Intriguing new hiking boots use motion-activated pistons to prevent ankle injury

Like a seatbelt for your feet

person wearing TERREIN hiking boots
(Image credit: TERREIN)

While there are occasionally exciting developments in the walking boot world, the fact of the matter is that many of today's best hiking boots are variations on a theme – albeit a very well honed theme that definitely works. Once you've been reading about and testing out boots for a while, it's rare for a press release to land in your inbox that genuinely makes you do a double take. That is what happened with the TERREIN hiking boots. 

Hikers are especially prone to ankle injury – they account for 40% of non-fatal injuries in hikers, according to this study. They extra ankle support is one of the reasons why boots are recommended over walking shoes when tackling long walks or uneven ground. TERREIN has gone one better though, and created a boot that makes it all-but impossible to roll over your ankles. It does this by adding a miniature piston system, which forms an exoskeleton that sits on the outside of the boot. 

That system, from collaborator Betterguards, is designed to mimic the function of the ligaments and muscles, but... better. According to TERREIN, your own slow, rubbish muscles need 100 milliseconds to activate, while Betterguards’ technology needs 30 milliseconds. That means the instant you start to slip, the pistons kick in, stiffening to stabilise the joint and prevent the twist or tear from ever happening.

person wearing TERREIN hiking boots

(Image credit: TERREIN)

The rest of the boot features a flexible, Velcro-fastened sock construction, and a rubber compound outsole with high side walls for grip. TERREIN says it'll offer full freedom of movement when a slip is not occurring – assuming that exoskeleton and power adaptor don't get in the way, of course – because it's clever enough to know what's a natural movement and what could cause injury. Think of them like seatbelts for your feet: these boots use a hydraulic mechanism that'll kick in when there's a jerky or unnaturally fast movement. 

person wearing TERREIN hiking boots

(Image credit: TERREIN)

They're designed for anyone who wants to move quickly, or for long periods, over unstable or tricky terrain. When you're wearing these, you don't even need to worry about taking a tumble. As you'd hope with an experimental technology such as this, it has undergone plenty of testing – Betterguards reassures us that development involved 11,000 hours of trials on athletes. 

“Free from physical restrictions, mental barriers and the fear of injury, Betterguards’ transformational technology combines the natural freedom of motion with effective joint protection," says TERREIN's Francois Tabard. "We want wearers of TERREIN to take in the true beauty of hiking, enrich their experiences of nature and ensure they are not only focused on their feet, but their beautiful surroundings as well.”

TERREIN boots are on sale now for £180 or €220 – which is actually in line with other upper-mid boots. The company is only producing them in small numbers to meet local demand and prevent wastage. Head to www.terrein-footwear.com (opens in new tab) for more. 

Ruth is T3's Outdoors editor, reviewing and writing about everything from camping gear and hiking boots to mountain bikes, drones and paddle boards. To counter all that effort, she also runs the site's Wellness channel, which includes sleep, relaxation, yoga and general wellbeing. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy, for fear of getting smothered in the night.