know, that one careless step in the mountain can result in a twisted ankle resulting in shooting ankle pain, swelling, spoiled trek and very frustrated trek mates. High ankle shoes will forgive that careless step. More rigid ankle support means stronger support for your ankle but ensure there is ample cushion on the inside as well.
Inner Sole: It should have lot of cushioning, needs to hug your feet and spread the pressure. With new technology you can go in for gel padded soles and contour them as per your feet requirement.
Waterproof and Breathable: What makes your trekking shoe waterproof is a membrane that does not allow water to go in, but the same membrane needs to allow sweat to come out in form of water vapors or your shoes are going to smell really bad. Another reason for the smell could be repeated use of same pair of socks without washing. The tongue of the shoe needs to be stitched to the sides like a web or the water will go in from there. Gore-tex are the market leaders in waterproofing and breath-ability, with others trying to catch up.
Last but not the least, always BREAK INTO THE SHOES. What it means is, do not take a new pair to the hike. Wear it for a few days beforehand so that your feet and the shoe have some time to become good friends. A fight between these two in the mountain will mean painful blisters and may also result in a shorter trip than planned.
Keep hiking and LEAVE NO TRACE so that others can enjoy it too.