Having spent the weekend walking near Tower Wood by Windemere in Cumbria, I am now feeling as invigorated as ever, but noticing some aches and pains in my feet and ankles…why, you ask? Well the lack of walking boots for one!
Mountain Bike Shoes as Walking Boots?
The weekend was meant to be one for camping and mountain biking around the more accessible trails around Windemere with my girlfriend, but after constant flat tyres and no time to get rim tape to fix the trouble, we decided to go for a hike around the Windemere’s surrounding hills…
The banks of Windemere are really quite steep in some areas and my shoes that I had been using were x-terrain SPD mountain bike shoes that are not quite ideal. They have grip, some waterproofing and general resilience but not the kind of shoe that you would want to spent the day walking in. Having looked into this further, I found out why…
Using and choosing walking boots
The obvious reason for aching ankles is from the lack of ankle and foot support. Importantly, my SPD shoes didn’t offer the support that was needed for the mixture of terrains that we were covering. Even saying that, walking boots do not come in one style but a wide variety, such as hiking boots, rambling boots, mountain boots, snow boots and more…here are some more details on why the correct walking boots are so important…
The big reason for buying walking boots is the additional ankle support they provide over alternatives such as mid boots, walking shoes or trainers. But even this differs from walking boot to walking boot. Take a look at these profiles:
The shoes that I was wearing to be fair do have very good heel support, as they are designed to avoid the foot-lifting out of the shoe as I pull-up on the pedal. This is an important consideration for walking boots as holding your heel in place comfortably stops the foot slipping around in the boots, reduces the chance of getting blisters and promotes stability. A sturdy heel also protects it from getting knocked badly against rocks.
My SPD shoes are designed to transfer power through the pedals and thus have a very hard base that doesn’t cushion the force of me pushing down on the pedal but transfers the total power. Walking boots often have a degree of shock absorption built into the sole – Vibram are a popular and very well design shock-absorption technology that is integrated into the walking boot’s construction.
Another thing is that the sole flex varies for walking boots depending on the terrain and incline your facing. My SPD shoes are very stiff and rigid, again to optimise the pedaling power, but walking boots are a bit more sophisticated than that. the best walking boots have a flex point that is placed in the correct place for a type of walking that will be occuring. Facing inclines, declines, rocky surfaces, etc, causes different needs in walking boots sole flex-point, so consider how this effects your walking motion.
These walking boots from Inov-8 have been designed to cross-over from traditional walking boots into the flexibility and lightweight qualities of trail running shoes, that Inov-8 are famous for. It’s an interesting combination and one that may have been perfect for my purpose:
Walking Boot Materials
There is a reoccuring debate over whether leather or fabric walking boots are best, in particular for waterproofing and breathability. I’m not going to get into that debate too much here but I will say that if the trails that I were walking on were wet and muddy then my fabric and slightly rubberised mountain bike shoes would have carried alot of water and additional weight as opposed to leather walking boots.
Liner socks and comfortable walking socks
Something to add is that I wasn’t wearing anything more than cotton sports socks for walking in, but if you’re going to be out walking all day it’s a good idea to wear comfortable shock-absorbing socks along with liner socks. By wearing liner socks in addition to outer walking socks any rubbing that occurs in your boots is reduced by it taking place between your socks and not your walking boots and your feet, causing horrific blisters!
Other considerations when buying walking boots
Very valid lasts; roomy toe box; correct flex point; adequate arch, ankle and torsional support; around-the-ankle comfort zone; boot weight; smooth wrap of the foot and even contact across the foot; sculptured padding to fit the shape of the foot comfortably; build quality and hard-wearing materials.
My Footwear Advice…
Don’t wear mountain biking shoes as walking boots. It sounds obvious but sometimes you need to go through a bad experience to really hammer home the point! My mountain bike shoes are truly awesome – I really do like them, but for hill walking, they noticably don’t fair too well. And remeber buying a pair of walking boots doesn’t mean that you’ve solved all of your foot comfort and stability issues, make sure you choose the right pair for the right purposes, whether it be rambling, hiking or mountaineering. Check-out the mens walking boots and womens walking boots, along with mens walking shoes and womens walking shoes for more info.
And as always, please do not hesitate to contact the CheapTents.com team with regard to walking boots, shoes and trainers as we work and play with this gear every day, so we’re more than happy to help.