Soles for Shoes, Choosing Walking Boots
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. Thinking about getting new footwear this spring for your walking holidays? Time to check the soles for your shoes with John!
Often people have just one pair of outdoor footwear and this may mean that they end up wearing a less appropriate shoe for their particular activity.
Soles that are too heavy for faster low level walking can leave you with blisters, whereas soles that are too light for 'proper' mountain walking could leave you lame. The development of extremely lightweight running shoes and boots with light fabrics have changed the landscape in this area completely, giving you so much choice flexibility. For a lot of walking holidays, we always advise on a degree of ankle support. Numerous people with a running background will probably have quite flexible ankles though, so could cope with less protective footwear. A good place then to look at are the Salomon Speed Cross range for example, or various trail running models from Merrell, Vaude etc. There are also shoes called 'approach shoes' in this category, which have more of a traditional walking-shoe-look about them. Some of these come with Gore-Tex fabric, which helps on wet days, although some may prefer more quick draining, faster drying shoes. The type of material is important if you are going walking in warm or cold conditions, where ventilation rather than waterproofness may be a bigger concern.
Soles for Shoes When Doing Easy-Moderate Walking
A lot of the easier to moderate walking tours that we offer involve farm and gravel tracks, through fields, forests and over downs and through dales. Generally, lowland-walking does not include sustained steep trails or climbs, or a lot of rocky paths, so the appropriate soles for these shoes and boots should be quite bendy. This will give you a lot of spring on your fore step. These types of hiking boots often wear comfortable straight out of the box. Inevitably there will be some road walking on our tours, so have as much cushioning as possible. The running-style footwear is very suited to this. Some of the soles on lightweight shoes or boots have a grippy sole of differing materials, which can mean that parts of the sole wear quite quickly. Also, on the grip part there may only be a thin 'skin' on a compressed foam midsole, which can tear or separate if it is used for mountain usage. These are quite good types of shoe for say walking in Tuscany, Burgundy, Tarn or doing the South Downs Way, or the lowland parts of the Coast to Coast or Dales Way.
Soles for Shoes When Doing Moderate-Challenging Walking
When it comes to the more moderate to challenging walks, often in national parks going uphill and on steep slopes, soles for shoes or boots should be much more rigid, flexing slightly at the ball of the foot. Vibram soles are the most famous in this department, usually with one type of hard rubber used on soles with large rubber cleats for gripping mud and moor, and the welt well bonded with the fabric or leather. There may be a cushioning element in the heel or even forefoot, but often if you want better cushioning, you may want to invest in a cushioned insole. Bear in mind though that this may reduce the clearance between the top of your toes and the roof of the shoe. This offers your foot, ankle and even calves more support. The sole of a hill-walking boot will often be much tougher and stronger than a standard rambling boot, as they are built to take on tougher terrain. See Meindl Bhutan or Scarpa GTX for example. These are ideal for tours such as the Alpine Pass Route, Tour du Mont Blanc, or the upland bits of the Coast to Coast.
Soles for Shoes When Doing Challenging Hiking
Now we come to choosing the right soles for big mountain tours like the Mont Blanc Ascent, Aconcagua, Mera and Island Peak. At this point, insulation becomes more of an issue and so does having a rigid sole. There is very little flex at the ankle and you walk around like C-3PO (the Star Wars character). However, the sole is usually a pretty solid Vibram unit, good for kicking steps in the snow or using crampons. These types of soles have become a lot lighter over the years with new materials used. My advice would be to use boots like Scarpa Mantas and Scarp Charmoz on the Scottish and Alpine peaks and chunky Scarpa Vegas or Phantoms (with integrated insulated gaiter) for winter mountaineering and bigger Andean and Himalayan peaks.
If you have booked a walking holiday with us and are unsure of the type of shoes needed for your trip, or if you like some general advice on soles for shoes, please don’t hesitate to contact John or other members of our team.
Did you know? When you book a trip with us, you receive a unique discount code for shopping at Cotswold Outdoor (with stores online and all over the UK).