Shopping for outdoor boots or shoes? Here's what you need to know to get it right.
We already give you the low down on what to look for in detail in
our series of Buyers'
Guides but in our new series of shopping tips, we're
going to be suggesting some handy tips for buying different bits of
outdoors kit that hold good for beginner or experienced users
They're the basics that will help you buy the right footwear,
waterproof shell or pack with the minimum hassle.
Number one: Footwear
Buying boots or shoes is one of the biggest decisions you'll make
and it's worth getting it right because footwear impacts directly -
sometimes very directly - on your comfort.
Generally different brands and boots have different shapes as
they're built on different lasts, which are artificial feet, kind of
a template. Your mission is to find the last that's closest to your
own foot shape and volume and the best way of doing this is to use an
outdoors shop with a variety of different brands.
Trust The Staff
Experienced boot fitters will have a good idea of what will suit
your foot just by looking at its shape and talking to you. Tell them
what you're going to be doing and listen to what they suggest.
Shop In The Afternoon
During the day your feet can swell by up to half a size. A close-fitting
boot at breakfast could be too tight by tea time, so shop in the
afternoon once your feet have swollen up. It's best, if you can, to
choose a quiet week day so the staff aren't distracted.
Take Your Socks
Shops will lend you socks, but it's best to take your own along,
the ones you intend to use in the boots for the most realistic
Good shops will have incline boards to allow you to simulate
walking up and down hill. The main points to watch out for are an
absence of hot spots - no tight areas - a lack of heel lift when
walking up hill and enough toe clearance when walking down. Don't be
afraid to try lots of different brands and models till one feels
Some specialists will be able to customise the fit of boots and
shoes using volume reduces to improve fit and possibly a rubbing bar
to, say, remove a hot spot if you have an irregular-shaped foot. It's
better to find a boot that fits you straight off, but some form of
customisation to improve a near miss may do the trick.
A lot of modern boots have a lot of internal padding. That can
mean they feel comfy initially in a way that traditional boots don't,
but with use, some foams can compress leading to a looser fit. Beware
boots with lots of heavy internal padding which may sacrifice long
term fit and support for initial comfort.
Take Them Home...
Most specialist outdoor shops will allow you to buy boots, take
them home and wear them indoors, then give you an exchange or refund
if you decide they're not for you. If you want to do this, talk to
the shop and make sure that's acceptable to them.
The Golden Rule - If There's One Thing...
Finally, above all, boots and shoes are all about fit. Just
because a boot has won a magazine test, don't assume it will work for
you. It may have been designed to fit someone with wider feet,
narrower feet, Mongolian feet or what have you. If the boot doesn't
feel right then the chances are that it isn't right. Limp away and
try something else instead.