Boot FAQ (v.1.5)

Discussion in 'General Fitness' started by Chris Gilbert, Sep 1, 2004.

  1. Archive-Name: uk/walking/boots
    Posting Frequency: 28 days

    UK.REC.WALKING Frequently Asked Questions (Boots)

    Version 1.5 Last Updated Monday 30th December 2002

    This FAQ contains material pertaining the acquisition of boots
    designed for and appropriate for country and hill walking.


    We often get questions along the lines of 'Which boot should I
    buy ?'. There's no really hard and fast rules other than you get
    what you pay for. Good boots do cost a lot of money but you
    can avoid paying over the odds for your chosen pair by
    shopping around for the best price. Without going into an
    enormous amount of detail, here are some things that you
    might consider.

    The fit of the boot is the most important factor in considering
    a purchase. Boots made outside the UK (especially Italy) are
    often a narrower fit than boots made in the UK. Apparantly British
    people have wide feet so if you try on a non-British boot and it's
    a bit of a squeeze try and find a boot made in the UK. Regardless,
    try on as many boots as you can in the price range you can afford
    as no two boots will be the same anyway.

    Most people will require a boot that is larger than their normal
    shoesize. A good rule of thumb is, while wearing a pair of socks
    that you intend wearing with your boots, put your intended
    purchase on your foot *without* lacing it up. Now push your foot
    forward so that your toes touch the toe of the boot. If you can
    comfortably fit a finger or thumb into the gap between your heel
    and the heel of the boot then the boot is probably the right size.
    The toe gap allows you to descend a slope while taking your body
    weight on the instep of your foot rather than your toes. Move your
    heel well into the heel cup of the boot and lace it up, making
    sure that you're not lacing too tight. Walk around the shop to see
    if the heel of your foot 'rises' within the boot despite being
    laced up. A significantly rising heel will probably blister on even
    the smallest walk and the boots are unlikely to ever be comfortable.
    The rising is caused through a combination of the stiffening of the
    sole of the boot and too large an instep gap in the boot cavity.
    The foot flexes away from the stiffened sole into the instep gap
    causing the heel to rise. If you have already bought a boot that
    permits too much movement consider fitting it with a padded footbed
    to reduce the amount of space in the boot. Extra socks may also help
    but the footbeds will reduce the amount of vertical space in the
    boot without affecting the other dimensions. If a footbed
    uncomfortably restricts the space available in the toe of the boot
    then consider using heel pads. Some insoles double as a shock
    absorbing medium. Specific brands include Sorbothane, Eagle Rock
    and Superfeet. The author's own preference is for Sorbothane which
    has been found to be both extremely comfortable and very long

    A midsole is piece of stiffened material, usually nylon, that is
    incorprated in the sole of the boot. If you intend doing a lot of
    hill walking then a boot with stiffened midsole will help
    considerably in stopping your feet from getting tired too quickly.
    Some boots have significantly stiffened midsoles and these will also
    permit the use of walking crampons if you are going to go winter
    walking. If all you are going to do is low level walking then a
    moderately stiffened midsole will probably prove sufficient when
    something quite stiff will probably prove uncomfortable.

    Leather or Fabric ? Fabric was trendy for a while but *most* people
    have found it to be less hard wearing and reliable than leather.
    It's still pretty good for summer walking though. If buying leather
    then boots made from a single piece are less prone to leaks but are
    correspondingly more expensive. Multi-piece boots, usually
    manufactured from the off-cuts of single piece boots, need a bit
    more care but are cheaper.

    A 4 season boot is one that is designed for all-year-round use but,
    in that it is suitable for winter walking, it is likely to be too
    heavy and warm for comfortable summer walking. A good 3 season boot
    will cope with non-extreme winter walking and, if stiff enough, will
    take a walking crampon while still being light enough to be
    comfortable in all but the hottest weather.

    Breathable linings
    Many manufacturers these days offer at least one model of boot in
    thier range which incorporates a breathable lining. The most common
    lining is Goretex but there are others. Theoretically the lining
    permits the foot to breathe while minimising the liklihood of wet
    feet. In reality breathable linings offer minimal improvement on the
    basic design of boots and make the care of the boot more complex.
    All boot linings are prone to abrasion by the foot and breathable
    linings are no different. The lining is thus unlikely to remain
    intact physically for more than a fraction of the potential lifetime
    of the boot structure. In fabric boots the lining can become clogged
    with the fine dust that penetrates the nylon shell or even by spray-
    based boot care products. Also, breathable fabrics work through
    vapour pressure differential. A waterlogged outer shell is likely to
    have a much higher vapour pressure than the inside of the boot
    causing water to migrate *into* the boot eventually. Linings in leather
    boots are likely to be more effective while they last but a well built
    and looked after leather boot can offer all of the characteristics
    offered by breathable liners while at the same time being infinitely
    more robust. Many feel that it's a gimic aimed at parting the unwary
    purchaser from thier readies but if the boot is only intended only for
    occaisional, light use and is unlikely to be used so heavily so as to
    threaten the physical integrity of the liner then it may be worth the
    added expense.

