Water resistant, breathable, flexible, comfortable, supportive, lightweight, grippy walking boots. It’s the Nordic walking equivalent of gold dust – and about as difficult to find. No wonder it’s the topic of conversation that comes up during most walks. And like the weather, we never seem to tire of talking about it!
I know that the Autumn is a time that many of you switch from walking shoes to boots so here’s a few things to consider if you are about to buy a pair:
Leather is the only material that will stay waterproof for any length of time. A waterproof boot is essential for an enjoyable walk. We have all been lured by the generation of fabric walking boots with waterproof membranes which are light and breathable, but the conclusion of virtually every Nordic walker I have ever met is that they just don’t stay waterproof for long. About ten months on average if you’re out in them most days - no matter how diligent you are with your re-proofing and general maintenance. I don’t know whether it’s our active heel-toe roll putting a greater stress on the delicate membrane, or if it’s the constant wet grass/mud/stone combination of the areas we walk in, but for most of us it seems that leather is the only consistently reliable waterproof material.
You need a flexible but grippy sole. Boots become more flexible as you wear them in, but try and choose a pair with good pliability at the outset. It makes the walking action so much more effective. Also check the tread – you want something with a good grip across grass, mud and stony ground. Ask the sales assistant for help on this as boots have different outsoles and lug patterns depending on what the boot is primarily designed for. Vibram soles are the benchmark for quality but many manufacturers are now using their own, similar brand.
Weight is important. A small difference in the weight of your boot makes a big difference to your hip flexors on a long walk. This is where fabric walking boots come up trumps as they are generally lighter than their leather counterparts. You don’t need a toe-box for Nordic walking.
Ankle height and lacing design provide support but it’s a matter of personal taste. For many the ankle is a vulnerable area, so the height and rigidness of a boot's ankle support is a big deal. The tighter the boot sits around your ankle, the more support it gives that area, but it comes at the cost of restricted freedom of movement and possible overheating. The way a boot is laced is also surprisingly important. The closer the lacing starts towards the toe the better you will be able to mould it to your foot. Particularly useful if you have wide or narrow feet.
Footwear is such a personal thing and there are many excellent boots on the market so there won’t be one universally, magically perfect Nordic walking boot. But if you want my personal choice it’s the Scarpa Terra GTX. It ticks every box for me and I know many of you have the same boot and have been equally happy with it. Not a bad starting point.
A group of us are just coming to the end of the most magnificent Bristol Nordic Walking trip to Girona, Catalonia. Sixteen of us flew out last Thursday to warm sun and an equally warm welcome from the vibrant local Nordic walking group, Nordic Walking Girona. I will write more about our trip another time, but meeting up and walking with the local community has given us a link and sense of attachment to this beautiful part of the world. We will definitely visit again, possibly as early as next spring, to make to most of the wild flowers and Girona’s proximity to the sea for an early coastal walk. Meanwhile Nordic Walking Girona are themselves coming to Bristol next year during the first week of July. We plan to show them some of our favourite walks and I hope you might join us for a combined walk and social so that they can see what a fun club we are too! More details later.
Whichever way you look at it, community matters. It’s why we’ve put on a fundraising 'Countryfile Ramble' today in support of BBC Children in Need. Plus it's why we’re also getting involved with the council-wide clean streets campaign and doing our bit next Saturday to clear some of the litter from the Downs (please join me if you can – 10am Saturday by Café Retreat). We are also supporting the Penny Brohn open day in a couple of weekends time and our very own Sara Budd in her ambassador role for Bristol Girls Can campaign to get more women active. There is so much going on that it’s hard to keep up with it all sometimes. But community is important for all of us. And on that note, I’d like to thank you for the constant support you give our Bristol Nordic Walking community. Your suggestions, feedback, ideas, help, social media posts and encouragement are all what makes us what we are. Please keep them coming.