a pair of scarpa ski boots

Goodbye blisters – buying the right walking footwear

With more and more people enjoying the great outdoors we’ve answered some of your questions on buying the right walking footwear.

Q: I haven’t done a lot of walking at all in the past but during lockdown I started to explore the local countryside a bit more. Could you recommend a walking or trail shoe for footpaths in the local area in inclement weather? I don’t think my trainers are going to last much longer.

A: One of the most important features to look out for in a walking shoe is the GORE-TEX liner (or equivalent). This enables your foot to breathe freely, allowing moisture to escape while at the same time ensuring moisture doesn’t get in. A good sole with plenty of grip, for example a Vibram or Michelin, means you can feel confident stepping out in all weather: ice, rain or mud, you will have a stable base. 

A mid high boot is a great compromise between a boot and a shoe, for example the Salomon X Ultra 3, the Scarpa Terra or the Altberg Malham if you’re after a traditional looking boot. These boots provide more support around the ankle joint without the high cut protection needed for more adventurous hikes. They also offer better cover from the great British weather than a walking trainer would.

Q: I do quite a lot of dog walking but prefer not to wear a walking boot or welly if possible because I find them cumbersome. Could you tell me what to look for in a year-round walking shoe?

A: A good quality walking shoe will protect your feet throughout the year. During the summer months a breathable shoe is important to ensure your feet don’t sweat too much, which can lead to a soggy sock and blisters. Through the winter you will want a waterproof shoe, especially if you’re walking through wet grassy areas. A GORE-TEX liner (or equivalent) again is a must. Lastly you will need a good quality sole that will be suitable for tarmac footpaths as well as fields. You need a suitable grip when it’s wet or icy and a Vibram or Michelin sole is perfect for this.

If you wanted a shoe that will offer the support of a walking boot but without the bulk then the ON Cloudrock is perfect as it is so lightweight and allows you to roll through your foot with ease. They really are like walking on clouds and definitely worth a try.

Q: I like to walk a lot (including weekends in the Peak District, Yorkshire etc) and I would like to buy a new pair of proper walking boots. Could you please advise me on the most important elements to look for in my new purchase and how much I should realistically be looking to spend?

A: As an experienced walker, and walking in what can sometimes be uncertain terrain we would certainly recommend you invest in a high ankle walking boot. This ensures more protection is given around your ankle joint reducing the risk of twisting or rolling over as you walk. Due to the uncertain terrain where you are walking, especially with the renowned British weather, ensuring the boot has a good sole, such as Michelin or Vibram, will mean you have great grip on hard pack, loose, wet or icy terrain. You will want a boot that offers great waterproofing and breathability, again GORE-TEX (or equivalent) is the perfect membrane for this. 

We’d recommend a Superfeet Trailblazer comfort insole as this will support the arch of your foot to stop any pronation, supination or collapsing of your arch. This will mean your foot will tire less keeping you going for longer. Finally when it comes to socks, a good quality pair of walking socks will help with comfort and moisture management. 

Within our range our synthetic boots start at £150 while our leather, more traditional boots (some are handmade) are up to £240. The price shouldn’t be your focus point, however, because it is more important to get the right fit so you are less likely to experience pain or blisters.

Q: Our two daughters (10 and 12 years old) really love walking with us but I don’t want to keep spending a lot of money on new walking footwear as their feet keep growing. Will they be OK in their trainers for the moment or are there some low budget alternatives?

A: Obviously it depends upon the terrain you are walking on and the length of the walk, but even so because your children’s feet are still growing, they are still changing and forming. So although it may be tempting to save money on walking boots and buy trainers instead they don’t offer the support and protection that a pair of walking boots will. Ultimately this can lead to damage which can last a lifetime. You’ll be pleasantly surprised that some brands have affordable children’s boots like the Scarpa Terra Kids at £80. Would you buy a low budget pair for yourself? If not, why wouldn’t you treat your children’s feet the same?

Q: Can you recommend a particular type of sock to best avoid blisters? Everybody talks about merino wool but I have also heard bamboo socks are good?

It’s not necessarily what the sock is made of that makes the difference – it’s how they fit. A poor fitting sock, whatever it is made of, will give you blisters. Look for ones specifically made for your left and right feet and with a heel cup. Some socks also come with an arch support. 

At Tallington Lakes we recommend Falke and Stance socks. They are tried and tested and we feel they offer great cushioning and support where it’s needed, ensuring a great snug fit. Merino wool is great to have in a sock because depending on the ‘weight’ of the yarn they will keep your feet warm while wicking away moisture. Bamboo yarn is similar to cotton yarn in its properties so it can hold the moisture, which can rub but, if mixed with other yarns it can work in socks. We have found merino or synthetic fibres work the best to give good temperature regulation and comfort. 

Q: How should I care for my leather walking boots to get the best out of them for many years?

After each use, especially when it is wet and muddy, you should give them a rinse in fresh water to get all the mud and dirt off before leaving them to dry. DO NOT let them dry near a fire or radiator. Instead stuff them with old newspaper and allow them to dry slowly. Drying too quickly will ruin the leather. Over time you will need to add waterproofing wax to the leather. We recommend NIKWAX waterproofing wax for leather. This ensures your feet stay dry and your boots stay breathable.

Written in conjunction with Active Magazine and first appeared in September’s issue.

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