goHUNT’s boot stiffness scale explained
Back in February the goHUNT Gear Shop launched a brand new footwear category — this is an area that we have all put a lot of thought and preparation into. We hope that our customers are as excited as we are about the new assortment of boots that we now carry. If you are looking for a light and fast hunting shoe, we have that. If you are looking for a stiff, heavy-duty all leather boot, we have that, too. We are carrying all the top brands: Altra, Crispi, Hanwag, Inov8, La Sportiva, Lowa, Salewa, Scarpa, Schnee's, and more. In true goHUNT Gear Shop fashion, we will not be carrying a full line of generic boots from those brands. Instead, we have hand-selected models that we love and will suit the various demands of western big game hunting.
We have been putting out content to help you find the boots you are looking for, including sizing charts and how to’s, individual boot reviews on our YouTube page, and our own goHUNT Flex Chart. The flex of a boot is what I want to dive into here.
The sole stiffness or flexibility of a boot is going to fall within a range of soft and flexible to rigid and stiff. We also have models that fall between the two ends of that scale as well. My intent is to give our customers an idea on how we developed our scale, how they can use that to help them find a boot they will love, and offer some ideas for the type of flexibility we prefer for the hunts we go on.
The goHUNT Stiffness Scale is unique to our site and among the selection we carry. You will see the goHUNT Stiffness Scale represented on each individual boot page.
The goHUNT Boot Stiffness Scale
|Flex 1||Built for light and fast trekking. Think of your favorite trail running shoes,|
but capable of rocky demanding terrain.
|Flex 2||Flexible enough that they offer out of the box comfort but can handle miles of rocky terrain.|
Perfectly suited for mild to moderate mule deer, elk, and antelope country.
|Flex 3||Ideally suited for mountain hunts with moderate to steep technical terrain where more rigidity is required.|
Some break-in time required but will likely become your favorite do everything hunting boots.
|Flex 4||Best suited for hunts at or above timberline where the terrain gets steep. Flexible enough that it can handle|
miles of comfortable climbing but stiff enough to offer support and rigidity with a heavy pack.
|Flex 5||The stiffest boot options, best for alpine hunting and mountaineering.|
Sheep hunting, mountain goat, and the toughest of elk and deer terrain.
Built for light and fast trekking. Think of your favorite trail running shoes, but capable of rocky and demanding terrain.
The Flex 1 rating is given to very lightweight, flexible hiking boots or shoes. They may be ever so slightly stiffer-soled and less flexible than your day-to-day running shoes, but, overall, the Flex 1 rating will offer you a highly flexible boot/shoe that will be comfortable out of the box and will require almost no break in time. We carry both low and mid-height and all maintain the tread required for hiking off-trail over demanding terrain. There are some potential pros and cons for this type of footwear. The pros are that they are lightweight, comfortable, less expensive, and offer excellent foot control. The potential cons are that they typically wear quicker and will not offer the foot and ankle support of a stiffer boot, especially under a heavier pack.
When would a Flex 1 be a good option?
For many of us, a light, fast and flexible boot is a great option for early to mid-season moderate terrain hunts. Antelope hunting, desert and mountain shrub mule deer and elk hunting are perfect hunts to go light and fast. Even some early season high country deer and elk areas are conducive to light and fast flexible footwear. One other benefit that I have found is that a more flexible shoe/boot has actually improved my ankle strength and decreased the times I roll my ankle while hunting. I have a bad right ankle and I used to only use stiff-soled boots. I am now using a flexible hiker much more often — especially in rocky terrain — and have found that I roll my ankle much less because I have more precise foot control and grip. Within this category, the Salewa Wildfire Edge Mid GTX are one of my very favorite boots.
Flexible enough that they offer out of the box comfort, but can still handle miles of rocky terrain. Perfectly suited for mild to moderate mule deer, elk, and antelope country.
Models with a Flex 2 label often have either a partial midfoot shank, a very thin one along the entire length of the boot, or just a bit stiffer sole in general. In most cases, the Flex 2 will offer taller uppers over a Flex 1 option, which allows for some additional support. Boots within this category will require almost no break-in and offer a flexible, lightweight boot with just enough support for more rugged and rocky terrain. Similar to the Flex 1 models, this category of boots will offer you a tacky sole, good traction, and excellent foot control. What it provides over the Flex 1 is a bit more support and can handle more rugged and steep terrain in general. Potential cons are that they typically wear quicker, both in the sole and upper region of the boot. You may also experience some fatigue and hot spots over multiple days under a heavy pack if the terrain is too steep.
