When I started upping my walking mileage at the start of the year, I found an old pair of walking boots that I had long-since stored in the shed, and decided that they would be okay for the time-being.
As the miles stacked up I realised that the boots were slightly too short for my slightly-too-long second toe, and so the search began for my perfect pair of walking boots.
I had no idea it would be such an arduous process given that I don’t have any problems with my feet. They are slightly wide, but not excessively so; my arches are naturally self-supporting; I don’t roll excessively onto either side; and I roll relatively well through my big toe joints. It seems that maybe boots are designed to address common foot issues, and since I don’t have the issues, the boots don’t generally suit my feet, but regardless of the reasons for the problem, here is my journey through 5 pairs of walking boots:
Pair of boots #1 was a traditional-looking, brown leather walking boot. Sadly size 7 was too small, so I was sold a size 8. Once I got them home, I soon realised they were way too big and creased across the wrong part of my foot.
Back I went to the same shop and was steered towards pair of boots #2. These were the only pair I tried in that shop which felt comfortable when I put them on – a nice rolling sole, breathable leather & fabric upper, comfortable around the ankle, lightweight & blue. In hindsight they did feel slightly snug, but it kind of felt like they were hugging my foot gently, so I decided they would be good.
Over the next 3 weeks I walked over 100 miles in my #2 boots – and then I got my first blister! After that every time I tried to put them on I realised just how much they were pinching my toes together, and I knew I had not yet found the ones…
At this point I realised that maybe it wasn’t going to be as straight forward as I thought, so I read everything I could find about wider fitting boots, looking at different brands, the pros and cons of different features, rands, soles, lacing systems…you name it, I researched it! Armed with my latest Intel, I tracked down a pair of wide-fitting boots in a store in Faversham, which proved to be a total waste of time and no wider than the narrow-fitting boots I already owned… Having already driven to Faversham (on Good Friday which was actually turning out to be a not-so-good Friday) I diverted to Maidstone, to Cotswold Outdoor which was open until 6pm (on a bank holiday!)
And this is where I found pair of boots #3 – tan coloured nubuck leather, good ankle support, firm sole & pretty pricey, but seemingly comfortable…until I wore them around the house and decided they weren’t actually comfortable at all. The heel was set way higher than the forefoot (not a good thing for a barefoot shoe wearer) and they didn’t roll smoothly from heel to toe. Even walking around the house I could feel that my hip joint was starting to jar with each step.
By now I was getting pretty annoyed, but I did further research & went back to exchange them for pair of boots #4…which was even more pricey but a beautiful ‘espresso’ brown leather boot. If looks were the thing, these would be the ones. On this trip to CO I tried on 5 or 6 different pairs of boots before settling on a men’s size 7 which felt roomy for my toes although a little loose on my heel. After two days wearing them around the house, I just knew that these were not going to be my boots.
I was starting to lose the will to live, and thinking that maybe I should give up the search & walk the South Downs Way in my slightly-too-short old boots which let the rain in. I decided to give it one more try, not least because I had to go all the way back to return pair of boots #4 anyway, so it seemed that I may as well have another attempt at finding the ones.
On Wednesday morning (whilst walking) I spoke to a lovely man on the phone, who not only ordered in a selection for me to try on, but also arranged to come in to work on Thursday (his planned day off) so that he could make sure they were a good fit. I think he just ‘got’ what I needed from my boots (and very kindly gave me an extra 5% discount too).
Pair of boots #5 has a wide-fit sole AND a wide toe-box AND a women’s size heel. On top of that they are blue, comfortable around the ankle, waterproof, light-weight and they have a little hook in the middle of the tongue to stop it creasing at the ankle. I’ll admit it wasn’t love at first fit but by the second fit I realised they had potential & in the end I decided they were so nice that I nearly asked if I could wear them home (do you remember doing that with new shoes when you were a kid??)
As I’m writing this, I am 99% sure that these boots will be the ones that walk the South Downs Way with me in less than three weeks’ time, but I guess I won’t know if I made the right choice until then…
So the moral of this story?
I think most of these are true for life in general as well as for buying walking boots:
- ask for help when you need it – do your research, be clear about what you need & get an expert opinion
- ask for more help if you don’t think you got the right help to start with
- ask again if you are still not confident about the advice you’re getting – basically keep asking until you find someone you believe in to help you
- don’t settle for something because someone else thinks it’s right for you – take advice but then listen to your gut/heart/head and always go with them
- looks aren’t everything (otherwise I’d have kept pair of boots #4 – and I’d never have married the man I did, but that’s a whole other story!!)
- wear something comfortable on your feet – at all times – because life is too short for sore feet and you’re going to have to live with them a long while
- if you’re looking for walking boots, go to Cotswold Outdoor in Maidstone and ask for Ian – he’s definitely your man!
Just goes to show, yet again, that every day’s a school day?!
PS I’ll be testing out ‘the ones’ in the outdoors over the weekend so wish me luck. My plan is to do three consecutive longish walks in them as my last bit of serious training, and then I’ll back off the miles a little bit for the last two weeks before I leave for Winchester on 22nd May.
If you’d like to, there’s still time to make a donation on my Just Giving page, where I’m raising money for the Sam West Foundation – I know that every penny donated will help them to do even more to help children and young people coping with mental health issues, and I know they will truly appreciate your support.
Thank you xx