Whether you’re walking the dogs, tackling the coast-to-coast, taking on the Camino de Santiago or something in between, choosing the right pair of walking boots is important. A good pair of walking boots will last you years and years, so making the right decision is vital. Here I am going to look at some of the key elements to choosing the right walking boots.
Selecting the right pair of walking boots can seem like a daunting task considering the plethora of choices out there. Boot or shoe, leather or synthetic, walking or approach shoes? There are many questions to answer and I’m going to help you answer them here.
I’m currently in the market for a new pair of walking boots myself. I’ve made the mistake of buying a cheaper, own-brand pair from a well known outdoors retailer. Sadly the first pair didn’t last very long and the replacement pair have now developed a hole in the sole. So, I’m looking again and choosing wisely.
Where to shop?
Before you even start to think about the style of walking boots you are going to need to decide where to get them from. People still seem to prefer bricks and motor shops for shoe shopping because you can try them on. But, online retailers offer far more choice and far more competitive prices. So which is it to be?
My preference nowadays is to shop online. Stores like Simply Hike offer a diverse range of hiking and outdoor clothing, footwear and accessories. You can search, filter results and really narrow down the product list to a selection for comparison before making your final choice.
There’s no need to worry about ordering shoes or boots online and them not fitting as you would like. Most stores offer a 28-day refund policy so you can always return them and order a different product instead. Just remember to check the store’s returns policy before you buy.
Style: shoe or boot?
My opinion on this is that it’s a personal preference. But, consideration must be given to the terrain you will be walking on. I prefer one pair of walking boots for general needs but you may be looking for something more specific.
You could say that shoes are more suited to spring and summer whereas boots are good all year round. But I think about it in terms of foot and ankle support. A boot it always going to provide more support to your ankles.
Your choice should be based on the types of terrain you will be walking on. For example, you’re at risk of rolling your ankles on rocky paths as you’re more likely to cause your feet to turn in or out on themselves. The ankle support provided by boots will help to prevent damage to your ankles.
You may never be planning on walking or hiking in any particularly sketchy places, but slips and trips can happen anywhere. Personally, I’d prefer to have that extra support. However, I survived quite well for years with walking shoes as opposed to boots. But since I’ve gone back to boots, I won’t return to a shoe as my only walking footwear option.
Material: leather or synthetic fabric?
I am going to say that it’s an old myth that leather boots will last longer than fabric boots. Modern, high-quality fabric boots should, like a leather boot, stand the test of time. But there are other factors to consider.
Leather walking boots are very sturdy, protective and supportive. They are great for use in the rugged British mountains and when you look after them properly, they can last a very long time. If you listen to hikers there will be tales of people wearing their leather boots for decades. It’s probably true. Helen has a pair that she’s had for well over 10 years. She’s due to get a new pair though now as they are pretty knackered.
Boots with synthetic fabric uppers are usually lighter weight and are incredibly breathable. This makes them ideal for summer walking and milder temperatures. But with modern waterproofing technology, you can get away with wearing them all year round.
Leather is naturally highly waterproof. The waterproof lining in fabric shoes does wear out over time so a leather pair will remain waterproof for longer. But, this works both ways. Leather boots are less breathable so do make your feet sweat more.
Size does matter
Getting the correct size of walking boots is crucial. Your toes should never be touching the ends of the boot and you need to make sure the size you choose allows for your walking socks too. As with running, your feet do swell with exercise so having some room to expand is important.
But, at the same time, your heel should be firmly in place and not slipping. Any heel movement could quickly lead to blisters.
What about the brand
Okay, I am a Yorkshireman. We’re notoriously tight with our cash. As I said at the top of this post, I bought cheap, own-brand boots earlier this year and they’ve failed me. Sometimes it’s true that you get what you pay for.
There are many top class brands out there offering a wide range of choice for us. A friend pointed me towards a German brand called Meindl. So, I’ve been checking out the Meindl boots collection offered by Simply Hike.
Top tips for choosing walking boots
- Terrain: Think about where you’re most likely to be walking or hiking. Choose walking boots that are suitable to those environments.
- Spend wisely: It really is worth spending that bit more on a reputable brand to ensure a long lasting relationship with your walking boots. Don’t make my mistakes and buy cheap boots in the sale. They’re cheap for a reason. Spending wisely on a pair of quality walking boots will save you money in the long term.
- A good sole: Look for walking boots that have robust soles, quality stitching, top caps and heel caps.
- Lacing: Look for walking shoes with a secure lacing system. Smooth edges on the ooks and eyelets will mean your laces won’t sheer and lacing that extends past the mid-forefoot will offer excellent adjustment and security.
- Check those reviews: Check out reviews on online stores and independent review sites too. It’s also a good idea to talk to your walking friends for recommendations of boots. There’s nothing like a personal recommendation.
- Seasons: Are you buying a pair of walking boots for year-round use of for a specific season? Think about the weather and conditions you’ll be using them in.
- Remember your socks: Try on boots with a pair of walking socks to ensure a good fit. Also, a good quality pair of walking socks is almost as important as the boots.
- Don’t worry about gender: Manufacturers usually have men’s and women’s ranges. But, don’t be afraid to buy men’s boots if you are a woman or vice versa. The fit is the most important thing so don’t worry about the colour.
I hope you found my advice on choosing the right walking boots useful. Let me know if you have any advice I haven’t offered here.
I’ll be sure to update the blog once I’ve chosen my new boots and let you all knwo how I’m getting on.
Thanks for reading