Advice on buying walking footwear.
In this article we aim to help you find walking footwear that is suitable for your activities and, most importantly, fits your feet.
What to look for in walking footwear.
First it is important to think about where you will be walking and what you want to use your footwear for. This may be weekend walks in the Lake District, multi day backpacking trips in Scotland, climbing Kilimanjaro, the daily dog walk or casual Sunday afternoon strolls. These different activities put different demands on your footwear for example you may need to use a crampon for winter walking so the boot must be crampon compatible, or if you’re walking the well-travelled paths of the Camino de Santiago you may decide a shoe will give you enough support. Here are some of the basic options but there is no right or wrong answer for you as different people have different needs and preferences.
Boot or shoe?
Boots give you better ankle support and weather protection so if you’re going out in bad weather, have problems with your ankle stability, carrying a heavy pack or traveling rough or loose terrain off the paths then boots are usually the best option. If you want something light weight for fair weather days or shorter walks and you don’t need the ankle support shoes are a good option. Many people have both and will pick the ones which best suit the route and conditions.
Fabric or leather?
Fabric panel boots are often lighter and more comfortable straight out of the box. They usually have a softer flex in the sole unit and a more trainer like feel but with all the stitching and their total reliance on Gore-tex to keep the water out they tend not to last as long as leather. Modern leather boots don’t require the same ‘breaking in’ that they used to but they still take longer to reach their optimum comfort. In general they do last longer than the fabric boots and as the leather is very water resistant, if looked after, the boots can keep your feet dry once the Gore-tex membrane has begun to fail.
Gore-tex or non Gore-tex?
That is the question. Most modern walking footwear has a Gore-tex liner to keep the water out. Gore-tex works very well for keeping your feet dry but it does make boots a bit warmer. For most UK walking we recommend Gore-tex but if you are going somewhere hot and dry or if you suffer from very hot feet you might decide you want to go for non Gore-tex footwear.
If you are unsure whether you need a shoe or a boot or if you want leather or fabric panel, keep an open mind and try a few different types on and ask the advice of someone who has been where you’re going but remember, the most important aspect of any outdoor footwear is how they fit your feet!
Backcountryuk.com Boot fitting specialists. Quality footwear and expert advice for the outdoors.