Our Guide to Walking Boots
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – if you only buy one piece of kit for your walks, then we recommend to best pair of walking boots you can afford. Keeping your feet dry, warm and comfortable is pretty crucial for enjoying walks – and you’re more likely to go on more walks if you’ve got good walking boots.
Most walking boots are Three Season Boots – that means they are a perfect all-rounder. You’d be fine attempting most of the popular walks in the British Isles with a Three Season boot – although for serious Mountain Climbs you should wear a pair of proper Mountain Boots.
Here are some of the common features we recommend you look for in a pair of Walking Boots…
Choosing the material
Firstly, there are two different materials used in walking boots: Leather and Fabric.
Leather boots are waterproof, durable, tough and they are breathable. They are generally a bit heavier and do usually require breaking in. Leather boots can however be hot and sweaty in Summer.
Fabric boots are breathable, perhaps more comfortable and to some people look better, but can be less resistant to water and do need to be reinforced. They’ll have a waterproof membrane in order to be waterproof. Fabric boots are perhaps more suited to day trips and shorter overnight trips.
Finding the right fit
The most important factor to think about when buying boots is the fit. If they don’t fit right, they don’t do their job properly. Ensure they fit snugly around the heel and the ankle, but leave ample room to move your toes without restriction. Tight spots can rub and cause bad blisters, while large gaps usually mean they won’t hold your foot stable.
This is where your local outdoor store is a good place to buy boots, as you can try on all different types and brands. Remember, you can wear a thicker sock with a boot which is too large, but a boot which is too small can never be made to fit.
If you’re going for a leather boot, then the thicker the leather, the more supportive the boot – but usually this means the boot is heavier and more expensive.
Fabric boots are generally lighter but need a waterproof membrane to keep water out.
Either way, ensure the boot has a good degree of support around the ankle whilst not being too constrictive at the same time.
The Midsole determines the stiffness of the boot and is like a plastic frame inside the sole unit.
For all-round walking, you need to look for a medium stiffness, which will make the boot feel light and comfortable.
If you’re intending on rougher hikes, then a stiffer midsole would be better.
The tyre of the walking boot – and just like a tyre, different walking boots have different treads. The tread on an all-purpose walking boot should be deep enough to get grip on wet and muddy paths, but not too aggressive as they may wobble about on rocks.
Look for a walking boot with some sort of reinforced protection around the toe and the heel – there will be a time when you’ll be glad you did…! Also, a rubber band running around the boot’s outer edge acts like a bumper giving more protection.
Even the way the boots are laced can have a dramatic impact on their fit. Try on both boots (most people have one foot slightly bigger than the other) and take a walk around indoors. Try to walk on an incline (such as up and down the stairs) if possible.
If the boots feel comfortable, keep them on for a couple of hours to allow your feet to settle into them and warm up. If the boots do not feel comfortable after this period or it is a great relief to take them off, do not wear them outdoors, return them to the shop and try again. You may need to try a different size, or a different model, or even both. If necessary we encourage you to keep repeating this exercise until you find boots which are comfortable and compatible with your feet.
No matter how good the footwear is, if the fit is bad the boots will not meet your expectations.