Choosing your outdoor footwear is a minefield - we get it. As well as different styles, materials and features, you've got to find the right fit for your type of activity, which is why we’re on hand to help you make the right choice. Keep reading to get the lowdown on everything you need to consider before investing.
If you love exploring trails or heading for the hills, you need footwear that can keep up.
So, are walking boots or shoes best for walkers? The answer is, it depends on what you prefer and the kind of walking you do.
The main difference between boots and shoes is the level of ankle support. Walking shoes are designed to be nimbler, more flexible and lighter weight, so are less supportive but are better for low-level trails or fast-paced adventures.
Walking boots offer more support and stability to keep your feet comfortable and prevent injury on more challenging terrains and uneven ascents or descents.
Facing short scrambles en route? Then opt for approach shoes which combine the comfort and support of walking shoes with the high friction sole found on climbing shoes.
But ultimately, it’s down to you. If you’re tackling steep inclines over uneven terrain but find the extra weight and support of walking boots cumbersome, opt for walking or approach shoes instead. Or, if you find you need more ankle support even on fairly even trails, choose boots.
SHOP WALKING BOOTS
Another thing to think about is the composition of your walking footwear. Leather shoes or boots tend to be more durable and are usually more water resistant, but they can be harder to break in and need more care. Synthetic shoes tend to be lighter and more comfortable straight out of the box but need regular reproofing to maintain water resistance.
The composition of a shoe or boot doesn't necessarily have so much impact nowadays as brands have improved their products to combat any potential problems. That's why we advise just choosing the pair that fit the best.
SHOP WALKING SHOES
Most walking shoes or boots are lined with a waterproof membrane, which not only weatherproofs your footwear, but also lets you cross streams and walk through puddles without getting wet feet. But you don’t just want to keep the wet out, you need to let it out too; in other words, your walking footwear needs to breathe. So, it's always best to go for a waterproof, breathable pair of shoes, wherever you plan to take them.
GORE-TEX® walking footwear is particularly good at allowing sweat vapour to escape, but there are plenty of other effective waterproof membranes available to suit all activity levels and budgets.
Top tip: Another great way to keep the wet out is to use a gaiter: a waterproof cuff that goes over the top of your boot and fastens around the lower leg.
SHOP APPROACH SHOES
If you prefer to pick up the pace on your adventures, you should consider a trail running shoe. Specifically designed for running on uneven terrain, they offer deeper lugs and more aggressive tread patterns than road running shoes, giving you better grip and stability to help boost performance. They are also usually much tougher than normal trainers, with stiffer soles and hidden toe plates to protect your toes from bruising.
Most trail running shoes offer some water-resistance, although this is not usually to the level that walking boots or shoes offer, as they need to be more breathable to help keep your feet dry inside.
Weight is also something to consider, as although generally lighter weight than walking shoes, they are often heavier than regular running shoes.
SHOP TRAIL RUNNING SHOES
Finding the right skiing or snowboarding boots can make or break your trip. With so much riding on fit, a visit to one of our stores for a free fitting appointment with our experts is a must, but you’ll find some advice on what to look out for over in our ski boot buying guide.
When the ski boots come off, the snow boots go on.
Whether you’re heading for an all-nighter or just navigating your way around the resort, you’ll need a trusty pair of boots to get you about. Look out for snow boots which offer plenty of grip to keep you upright in icy conditions, water-resistant materials to keep your feet dry, and cosy linings to keep your toes toasty.
SHOP SNOW BOOTS
If you’ve got a head for heights and love spending your time on the rock or the wall, you’ll need to invest in some climbing shoes. They’re designed to provide the flexibility, support, ventilation, grip and durability you need to keep pushing higher.
Climbing shoes are generally classified by downturn, the position of the toes to the heel, which can help improve your foothold. There are three main classifications: neutral, aggressive and moderate, with aggressive climbing shoes positioning the toes lower than the heels to give the best foothold.
Which shoes you need depends on where and how you climb. Sport climbing shoes tend to have a stiff midsole, quality edging platform, a tight heel cup and lacing closure with a moderate downturn.
For trad climbers, a slightly more relaxed fit that allows you to jam your foot into cracks is something to look out for, as is a stiffer midsole to ensure your ankles stay protected. Generally, trad climbing shoes have little to no toe or heel rubber and minimal downturn making them better in changeable environments.
For bouldering, you’re looking for an aggressive downturn, a solid amount of toe rubber, rubber-covered and rounded heel cups to maximise your ability to climb and stick to tiny hooks in the rock.
Whether you choose leather or synthetic shoes depends on your preferences. Synthetic materials tend to hold their shape and provide maximum support, whereas leather stretches and moulds to your foot over time and can become more comfortable.
Climbing shoes fit tighter than regular shoes, but how tight depends on how much comfort you're willing to sacrifice for performance. Generally speaking, more experienced climbers will opt for tighter fitting shoes as they become used to the initial discomfort and find the closer fit beneficial for their performance, whereas those just starting out in the sport are better off opting for shoes with a bit more room.
SHOP CLIMBING SHOES
If your walk looks like a quick trip to the pub with the dog, look out for stylish footwear that will keep your feet comfortable and dry. Wellies are best in really wet conditions - not only can you traipse through any puddles you encounter, but there are plenty of stylish options nowadays with more contoured shaping and different colourways. But if wellies really aren’t for you, leather country boots are a great alternative, and with regular care and reproofing, they can perform just as well in wet conditions.
For sunnier strolls or beach walks, think trainers, sandals or even flip flops - whatever works best for where you’re heading.
SHOP CASUAL SHOES
The usual summer holiday not your thing? After more than the same day hikes as everyone else? Time to lace up your boots and get out onto one of the many long-distance trails taking you to the most untouched, remote corners of the UK on our pick of the most epic National Trails and long-distance hikes.