If you are a seasoned walker then you will understand the importance of purchasing the best walking boots you can find and if you’re new to the great outdoors – well then you’ll just have to take our word for it! There really is nothing worse than setting out on a long walk, only to find your boots beginning to rub part way round, or finding yourself with wet feet as soon as you step in a puddle!
There are many things that you need to consider to find the best walking boots for you, and sometimes it can feel like you have almost too much choice available! Our buyer’s guide will cover everything from grip to colour and size to style, to help you find the best walking boots on the market at the moment.
Only Got 5 Minutes?
If your summer mission is to get out walking, or your time-served walking boots are starting to give up, then this is the part of the article that you need to read. All of the most crucial details that you need to consider, and all in one place.
Where are you walking?
Before considering the features of walking boots that are right to you, it is important that you think about the most common places that you are going to be walking, as this will affect the type of walking boot that you are going to be best suited to. If you are going to be doing mostly flat and smoothed surface walking, then you will be able to get away with a more flexible shoe that will allow for more movement in your foot, whereas if you are going to be walking on more rocky surfaces, such as fell walking, then you will need a harder sole and much more ankle support.
This also applies for if you are going to be sticking to mostly paths or trudging your way through fields. Path walking will mean that you can get away with less waterproof (but more breathable) fabric, whereas field and hill walking is going to need fully waterproof boots!
Walking Boot Features
There are some main features that you need to think about and check when purchasing the best walking boots to get you out in the open air!
First and foremost, it is important to buy the right size of walking boots, as the wrong size could leave you with blistered feet, or falling over from trying to drag the boots around! Choosing the right size shoes might sound obvious, but we would always recommend getting measured before looking for your walking boots, as you are going to want to try and find a pair of boots that is half a size bigger than your actual size (which can be difficult if you don’t know exactly what size foot you are!).
Buying walking boots that are half a size too big will mean that you can fit warm socks into the boots to keep your feet warm, but will also allow for that little bit more flexibility of the foot when you are walking which will help to reduce fatigue.
There are two main types of walking boot materials that you will find on the market – leather or synthetic. Leather boots tend to be more expensive than synthetic counterparts but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to be right for you, as there is much more than just the price element to think about.
Leather boots tend to be slightly heavier and (depending on style) less breathable than synthetic boots, however providing they are well looked after they will tend to remain waterproof for longer and be able to withstand worse conditions that synthetic models will.
Leather boots will require more maintenance though, so it won’t be as simple as taking them off and throwing them in the cupboard until you next need them, as is normally the case with synthetic boots! They will need to be washed clean and have occasional reproofing and conditioning if you want to get the most out of these boots to avoid the leather drying and becoming cracked. However, leather boots will usually be easier to clean due to their smooth outer layer, as some synthetic materials can need a good scrub to get them back to looking like new after a particularly muddy walk!
Choosing walking boots that are waterproof is a must as far as we are concerned! It would be a very rare occasion that you are going to be out walking and not come across some type of puddle or mud that you have to walk through (if you manage to find this walk of dreams then please let us know!).
Almost all walking boots will have a Gore-texⓇ lining, which is well worth looking out for as you can trust in this to keep your feet perfectly dry, no matter what the conditions. However, there are other linings available that will also be more than waterproof enough for most walking conditions.
We would suggest opting for a boot with a waterproof membrane – as although this will be waterproof, it will also still be breathable enough to avoid discomfort when walking.
There are two main types of styles that are found in walking boots – trainer style boots that finish below your ankle like a standard shoe and ankle boots that finish just above the ankle to provide more support. Occasionally you will see slightly higher more “snow boot” style walking boots, these will offer the most protection to both your ankle and your clothes, but they do reduce your flexibility which some people can find frustrating on long walks.
Trainer style walking boots give your foot and lower leg the best chance of being able to breath when you are out walking and will be nice and comfortable as they fit just like a standard shoe. But, they do offer less protection for your ankle if you are walking on rocky terrain. Whereas ankle boots will protect your ankle, but they can be more cumbersome and stop you moving as freely.
