The grass is getting wetter and my feet are getting soggy! Annoyingly my gore-tex walking shoes are no longer waterproof (I am to blame – I have not been looking after them properly). I need some new ones. If you are looking to buy, here are some top tips.
- If you can possibly afford it, go for a waterproof shoe or boot. Gore-tex or similar waterproof membranes allow your foot to breath whilst preventing water ingress. If you can’t afford waterproof shoes, buy some waterproof socks!
- Good sole flexibility is important, as part of the Nordic walking technique is to roll through from the heel to toe, pushing off actively with the toe. Walking shoes have more flexible soles than walking boots, but walking boots offer more support for your foot and especially ankle protection. Like most things, it’s a question of finding the right balance of flexibility vs protection for your particular feet. Boots might be better, for instance, if you have weak ankles or if you are planning on regularly walking over rough terrain. I have both (walking is my job after all!) and I use my walking shoes mostly in the summer and walking boots in the winter.
- Make sure your shoe/boot has good heel cushioning as Nordic walking involves a heel strike. Also (apologies as this is really common sense) it shouldn’t rub or slip at the heel when the foot rolls through the stride and your toe should not hit the toe box and the end. If any of this happens, you are walking towards blisters!
- If you are buying a walking boot, try and get one that is as light as possible otherwise you’ll be even more tired at the end of a long walk, with sore hip flexors to boot (pun intended, obviously).
- Look after your footwear. I repeat. Look after your footwear. As with most things in life, the more care you take of your footwear the better it will serve you and the longer it will last. Yes, buy Nikwax (or whatever it is that the shop assistant recommends) and apply it regularly. Apparently, as soon as water stops ‘balling’ on your footwear, it’s time to re-proof it. If you don’t, this will happen: the material will get saturated, which will impair its breathability, which will damage the waterproof membrane (which will negate your warranty), which will leave you with wet feet and a bill for new shoes. I know. I’m culpable.
- Keep your receipt and don’t put up with a pair of faulty shoes/boots. Most manufacturers guarantee their footwear against manufacturing faults for a year and gore-tex and similar fabrics often offer a lifetime guarantee. Take your shoes/boots back if you are not happy, even if you’ve had them for several months. Make sure you’ve looked after them though.
There are lots of shops in and around Bristol that sell footwear suitable for Nordic walking: Taunton Leisure, Cotswold Outdoor, Ellis Brigham, Summit Outdoor Leisure (in Portishead) and Go Outdoors to name a few.
Finally, the bit you’re dying to know is, of course, what do us instructors wear?! Well, Ros (who apparently has wide feet) likes the Merrell gore-tex half boot. Marcus favours the Keen waterproof walking shoes, which he prefers over boots as it gives him more ankle movement. I, as I said earlier, have both walking shoes and walking boots. I’ve tried many, many different sorts over the years and my favorite walking shoes are the Salomon X Ultra. They are light, waterproof (if I look after them properly which I’ve promised myself to do from now on) and, best of all, they have ‘lazy laces’ which means I can tighten and release them in an instant! My boots are the Scarpa Terra. These have a reasonably flexible sole and are leather, which I find so much easier to maintain. They are also extremely comfortable. I wore them to complete my four-marathons-in-four-days Cotswolds Way walking challenge earlier this year and I didn’t get a single blister. You can’t get much better than that.