Posted by Bethan Bithell on 9th Nov 2015
Finding the best walking boots to wear, for any particular purpose, can be difficult at the best of times! For example, should you buy low or high cut walking boots? Or, maybe you need to know whether ‘ fabric’ walking boots are more comfortable than ‘leather’ ones? There really are many questions!
Well, to help, we hope you will find our handy ‘Best Walking Boots’ guide, below, quite useful. Indeed, it may offer some of the answers you are looking for! After all, knowing what to look for is essential when making that all important purchase!
Best walking boots for hiking
Hiking up and down Snowdonia or Scarfel, for most of us at least, may be quite a challenge, so wearing the right footwear is vital to ensure safety and comfort. These types of routes will often lead you to rough and rocky ground beneath your feet or, in some cases, perhaps wet grassy pathways. Wearing the correct footwear is extremely important therefore to help prevent slips and accidents.
No matter what your challenge might be, whether it be the ‘3 Peaks Challenge’, or even perhaps walking in Nepal, choosing the best walking boots will help to guarantee you enjoy your experience.
To ensure an enjoyable and safe hike, there are four key features you should look for, when purchasing your boots. These are:
- A sturdy sole unit, so that your boot doesn’t twist or slip when walking on rocky ground
- Plenty of ankle support to prevent twisting of your ankle, especially when walking down a mountain
- A boot that keeps your feet dry from rain, wet grass, moisture and sweat
- A boot that offers comfort and a good fit, helping to prevent blisters
1. Sole Units
There are many ‘sole units’ available on the market, with most being manufactured from rubber, leather or compound material. It is always a good idea to talk to a shop assistant or contact the store directly to seek advice on what the best type may be to meet your individual needs.
Do consider that when hiking up mountains you really need a sole unit that will offer good grip, support, shock resistance and good traction. A top performing sole unit that offers all of these is the ‘Vibram’ outer sole unit and is usually found on all the best walking boots.
Vibram is a leading supplier of outer sole units and its outer soles have won many prestigious awards in recognition of their design and built-in capabilities.
Vibram sole units offer:
- Grip: achieved by a balanced combination of materials design and compounds
- Traction: achieved by designing a sole unit with large lugs, sharp edges and self-cleaning channels, so they never get clogged up with mud
- Braking: achieved by a sharp edge lug design and a natural rolling outer sole
- Self-Cleaning: achieved by designing the sole unit with an open lug positioning, release channels and ‘water draining’ micro incision
Another key industry player, Grisport, realises that a twisting sole unit, when walking, can be very dangerous. To ensure minimal movement in the footbed, and to offer plenty of stability, Grisport has designed a sole unit that includes a ‘Stabilizer’ layer in it. This unit prevents twisting when walking on rough terrain. Click here for more information about the Grisport Unique 5 Layer Sole Unit.
Incidentally, Grisport has an agreement with Vibram and now produces some of its own range of Grisport boots that consist of Vibram sole units!
The Anatom walking boots incorporate an underfoot protection which prevents stones and hard surfaces from bruising the foot.
2. Ankle Support
Without the right ankle support, walking on rough terrain can have an adverse impact upon the human body! If you are only used to walking on tarmac or perhaps grassed pathways, and then you suddenly venture on to rough terrain, your ankles may initially be too weak to respond to the quick moving, rigid movements required, when walking over rough ground.
Weak ankles and joints can easily twist and without care can, in some cases, result in a sprained or broken ankle! Out in the wilderness, with perhaps no mobile coverage for many miles, this is not a situation you want to be in…and hopping back to camp can take a long time and is not really an option!
Through careful selection of walking boots that have good ankle support you are at least helping to give your ankles the strength they need to climb up and down a mountain. Ankle support will also help with balance and stop you from falling or slipping, especially if carrying a heavy backpack or rucksack!
Grisport boots have designed a support system that lock the ankle into place to prevent it from moving or slipping. This support system is available on a selection of their boots, including the Crusader boot and Quatro boot.
Or if you prefer a slightly higher boot, which offers more ankle support the Hoggs of Fife Aonach Boot may be your style of boot.
3. Dry feet
There’s nothing worse than having to take off your walking boots to change your socks and then having to put your feet back into damp boots. Damp, wet boots caused by walking in wet grass, through streams or perhaps from sweating feet can result in chilblains or even frostbite in some conditions. Therefore it is vital that your feet remain dry and comfortable all day.
There are many waterproof and breathable linings available, including Gore-Tex, Sympatex and Spo-Tex. Waterproof and breathable linings will keep rain and damp out of your boots but will also help with drawing mositure away from your feet. As you walk, your feet will get hot and may start to sweat. By not having a breathable lining, the sweat will stay within the boots and socks, and will eventually reach your feet causing muscle ache and probably cold feet too!
Sympatex waterproof and breathable membranes are top of the range and is found on all the best walking boots on the market. These offer top performing technology, designed to control the inner temperature of your boots, keeping damp out, whilst drawing moisture away. The Grisport Avenger walking boot for example, includes a Sympatex lining.
The Sympatex membrane is available on leather and fabric walking boots. The main difference between a leather and fabric boot is that leather boots are easier to clean and maintain. Be careful however as fabric waterproof walking boots can tend to hold mud and water in the seams which, over time, will eat at the stitching. However, rigorous maintenance can help to prevent this.
4. Comfort and Fit
Which are the best walking boots for comfort and fit? Well, this is a difficult question to answer as it completely depends on the shape, condition and size of an individual’s feet. Everybody has unusually shaped feet that are unique to them. One foot may be bigger than the other, or may be wider than the other. However, there are a few key points you should follow when selecting a pair of walking boots:
Always try to test and try on a new pair of walking boots immediately after you have been out walking. This is because as you walk, your feet get hot and start to swell and this is the ideal time to try on a new pair of walking boots. If your feet are cold then you may not get the correct fit
Walking socks play a big part in ensuring your feet are comfortable when out walking. Consider taking the socks you intend to wear on a walk with you when you visit a store to try on new boots – or consider buying a new pair of socks to at the same time to ensure a great fit.
When trying new boots on, spend time lacing up the boots correctly to make sure you have the right tension and that nothing is ‘digging in’ (e.g. sometimes the sewn in tongue can cause some discomfort). Or, if it’s easier, ask the shop assistant to lace them up for you. There are many ways to ensure a comfortable fit when lacing up your boots, you may wish to watch this video for further guidance.
Set aside plenty of time to try on the boots in the store. Try on various styles and sizes to ensure a comfortable fit and walk around the store with them on. If possible walk up and down steps to see if the boots move or perhaps slip up and down. If the boots are ‘pinching’ or rubbing at any point, then the style or size may not be suitable. Do remember, if the boots move when you walk around, then they may rub and cause painful blisters on your feet. So, a secure fit is always necessary to ensure a comfortable walk! You may also want to consider ‘blister free’ socks. Click here to find out more.
We hope you have found our best walking boots guide useful and, of course, we wish you a very happy, safe, enjoyable and comfortable walking experience – whatever location you may find yourself in!
Please do feel free to contact us for any further advice about selecting the best walking boots – and indeed socks – for you!
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