Outdoor Footwear Guide
The Different Types
What is a walking boot or trail shoe? People give outdoor footwear different names such as walking boots, hiking boots, trail shoes, approach shoes, mountain boots, etc. Whatever the name or style you choose the most important thing is that it is the right fit for your feet and is fit for the purpose you want to use it for.
Our advice is to get outdoor footwear that fits you correctly and is suited to the terrain you will be walking on. Your choice must be comfortable and give your feet, ankles and knees the support they need.
The basic differences in outdoor footwear are Weight (due to the different materials used, i.e. leather or fabric); Lateral Twist (the resistance to bending of the sole) and Height (the higher the ankle of the boot, the greater the support). All of these features should inform your purchasing decision. So, let’s have a look at the options in detail:
That right SANDALS! Don’t forget how far the Romans marched on them! Modern day sandals designed by outdoor footwear brands give you all the walking comfort, lightness and ventilation you could possibly need.
Obviously sandals are geared towards warm weather walking however there are other things to take into consideration. Sandals will provide very little in the way of ankle (and knee) support. Opened toe sandals are fine on soft terrain (and the beach) but if you are likely to encounter rocky ground, consider some with toe guards.
To maximise comfort, make sure that your choice of sandal has adjustable but fixed straps on the instep and heel area. Also, ensure that the footed is shaped and moulded in such a way that it suits your foot shape and provides support to your arches.
Trail shoes sometimes have the appearance and characteristics of ‘trainers’, but they are designed differently and have special features to accommodate undulating trails and tougher terrain – so don’t confuse the two.
The cut on trail shoes is, in general, slightly higher than on a ‘trainer’ so providing more support. They also have a thicker in-sole and extra padding to cushion impact more effectively.
The sole unit on trail shoes will also be slightly stiffer than on a ‘trainer’ preventing too much sideways roll of the foot and there will be more sole ‘reach’ to provide support for your toes. The construction of the sole blocks will also help maximise grip.
Even though they are still lightweight, trial shoes will provide protection and support in all the important areas to cope with the tough trail and weather conditions. Trail shoes are available in waterproof and non-waterproof styles and so consider if waterproofness is an important consideration for you before you buy.
Hiking/Walking Boots – Entry-Level
We would only recommend inexpensive or ‘entry level’ hiking boots for use on well-maintained trails paths or smooth, flat terrain. This type of boot tends to be very flexible in lateral sole movement (which is fine on the terrains mentioned above as you don’t have to work that hard to bend your boot to shape) but on steep gradients or rocky trails these hiking boots will not provide the foot with sufficient support.
A lot of entry-level hiking boots feature a ‘mid-cut’ ankle – higher than a trail shoe but not as high as full hiking boots. A ‘mid-cut’ boot will offer plenty of ankle support for flat terrain.
Entry level hiking boots tend to be made from fabric type material such as faux suede, polyamide, nylon, or other lightweight fabric. Waterproof versions will have a waterproof membrane running through the entire hiking boot to keep you feet dry. Most will also have a fully gusseted tongue to prevent water and mud from entering the boot through the lace eyelets.
A great example of an entry-level mid-cut hiking boot would be the Regatta Crosslands Walking Boot
Hiking/Walking Boots – Mid range
These hiking boots are typically lightweight or mid-weight and can be described as ‘classic’ walking or hiking boots that are made from a mixture of materials from fabric, suede or leather or a combination of all three.
These will be ‘stiffer’ hiking boots than those at the entry level thanks to the use of better hardware, mid-soles and tougher synthetic materials. These hiking boots can still feature a ‘mid-cut’ but are more likely to have a full ankle to make them more suited to hikes off the beaten trail and up the hill, offering much more support to your ankles and knees. The increased support will help with comfort on longer or even multi-day hikes.
A word of caution: full ankle hiking boots reach over the ankle and may cause discomfort if you are not used to wearing them and so ‘breaking them in’ is always recommended before an extended hike. Also, try different ways of fastening/lacing the boots up, which can help release pressure on the ankles.
Hiking/Walking Boots – Heavy Boots
These, as the name suggests are uncompromising hiking boots. The majority of this type of walking boot is made from good quality leather or highly durable synthetic materials and leather combined. These hiking boots have a ‘technical construction’ with the use of toe caps, cemented outsoles, moulded mid-soles and synthetic linings.
These hiking boots are designed and constructed to give maximum support and shock absorption while remaining waterproof and breathable. The increased weight and stiffness of these hiking boots will require getting used to before you set off on any lengthy hike.
Inner waterproof, breathable membranes – by Event or Gore-Tex – are often featured in these hiking boots. Some of these heavier duty boots are compatible with B1 crampons enabling you to scale snow/ice covered ground in the winter months.