Getting the Right Kit: Walking Boots

Walking Boots

As we move into the summer expedition season we will start to look at the kit you need for getting out either on a DofE expedition, as part of your other DofE sections, or even if you just like to go walking in your spare time. The first in this series is looking at walking boots. Boots are one of the key items on any walking trip. If your boots don’t fit well then at best you will not be comfortable, at worst you may have to stop due to injury. Take your time to get this first step right and you will be putting your best foot forward when it comes to getting out and about.

Steps to getting the right fit:

The easiest way to get a good fit is to go into a reputable outdoor retailer and ask for them to fit your feet (often a free service). This can take a bit of time, sometimes up to a couple of hours, but you will get their expert advice on the shape and size of your feet, as well as recommendations as to the best boots for you. This is usually very informative as many people have differences between their feet that they wouldn’t know about otherwise.

If you decide not to get your feet fitted then some basic rules about fitting:      

      1. Your choice of sock is really important!!

A thicker sock will add more padding, but it will also take up some of the space within the boots. It’s recommended that you try the boots with the socks you’re are going to wear on your expedition so bring them with you!

       2. Don’t go for anything too tight. This refers to the length but also the width and height of the boot. If you feel there is some pressure points on your foot then it may not be the right boot for you.

       3. Make sure your heel doesn’t lift as you go uphill. Most outdoor shops will have a small ramp for you to try, but if not then find a small step, and slowly step up and down on this. If you find that your heel is lifting then tightening the laces across the mid part of the shoe could help reduce this.


       4. You really want about 0.5cm of space in front of the toes. This is to allow for your feet to swell over a long day of walking but also to prevent your feet hitting the front of the boot as you go downhill. If you are unsure then try stomping down the ramp in the outdoor shop. If you feel your toes are close to hitting the edge then it would be worth trying the next size up.

       5. Don’t just try one style of boot, different brands have different fits and you might find another brand is better for you than another. Although style is important, if it isn’t comfortable then it’s not right for you. Remember that no-one will be looking at your boots unless you’re complaining about them because they don’t fit!

       6. If the boots feel ok after you’ve tried them on for a few minutes then take a walk around the shop, take a look at some other items you’re in for or read a book to take your mind off your feet. If after 10 – 15 minutes (or more) you don’t notice the boots on your feet then they are probably quite a good fit. If you have found a particular place they are rubbing then adjust the laces or try a different size / style and go again.

        7. Once you’re happy with the boots in the shop the next stage is to take them home and try them around the house. Many outdoor shops will let you try the boots at home for a few hours as long as you don’t use them outside and they can be resold if returned. Please check when you’re buying them to see what the shops policy is before you do this!

If you are allowed to wear them at home then wear them with the right socks and do things around the house. Sit and watch television, do the ironing, walk up and down the stairs a few times – whatever it is you do to keep your mind off your feet. Still feeling alright? Then you're likely to have found a good fitting pair of boots! 

Other things to look for in an expedition boot:

Supportive. Most people believe that support comes from having a high ankle. Although this is partially true a lot of a boots support comes from the sole. Pick up a boot and try and bend and twist the sole. If it’s like putty then it will unlikely support you for the entire expedition – especially with a heavy bag on your back!

Waterproof. You’re unlikely to have a completely dry time on your expedition so getting boots that are waterproof is essential to help keep your feet comfortable. There is nothing worse than waking up on the second day of your expedition and having to put on wet boots. Most waterproof boots will have a tag saying they are waterproof, but some will only be “showerproof” which is not enough! Read this information carefully and if you are unsure then ask!

Good grip. Making sure your boots have a good tread / grip will make the world of difference when walking along with a heavy pack on to make sure you don’t lose your footing on wet and slippery ground. Watch this video to see what can happen if you lose your grip!

If you're based in Edinburgh or the local area and you don’t want to buy a pair of boots then you can hire them from us here at FOTA. We have a large selection of sizes but only a few different styles so we recommend that you try them on around our kit store to make sure they are the right fit!

Like this article? We'll be putting up similar posts about other key expedition kit, as well as about how best to care for your boots. Watch this space!