If you’re going on a country hike, you’ll be in for a treat. There’s no better way to get in touch with the natural world and enjoy its wonders first hand. You’ll be wise to take a waterproof jacket and other appropriate clothing and equipment, but there’s one key essential that many people overlook: suitable footwear.
The great outdoors can be highly challenging on the feet, often causing disabling discomfort, injury and accidents. To ensure against such disasters, you’ll need shoes or boots that will keep you safe, comfortable and mobile. You may ask yourself, “do I need hiking shoes” or can you use the ones you already have? The short answer – it is up to you. If you don’t want to buy new shoes, see if the shoes you have, have these qualities. Here are five essential assets to check for, with a price guide at the end:
The ground underfoot may be wet, icy or smooth, presenting a treacherously slippery surface. Loose stones and pebbles can also cause tumbles, especially on hills. Sturdy, non-slip soles are therefore vital for safe, steady walking. Visit a hiking shop for suitable options, comparing soles, ankle support, and general sturdiness.
However fine the weather and forecast at the time of setting out, you could encounter wet or damp conditions later, especially on high ground. You may also have to paddle through streams and other stretches of water, so be prepared. On a cool day, waterlogged shoes could seriously chill your feet, so you’d be wise to invest in good quality boots with a waterproof guarantee. A lightweight pair with suede or waterproofed uppers may suffice for walking on maintained tracks in mild temperatures, but for more extreme conditions you may need to fork out on a traditional leather pair.
If you’re planning a mountain hike, bear in mind the air will be cold up there, as will the ground. You’ll need thick socks, preferably thermal or lined, and ankle-high boots to keep your feet cozily insulated. Traditional, leather walking boots tend are generally considered best for insulation, though some walkers manage fine with canvas or suede versions. Tie the laces up to the tops for extra warmth.
Your footwear will also need to be robust. However warm and comfortable your boots are to start with, they’ll be worse than useless if they fall apart halfway along the route. Check that the pair you intend wearing seem suitably sturdy and that the sole and uppers are stuck firmly together all the way around. If you’re planning to follow an established track on a warm, dry day, you may prefer open-toed sandals, but choose a well-made pair with thick, ridged soles that will carry you safely over stony, slippery or soggy patches.
Whatever footwear you choose, make sure it suits your feet. They’ll be doing the bulk of the work, after all, so they’ll need to be as comfortable as possible. Shoes that are too loose or tight can rub the skin and cause painful blisters, so allow room for maneuver but not overmuch. Two pairs of socks, or one pair with linings, will help prevent rubbing, but take some sticking plasters and protective pads with you in case needed. Remember that you may also need ankle support, depending on the terrain. For a level walk in mild weather, canvas boots or purpose-made open sandals should keep you cool, comfortable and safe.
Traditional, high-backed, leather walking boots are expensive compared to lighter-weight options, currently starting at around a hundred and twenty dollars in some catalogs, but many walkers consider them essential for adventurous treks and long-term use.
A good quality lighter boot may only cost half as much or less and can prove just the ticket for a straightforward walk on a fine day. A pair of walker’s sandals will cost you less again, but mind you don’t stub your toe or step in a puddle.
With suitable footwear for your venture, you can stride out with confidence. That simple preparation will free you up to relax and enjoy yourself, but leave your slippers out, ready for your return. You’ll be glad to slip into them after all that.