Just because we are all locked down due to the Covid-19 pandemic and unable to get out into the hills doesn’t mean we can’t dream about the hills and mountains, plan adventures for when the restrictions are lifted, improve our fitness and review our clothing, equipment and footwear. So, here are some top tips for choosing a trekking shoe.
What do we mean by a “trekking shoe”? There are a multitude of different types of footwear on the market for using in the great outdoors and getting out walking, ranging from the straightforward welly to high end technical boots capable of protecting your feet all the way to the summit of Mount Everest. In this article I am only going to consider shoes which have been specifically designed for trekking/walking in the outdoors during summer months when the weather is mainly warm and dry. Trekking or walking shoes are intended to be used on trails, tracks, paths and easy terrain and they are usually low-cut around the ankle offering little or no support. Walking shoes tend to be much lighter than boots and not quite as water-resistant. A trekking/walking shoe differs slightly from an approach shoe and whilst both types of footwear will perform well on trails, tracks, paths and easy terrain, approach shoes are better suited to rockier terrain, are designed for walking into climbing venues and are great for easy scrambling. Approach shoes will be covered in a later article.
Sometimes, you just want to get out for a short walk and there really is no need for full on hiking boots, but you need something a bit more robust than the shoes you might wear around town. This is where trekking shoes come into their own. Designed for short to medium length walks over fairly easy terrain in warm, dry summer weather when you aren’t burdened down by a big rucksack. A good trekking shoe will be lightweight and generally have a synthetic upper and will often have a Gore-Tex liner. They will have a supportive midsole offering comfort, flex and impact absorption surrounded by a fine patterned outsole with treads shallower than those of a boot but deep enough to provide underfoot traction in a variety of situations. This combination of lightweight, flex and rugged sole makes them extremely versatile but not great in wet conditions due to the low-cut ankle which also means that they don’t provide much support on more challenging terrain.
So, here are our five top tips for ensuring you choose the best trekking/walking shoe for you.
1. Length. Make sure the shoe is the right length for your foot and that your toes aren’t squashed up against the front. The shoe should hold your foot securely without your heal lifting and there should be room for you to wriggle your toes. As a guide, if you can just about squeeze a finger down behind your heal then your shoes are the right length.
2. Width. The fabric uppers of a trekking shoe and the mid-sole should hold your foot in-place across the width, almost cradling it perfectly at the edges. If it feels too narrow or your foot can slide from side to side, then look for something different or ask if there are alternative width fittings.
3. Angles. Choose a store which has a “testing ramp” with slopes and uneven terrain on it. Stand across slope, go up and down, forward and backwards, make sure the shoe holds your foot in place over a variety of different angles. Any movement or uncomfortable spots should be an indicator to try a different pair.
4. Socks. Make sure you try your shoes on with a good pair of trekking socks that you will wear when you are using the shoes and only wear one pair. Modern trekking shoes are designed to be secure, breathable and warm and there’s just no need for multiple pairs of socks!
5. Wear. Once you get your new shoes home, wear them inside your house, up and down the stairs, doing the hoovering and the washing up! This helps you to get used to them, making sure they are a great fit. Any problems picked up whilst wearing them around the house and you can still take them back to the shop – once you’ve worn them outdoors, you’ll be stuck with them if they aren’t quite right!
To summarise, trekking or walking shoes are lightweight and great for short to medium length walks over fairly easy terrain. They aren’t too good on rugged terrain where you might need additional ankle support, when you are carrying a big rucksack and the weather isn’t great. But, the most important factor to consider is that they are comfortable and a good fit for your feet so make sure you try them out before you buy them.