There is so much choice in walking boots these days, it can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for. In this article we’ll take you through a list of 10 things to check when shopping for your new pair of boots. As getting the correct fit and style of boot for you activity can be the difference between a comfortable day out, and sore feet.
1. Look for a quality outsole.
A quality outsole (the bottom of the boot) will have rugged cleats, plenty of grip with plenty of depth. The sole should also have a good hard edge to dig into the earth.
2. Protection around the edge and a shock absorbent component
Solid protection around the edge of the boot helps to protect your foot. The wedge between sole and upper should be suitably shock absorbent and ready to take on your walk.
3. Leather or Synthetic Upper
The upper of your boots will be made of leather or a synthetic material. Synthetic boots are lighter and are a popular choice for those who don’t agree with leather. Leather boots are harder wearing. The most important aspect of the upper is that it fits to your boot shape, this is the key to comfort. All brands may not be right for your foot.
4. What type of walking will you be doing?
Lowland walking boots are flexible, comfortable out of the box. This type of boot isn’t meant for tackling steep slopes. This type of flex is ideal for a walk in the Peak District, but isn’t advised for climbing Ben Nevis.
Hill walking boots have a much stiffer midsole, offer less flex and are ideal for steeper walking (such as mountain walking) and will offer the stability your foot and calves need. These boots are tougher and stronger than a low level boot.
You’ve picked out a few boots – how do you make sure they fit you correctly?
Note: We recommend if you’re right handed, doing these tests on your left foot. If you’re left handed, do the tests on your right foot. Often the opposite foot to your strong hand is slightly bigger (or that’s what we’ve found over the years).
5. Remove the insole and check it against your foot
Remove the boots insole and stand on it. Make sure your heel is at the very back. You’re looking for around a finger width between the end of the insole and your longest toe. We generally recommend buying a boot an extra half size larger than your normal shoe size. This is to keep you comfortable during descents.
6. When lacing your boot, ensure the tongue is central
Angle your boot so that your heel rests into the heel cup. When lacing your boots, ensure the tongue is fixed centrally. For many the tongue will want to drift to one side, when you sweat it will train the material to fall this way which can be quite uncomfortable.
7. Walk up a slope, exaggerating the movement through your toes
Pushing the weight through your toes on a slope will encourage your heel to lift in your boot. What you are looking for here is, how secure is your heel? You’re looking for minimal or no movement at all. If your heel slides up and down the back of the boot, this will cause rubbing, blisters and discomfort.
8. Walk up the slope again, focusing on the boot crease
Try the slope again, focus on where the boot creases. Does it feel normal? Is there a feeling of discomfort? If the boot is uncomfortable it can mean the boot is too deep for the shape of your foot, and the material is gathering in an airpocket and creating a sharp V. If that is the case, it may be best to try another brand/style of boot.
9. Walk down the slope, stamping your feet
This will force your toes toward the end of the boot. If you have that finger of space from earlier, your toes shouldn’t touch the end of the boot if the boot fits and you have it secured. If your toes do touch the end, this can lead to discomfort on long descents. It may be worth trying a larger boot.
10. Still not sure? Visit your local GO Outdoors for a free boot fitting service.
All our stores offer a boot fitting service free of charge, we’ll help you through all these tests there and then to make sure the boots are right for your chosen activity. Our stores are equipped with a walking slope to really make sure your new boots are right for you.
For more in depth information and a video guide. Check out this series of videos where GO Outdoors founder John Graham takes you through the basics of buying and fitting a pair of walking boots.