Guide to buying walking boots
Taking your walking boots from the cupboard, dusting them off and giving them the once over for a planned walk, you realise, with a heavy heart, that it’s time to Buy A New Pair. Many people keep their walking boots until the fall apart because by that time they are as comfortable as old slippers. They also worry about “breaking in” new boots.
But, deep down, you know the time has come! So where do you start? A first glance reveals hundreds of different boots. There are leather boots, part leather and canvas, Gore-Tex, full height walking boots, mid-height boots and walking shoes. There are also walking boots made for mountains, hills, trails, winter and summer. And they are in a wide range of prices.
How to buy the right walking boots
When and where will you wear the walking boots?
In general, summer boots are lighter than winter boots. In summer, if you plan to walk on trails only, you could easily choose a pair of walking shoes, or mid-height walking boots. Fairweather walking also gives you the option of boots that are not fully waterproof, although in the UK waterproofing is always a good choice. Soles should still be grippy but they will not need to be as stiff as winter walking boots.
Winter boots should be waterproof and will need to cope with more testing terrain, including mud and snow. Choose bots that are classes as three seasons or four seasons. Look for Gore-Tex or leather and check the soles to make sure they are rugged and grippy.
If you plan to head high into the mountains in winter make sure you can use the boots with crampons. Stiff boots are recommended for crampon use.
Boots will often be classes as trail, hill, mountain, two seasons, three or four seasons. Choose according to your hobby, and it might be that two different pairs are better than one compromise pair. A pair for summer walking and another for winter hiking makes sense.
Walking boots: The specifics
Leather or fabric: For decades, leather was the material of choice when manufacturing outdoor footwear. This is because leather is tough, durable and fairly breathable. These days, many more walking boots are made using new fabrics that offer toughness, durability, improved breathability and comfort. Modern fabric footwear will not be as tough or durable as leather footwear but they will almost certainly offer better comfort and breathability. It is a preference thing, however.
Full height v mid-height walking boots: The difference between these types of boots is the height of the ankle support. If you have weaker ankles or you plan to be walking on rocky or rough terrain, full height walking boots are the best choice. Mid-height walking boots are more comfortable because they are not as rigid around the ankle area but they offer less support. Mid-height walking boots will be suited to easier-going terrain and for shorter distance walks where the gradients are not too severe. The ankles of boots also offer protection from mud and rain.
Walking shoes?: In the summer and on countryside rambles, many people prefer to wear walking shoes because they allow more freedom of movement and feel lighter. Walking shoes are best suited to leisurely walks with the family, dog walking or walking on terrain that is solid underfoot. Mud and rain will more easily get into your shoes because you do not have ankle cover.
How to buy comfortable walking boots
Believe it or not it’s possible in the modern world to buy a pair of walking boots that will not cause blisters and days of discomfort until they are “worn in”.
Modern materials and designs mean that your boots or shoes should be ultra comfortable from the moment that you pop them on. If they don’t feel comfortable, don’t buy them.
Top tips when choosing new walking boots
Thumb’s width: Buy boots with a thumb’s width gap between the top of your toes and the front of the inside of the boot. This will prevent your toes banging on the front of the boots when walking downhill.
Good fit: Boots come in different styles and widths. Go for a boot with a nice snug fit. You do not want you feet moving about too much inside the boot because this can lead to blisters and also body muscle and alignment injuries.
Try the boots on in the afternoon: Your feet swell during the day. It’s the same for everyone. And your feet will swell while you’re walking in the countryside. So try on your new boots in the afternoon for the best fit.
Wear your walking socks: This might seem obvious, but the best socks to wear when trying on your walking boots are your favourite walking socks. You could even treat yourself to a new pair of walking socks for extra comfort.
Wear your boots in the house: It is commonsense that you should allow you feet time to become used to your new boots. Buying a brand-new pair of boots and then setting off to walk 10 miles in the hills will lead to discomfort. While modern boots are generally very comfortable they do need a bit of walking in. Wear your boots around the house or for everyday trips such as walking to the office or going shopping.
More about walking boot features
Eye locks: These are the eyes that keep the laces locked once tied. These are very handy for keeping your bits firmly done up.
Bumpy laces: Laces that have notches or bumps along their length help to keep them firmly tied.
Soles: Different types of soles are suited to different terrains.
Orthotic insoles: These can help with improved comfort.
Cushioned tongues and ankle support: Again, this aids comfort in a walking boot.
Any other questions about buying walking boots?
If you would like to ask any further questions about buying walking boots and shoes please contact us on 0844 873 82 86. We will aim to answer you personally and add your question to this guide.
Our top walking boot picks
Ladies' walking boots
Good value: Hi-tech Kenya walking boots, price £22.99. A good performance walking boot that looks fab too. Comes with a waterproof suede leather and mesh upper and a moisture wicking lining.
Spend a little more: Regatta Lady Cross Stones XLT Walking Boots, price £46.60. This walking boot comes with a lightweight carbon rubber outsole, which makes it hardwearing yet really lightweight. This is a perfect choice for walking in the countryside.
Pay more for quality: Hi Tec Altitude Women’s Ultra Wpi ION MASK Hiking Boot, price £96.18. These walking boots are of top quality and have been designed and created using all the latest and best technology required for your hiking equipment. Leather is highly waterproof and durable, while Vibram soles will give you confidence on muddy and rocky trails.
Men's walking boots
Good value: Regatta Ad-Scursion Mens Waterproof Walking Boots, price £25. Regatta are great are creating good value bots and these Ad-Scursions might cost only £25 but they still offer fully-waterproof seam-sealed ISOTEX lining, water-resistant ATL-coated suede uppers and a lightweight “sure-grip” sole with shock pads.
Spend a little more: Regatta Cross Stones X-LT Walking Boots, price £48.24. Regatta Cross Stones offer tons for your money. The Isotex waterproof and breathable boots have a wicking lining and feature a deep padded collar and tongue, as wel as dual density shock absorbing footbeds.
Pay more for quality: Timberland Chocorua Trail Gore-Tex Walking Boot, price £89.99. A great quality walking boot that features highly waterproof, durable and abrasion resistant leather, a Gore-Tex membrane for breathable waterproof protection, padded collar and tongue for additional comfort, removable, dual-density EVA footbed and a grippy rubber lug sole.