We're sure you don't need reminding, but as a walker your feet are probably the most important part of your body. They need regular TLC – no, not weekly foot rubs from your loved ones (although if there's someone in your life who's willing to do so then go ahead and indulge!) but rather some specialised, supportive and comfortable footwear that's designed especially for walking. This guide is to help you select the very best shoes for your feet, so print it out, have a read and hit the shops! Armed with all the following information you should be able to select a walking boot which lasts for a fantastic three seasons. So you can get out and enjoy the great outdoors!
There are mainly two ways to make a boot waterproof; one involves using a special membrane and the other uses what's known as 'seam-sealing'. Both methods are functional and both have their advantages: branded membranes such as Gore-Tex or eVent tend to be guaranteed and have longer durability while boots that make use of seam-sealing are generally more breathable and a bit cheaper.
Leather is still one of the best materials for waterproofing, durability, and comfort, while mesh panels increase the breathability of a boot- making them much more comfortable for the few glorious months when the sun is out. There are three types of leather to look out for and what's best for you comes down to personal taste: nubuck leather has a velvety look and feel, full-grain leather looks a bit more shiny and smooth, and finally, suede leather is somewhat rugged looking.
The dream walking boots will have solid, durable and lightweight lacing hardware. This is likely to come from non-rusting metal or specialist plastics, but either way will allow you to make adjustments throughout your journey. Your feet tend to swell and get larger towards the end of a walk, so with some easy adjusting hardware, you can customize the fit. Look out for Hi-Tec's 'QuikZip Technology', which uses a technical zipper to make getting in-and-out of the boot a breeze!
Imagine that your foot is a bridge: the pillars are your heel and your forefoot and so the arch needs some support to avoid collapse—of course, your foot isn't going to collapse like a bridge might without support, but you'll certainly find walking long distances uncomfortable. It's the shank of your boot which plays a supporting role. Most are made from metal, although look out for boots featuring thermo-plastic shanks, which are just as durable but much lighter!
While this is purely in the eye of the beholder... err... wearer, nothing beats the wear test. Once you find a boot or two that you like, we suggest wearing them in-store. Lace them up tight and bring along a medium weight sock so that the fit will be more realistic. Look for removable insoles, which further allow for a better fit and lining materials that wick moisture away from the foot.