    A good shop will let you try the boots on in the shop and will
    invariably provide you with some walking socks to use while doing
    so. They will let you pay for the boots and take them home so that
    you can wear them around the house for a couple of days. If they
    turn out to be really uncomfortable then, as long as they have not
    been taken outside the house or damaged in any way the shop
    should either allow you to exchange them or give you your money
    or a credit note back. Don't take our word for it though, check with
    the shop before you buy.

    Boot Care
    There is a wide range of footwear care products that are designed
    to be used in conjunction with the usual cleaning described below.
    Look for the following;

    Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather (the original Nikwax)
    Nikwax Aqueous Wax for Leather
    Nikwax Nubuck and Suede Waterproofing
    Nikwax Fabric and Leather Waterproofing
    Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel
    Nikwax Conditioner for Leather (restores suppleness)

    Grangers NT Footwear Protector (for all materials)
    Grangers NT Footwear Conditioner (for leather)
    Grangers NT Footwear Cleaner
    Grangers Footwear Proofer (Spray -for leather, nubuck, suede and fabric)
    Grangers Footwear Conditioner (Spray for nubuck and suede)
    Grangers Footwear Cleaner (Spray)
    Grangers G-Wax Beeswax Proofing for all smooth leathers (Spray or Wax)
    Grangers Leather Conditioner
    Grangers G-Sport Waterproofer (Spray - for all materials)

    Caring for leather boots: Some manufacturers these days coat their
    boots with a hydrophobic substance which is an effective repellent
    for water but which will eventually wear off. The boot should be
    periodically cleaned in warm, clean water and allowed to dry
    naturally ( as opposed to dry by placing next to a heat source).
    Leather boots should *never* be force-dried as it will encourage the
    leather to crack) before applying one of a number of different
    waterproofing/conditioning substances all of which have their merits
    and demerits; Natural Wax (Dubbin) is readily absorbed but may
    cause the leather to become overly pliable with prolonged use.
    Synthetic Wax (eg. Nikwax) is best applied with the fingers as the
    warmth makes it easier to apply. Liquid Repellents ( eg. Liquid
    Nikwax ) are applied with a brush and do not have to be 'forced'
    into the stitching of the boot. Prolonged application of liquid
    reppellent may also cause the leather to become overly pliable. If
    your boots get really wet then you should stuff them with newspaper
    to draw any water out of the liner while the leather is drying. The
    newspaper should be replaced periodically.

    Caring for nubuck leather: Dried in a similar fashion to ordinary
    leather boots but to clean, wash in warm, soapy ( non-detergent )
    water with a soft brush. While still damp ( as opposed to wet or dry )
    apply a liquid repellent like Liquid Nikwax.

    Caring for fabric boots: Care of fabric boots is pretty much the same
    as for leather. If they are not waterproofed you can use a water
    repellant such as Grainger's G-Sport, which you simply spray on
    when the boots are clean and dry. You need to apply a couple of
    coats and allow a few hours for the boots to fully absorb it. The
    coating should be re-applied as necessary, e.g., after you have
    washed and dried the boots. To keep the boots clean, simply brush
    off any excess mud, and then wash them in clean warm water. The
    best way to dry them (as with leather boots) is to stuff them with
    paper and leave them in a warm place. You can get away with
    putting fabric boots next to a heat source to dry but beware any
    leather or suede reinforcing patches. If the boots are a fabric/suede
    mix, you can use a special brush to revitalise the nap of the suede
    bits. You should do this before applying any water repellant.

    It's logical to chuck in a short discussion about socks when talking
    about buying boots. Unfortunately there's loads of different ones
    and you can't really try them on and take them back in the same
    way you can boots. It's unlikely that you'll find your preferred sock
    the first time you buy. It may take years which is a pain when these
    days walking socks cost a pretty penny. As a general rule, modern,
    cushioned walking socks are designed to be worn as a single pair but
    if a single pair does not afford your feet either the protection or
    the comfort that you require then consider wearing a pair of thin
    inners underneath them. You can buy sepcial inners, they'll be on
    the same shelf as the outers, but these are expensive and you may
    just require a thin pair of cotton sports socks. The theory is that
    the inner and the outer will move relative to each other as you walk.
    This significantly reduces the risk of abrasive blistering. Beware,
    however. In hot weather this combination is likely to cause excessive
    sweating which in itself can lead to blistering. Reputable names in the
    sock manufacturing arena include both Thorlo and Bridgedale. They are
    not cheap. You get what you pay for.

    And a final word
    Is it really a boot that you need ? There is a presumption that
    if you are going out into the hills then you should have a 'stout
    pair of walking boots' but the experience of many people is
    that while there are many circumstances in which boots are a
    must there are just as many where they clearly are not the best
    thing that you could have on your feet. Lugging around an
    extra Kilogram or more on each foot on a dry, warm day is
    perhaps not the best strategy when a pair of well-made,
    lightweight cross-trainers or even walking sandals might well
    make the whole experience even more enjoyable than it
    would be in boots.