These boots are made for walking

Walking? Its all about the boots. Comfortable, well shod feet will make a walk in the hills a pleasure. You won’t notice the great work going on below ankle level as you stride along with your partner, taking in the views.

On the other hand (foot), the wrong boots will make you, and everyone else with you, miserable. So, the hills may be calling you but don’t answer the call until you’ve got your feet encased in a fine pair of boots.

What makes a fine pair (of boots)?

  1. Comfort. No matter what the rest of the points below are, if your boots aren’t comfortable you won’t wear them.
  2. Price. Most expensive is not always best. Go mid-range price and you’ll be less likely to persevere with a boot that just isn’t right.
  3. Style. Want them for more than your weekly walk - school run, walking the dog? Or are you a bit of a fashionista? Synthetic boots come in multiple colour ranges with decorative touches.
  4. Durability. Boots that are up to the job you use them for will last longer. Consider repairs to a higher priced boot if it’s well broken in and fits like the proverbial glove!
  5. Material. Leather is durable and stands up to abrasion better. It’s generally pretty waterproof (although will still need a waterproof treatment to keep it that way). Downsides are it tends to be less breathable than synthetic material, and less flexible.

What boot is best?

The type of walking you plan to do will decide what’s best for you.

  • Day hikes on paths and trails. Well surfaced paths or trails in good weather just need your regular sports shoes. If you want to upgrade, a pair of inexpensive hiking shoes is ideal. They’re flexible and lightweight, usually synthetic. They may not be waterproof (even on a dry day you may find puddles), and offer no ankle support.
  • Off-trail walking/ hills. Hiking boots are the next step up. These give protection from lateral ankle twisting, and from ankle knocks. The midsole is stiffer, but still flexible. The soles are cleated to give better traction - accidents happen most often going downhill, and grasping your partner to prevent a fall rarely cements a relationship. They may have a heel brake - a separate section of rubber at the back, which gives even better traction.
  • Backpacking. Hiking with a pack obviously adds extra pressure on your feet. Backpacking boots are a sturdier version of hiking boots. The midsole is stiffer, giving more support, and the sole has deeper cleats. Choose a boot with cleats wider apart, to prevent mud gathering – you’re carrying enough weight without adding an extra couple of pounds.
  • Winter walking/mountaineering. Mountaineering boots are the industrial version of walking boots. They’re strong, well padded and able to take crampons for snow and ice walking. In general, they’re too sturdy for anything but serious winter walking – wearing them in the wrong conditions will be unnecessarily tiring.

Foot notes

Caring for your boots according to manufacturers’ recommendations will make them last better. The right socks will protect your feet – wool, especially merino, is great. Cotton socks tend to trap sweat, leading to soggy feet, and blisters. Socks need to be close fitting if you don’t want blisters (who does?). Toe nails should be trimmed, and any sore spots can be protected with moleskin.

 There’s a saying in the military : “Look after your feet and your feet will look after you.” The same should be said of your boots.

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