My grandfather Andrew Hogg made his first boots in 1888. So, over 125 years, we like to think we have learnt a thing or two about keeping your feet dry and comfortable. Whilst styles and materials have changed a lot in that time, there are some ground rules which will help you choose your next pair of boots or walking shoes. Of course we think the best walking boots come from Fife Country, so try us for size first.
Shoe or Boot?
If you prefer gentle rambles, well worn foot paths or you just need a comfortable all day shoe, then a walking shoe may well be preferable to a boot. Shoes are lighter and more comfortable when you don’t need heavier protection and the extra support at the ankles, that steeper inclines or rugged terrain require. Your shoe can be a traditional stout leather brogue perhaps with a rubber sole which will look equally smart in town or country.
Or choose a more dedicated walking shoe constructed with fabric. Often sporting technical fabrics like GoreTex, they are waterproof and are breathable and lighter.
More serious hikes with steeper inclines and rugged terrain require a proper boot to support your ankles, cushion your feet on rocky paths, give better traction on muddy or icy surfaces and basically be a bit tougher.
Leather or Fabric Walking Boots
Whether you are looking for walking shoes or trekking boots both will come in a choice of leather or fabric (or indeed a combination). Leather boots are generally a bit tougher, more durable but can be heavier. Leather is of course natural and breathable but can be hotter and sweatier in warm weather (not especially an issue in Fife!). To avoid the dreaded blisters leather boots need to be broken in over a few weeks with shorter walks before you take on any serious distances.
Fabric boots are softer and don’t require as much breaking in. They are lighter and therefore more comfortable on longer walks. Nowadays they are often reinforced at the toe and ankle for protection.
As always the devil is in the detail, so check the specification on the boots regarding being waterproof and breathable.
This is where the ankle support is generated. The thicker it is the stronger it is. As a rule, better quality boots will have better reinforcement on the upper. Look out for useful comfort features like padded cuffs at the top of the boot, or even ‘memory foam’ in the ankle padding, as this moulds to the shape of your foot.
This section dictates the flexibility of the boot. For serious terrain choose a stiffer midsole, to minimise the amount of foot twist when treading on rocks or other uneven ground, and so to protect the ankle. For a more flexible fit, suitable for less strenuous walks, then look for a medium stiffness.
The Outsole‚ or bottom of the boot gives you your grip. Just like car tyres you have many choices of ‚ “tread”. As a rule of thumb the tread should be deep enough to grip in mud, and also be designed in such a way that it grips in all directions, not just going forward. Walking shoes don’t need as deep tread as a boot. A proper heel is also important, as an insurance against slipping, and as a back-up to the sole tread. Rubber soles are also essential, especially for slippy rocks, so always insist on rubber soles for your walking boots. Some rubbers are also grippier than others (generally, softer compounds provide more grip).
Getting the Right Fit
It may seem obvious but do you really know what size your feet are? Many of the boots from Fife country come in half sizes to give you an exact fit. If you haven’t got a shoe shop nearby you can find detailed instructions on our page https://www.fifecountry.co.uk/footwear.html on how to measure your feet or check out this helpful youtube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5L-VRrH0uA.
Of course there is no substitute for trying on your boots to get the best fit. Make sure they are a snug fit around the ankle and the heel. Make sure you have some wriggle room for your toes. Any part of the boot that feels tight may cause rubbing and blisters. Yes you can wear an extra pair of socks with a bigger boot but a boot that’s too small will never fit. Always try on both boots as most of us have feet which are slightly different sizes. If you require a wider fit check the options for wide fitting styles.
Lace up your boots or shoes properly when you try them on, and avoid trying to pull the laces too tight to make a “big” boot fit.
I hope this was helpful. We would love to hear your top tips on recommending a boot you trust, keeping your boots in good nick or anything else you can think of.
Hoggs of Fife