There are three different layers on the sole of walking shoes that all work together to protect you and your feet while you are out walking:
- Outer sole – this is the part that touches the floor and that is (hopefully) going to keep you on your feet no matter how slippy the surface). This will usually be a rubber or TPR strip with different treads designed to help you grip onto the surface of which you are walking. Chunky grips will be better in mud whereas shallow treads are better for rocky paths (looking for one that has a bit of both is arguably the best compromise to make if you are going to be walking on all surfaces).
TOP TIP: Look out for walking boots marketed with a Vibram sole – this is a unique, patented design that is specially tested to be able to withstand all environments and surfaces.
- Midsole – This is the ‘middle sole’ and is used to add padding, comfort and what is essentially a shock absorber to your shoes while you are walking. Look out for a spongy (yet firm) and thick midsole as this will tend to thin overtime. The thinner it becomes, the more you will be able to feel every little stone under your feet!
- Upper sole – This is basically the rest of the boot, and as we have already discussed – usually comes in either leather or synthetic materials.
Admittedly, this isn’t going to affect the comfort or how hard wearing your walking boots are. But, if you are choosing boots that are hopefully going to last, then you are going to have to like the look of them too.
Most walking boots will be dark in colour (so that they can hide as much of the mud and dirt as possible), but there often boots with coloured detail so that they stand out from the rest. It is worth considering that adding a bit of colour to your walking boots will make them easier to spot, so that if you find yourself in a difficult situation out walking, you are more likely to stand out against the landscape.
The tongue of your walking boot might not seem important, and in large it isn’t. But, it is worth looking for a tongue that is attached to the rest of the boot on either side instead of loose. The gusseted design will stop water from getting down the sides of your shoe and wetting your feet if you are walking through puddles! Equally, a more padded tongue will help to stop the laces rubbing your feet if you like your boots to be nice and tight!
Extra Walking Boot Purchases
If you are serious about getting out walking, then there are some additional purchases that we would recommend you consider to work with your walking boots.
- Socks! – As simple as it sounds, the socks that you have on under your walking boots will make or break your walk! Choose ones that are thick enough to add to the comfort of your boot but also breathable. We would also recommend going for a slightly higher sock to avoid your boots rubbing if they offer ankle support.
- Boot Cleaner – There are special walking boot cleaners that can be purchased to both clean the material and also scrub off any mud from your walking boots. These are well worth paying out for, as they will massively increase the life of your walking boots. We also love boot sprays that will remove the odour left after a good day’s walking!
- Boot bag – A boot bag will be a relatively cheap but life-saving purchase time and time again for your boots. If you have been out walking during the day then chances are you are going to have to face the drive home afterwards. A boot bag will protect your boots (and your car).
Looking After Your Walking Boots
If you have taken the time and the effort to find the perfect walking boots then it is important that you also look after. Good quality walking boots can last for a long time and for hundreds of miles, if you treat them well enough! Keep reading for our top tips on how to keep your walking boots looking and feeling like new.
- Clean your boots thoroughly after every walk. Dried on dirt will only lower the life of your boots as it will damage the outer material.
- Reproof boots every few months (if you are using them regularly) to make sure that they keep their waterproof abilities and you aren’t left with wet feet after a walk.
- If leather boots are looking dry then make sure to treat them with a leather care product, this will help to stop them from cracking. Also, avoid drying leather boots near a heater (as tempting as this may be) as this can increase the chances of crack’s appearing. Instead, fill the boots with newspaper to help them dry out fully.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it better to buy walking boots a size bigger?
It is definitely better to buy walking boots that are slightly looser in fit, so in winter you can wear thicker socks with your walking boots to keep your feet warm, and in summer you have that added breathability to avoid your feet getting too hot.
How can I check the flexibility of a walking boot?
This can be checked very simply by holding the heel of the boot with one hand and using your other hand to curve the toe of the boot upwards (in the style that the boot would have to move in if you were walking). If the boot moves freely and “springs” back into shape then you know the boot is flexible enough to withstand most walking conditions. Whereas if the boot is difficult to bend with your hands, then you know it will be this difficult to bend the sole of the shoe when you are walking as well.