When would a Flex 2 boot be a good option?
Ideally, a Flex 2 boot is perfect for mild to moderate antelope, mule deer, and elk terrain. Within this category, the La Sportiva Trango Techs are one of my very favorite boots.
Ideally suited for mountain hunts with moderate to steep technical terrain where more rigidity is required. Some break-in time required, but will likely become your favorite do everything hunting boots.
We carry more Flex 3 boot options than any other because this seems to be the sweet spot for most western big game hunters. The Flex 3 is stiff enough that it offers good support and rigidity, but does not require months of break-in time. The support and rigidity of boots in the Flex 3 category are provided by uppers that are typically taller, more rigid and offer a stiffer full length midsole. Flex 3 boots will require a few hikes to break them in, but foot fatigue or irritation should be minimal. The Flex 3 is great for moderate to steep demanding terrain and will get you through the bulk of your hunting season. You can archery elk hunt in them or add a gaiter and move into late season mule deer and elk.
When would a Flex 3 boot be a good option?
Benefits of a Flex 3 are that they require minimal break-in time and most are comfortable out of the box. They offer a good base for heavy packs and enough foot control and traction that moving through technical terrain is manageable. If you need a do-it-all comfortable boot with minimal break-in, the Flex 3 boots should be your choice.
Within this category, the Hanwag Makra Combi GTX are one of my very favorite boots.
Best suited for hunts at or above timberline where the terrain gets steep. Flexible enough that it can handle miles of comfortable climbing, but still stiff enough to offer support and rigidity with a heavy pack.
Flex 4 boots jump you up into a more rigid, less flexible sole. Typically, the Flex 4 boots are going to offer a thicker, full length nylon or composite insole section. Boots within this category are ideally designed for alpine climbing and descent over multiple days and miles. The stiffness of the sole gives hunters the rigidity to obtain toe hold and support with each climbing step, which is perfect for multi-day pack trips in steep terrain.
When would a Flex 4 boot be a good option?
A pair of Flex 4 boots is going to require some break-in time, so plan accordingly. Some of our personal favorite high country mule deer and elk hunting boots fall within the Flex 4 category. The major benefit of a Flex 4, or even Flex 5 boot, is that they are often more durable and although not as comfortable out the box, often cause less leg fatigue when climbing with a heavy pack. Boots in this range can feel a bit clunky when technical rock hopping is required and they are tougher to break in, but, with some work and the right terrain, a Flex 4 is a great boot.
Within this category, the Salewa Rapace GTX are one of my very favorite boots.
The stiffest boot options: best for alpine hunting and mountaineering. Used for sheep hunting, mountain goat, and the toughest of elk and deer terrain.
The stiffest boots in our gear shop are going to get the Flex 5 rating. Certainly, there are stiffer boots in the mountaineering market, but for all intents and purposes, we selected boots that will take hunters into the roughest steepest terrain in the West while still offering what we believe is a comfortable boot that can be worn over miles of trekking. The biggest difference between Flex 4 and Flex 5 is that, in most cases, Flex 5 will have a slightly thicker shank. The thicker shank is going to yield a stiffer, yet extremely supportive boot.
When would a Flex 5 boot be a good option?
The Flex 5 boot options are going to require break-in time and are ideally suited for navigating rocky alpine scree fields and steep technical terrain. Consider the Flex 5 the perfect option for dall, Rocky Mountain sheep and goat hunts — and anything else that calls the high alpine terrain home. Sizing is important with stiffer boot options. Pay particular attention to our sizing charts and find the best fit for you.
If you have questions about boot fit, flexibility, sizing or even application, do not hesitate to shoot us an email, call us or drop a question on this article. We have used every boot in the lineup we carry and can offer you ideas on what will suit you best. Nothing will ruin a hunt like sore feet, so do the research, start early and get a boot that you know is going to do the job. Don’t forget that we are here to help!