If you plan on walking for pleasure, it is a good idea to invest in some good quality walking boots. Good boots are vital for protecting your feet and ankles whilst you are out walking. Wearing the wrong type of footwear on a long walk can put your feet and joints at risk.
Although there are hundreds of specialist outdoor shops in Britain where you can ask for advice about new boots, it is a good idea to consider some of the following things before you buy.
What do you need your boots for?
There are actually a number of different types of walking boots available to purchase, which tend to be made with specific environments in mind. When you are choosing your new footwear, you must start by considering where and when you plan on doing most of your walking. Lightweight trainer type shoes with a higher degree of flexibility are ideal if you plan on walking a lot in low-lying areas or on well-trodden footpaths. The flexibility of the shoes will help your foot to move naturally and will help to enhance comfort levels.
On the other hand, if you are planning on walking on uneven ground, over rocks or away from established footpaths then you are advised to choose a more rigid style of boot. Good ankle support is essential if you plan on walking over any uneven or unsteady ground. Rigid boots with stiff soles help to prevent your foot from being forced into harmful positions by the terrain that you are walking over.
Alternatively, if you plan on doing winter walking, you may need to buy boots which you are able to wear crampons with. Many summer style boots are not designed to be worn with crampons or other winter safety devices, and are therefore unsuitable for wearing in snowy weather.
It is also possible to buy walking sandals if you plan on going walking in very warm climes. These sandals are designed to keep your feet cool whilst also giving you an appropriate level of foot support.
In days gone by, all walking boots were previously made of stiff leather; however synthetic materials are now used more often. Synthetic boots are normally lighter, more flexible and require less breaking in than leather boots do.
On the other hand, well-made leather boots are more durable and are easier to care for than synthetic options. The material that you choose for your walking boots is likely to come down to personal preference. Some vegetarians prefer synthetic materials over leather ones, because leather is an animal product.
Getting the right fit
It is important that you take the time to find boots that offer the right fit. The boot seller may want to measure the size and shape of your feet, as well as assessing the arch of your foot. Some boot manufacturers are known for making wider fitting shoes, whereas other manufacturers are known for producing a narrower fit of boot. An experienced salesperson will be able to point the best brands for your fit out to you straight away.
Once you try on a boot, you should do some basic tests to check the fit. Whilst the boot is still unlaced, shuffle your foot right to the front of the boot. You should be able to fit your finger snugly into the back of the boot. If you need to force your finger in, then it is likely that the boot is too short for you. On the other hand, if your finger moves around freely, then the boots are too large for you.
Once the boots are laced up, you should feel even pressure across the top of the shoe. The boot should feel firm without feeling restrictive. Try standing up to see whether the feel of the boot changes at all. Your foot naturally changes shape when you are standing, so the boot may suddenly become restrictive. Feet tend to elongate in this position, so make sure that your toes still have enough room.
Walk around the shop in the boots. Most boot shops will have a testing ramp which will allow you to check out how the boots feel when you are going up and down hills. This will help you to assess whether there are any restrictive points in the boots when they are worn in lots of different scenarios.
You should also check the flex points of the shoes. These points are areas where you will need a lot of flexibility because of the movement of your foot. The flex point is over the ball of your foot. If the boot does not fit right, there may be discomfort around the flex points when you move your feet.
Once you have bought your boots, you may need to spend a while breaking them in by going on lots of shorter walks or wearing them around the house.