OUTDOOR SHOE BUYING GUIDE
You have decided that it’s time for some new outdoor shoes for those walks during the summer time, but what to choose? A walking shoe, an approach shoe or a trail running shoe? Well we have put together a little guide to help you choose the right footwear, that is right for you.
Why would you choose an outdoor shoe over walking boot? When compared to walking boots, an outdoor shoe often offers a lightweight option. There is a range of different outdoor shoes that are specialised to perform better is different conditions, from flat hiking to scrambling. However, some people will overlook the weight difference of a walking boot, for the peace of mind for the added ankle support that a boot offers.
Read more about walking boots here
Walking shoes are ideal for routes that are relatively flat, where heavier walking boots will slow you down and cause fatigue. With less ankle support offered, walking shoes are less restrictive making them nimbler, versatile and flexible.
The majority of walking shoes uppers will be made up of either leather, suede or a fabric and sometimes they will be combine two fabrics. Leather walking shoes are often the heavier option out of the three whilst fabric often is the lightest.
Leather walking shoes are the most durable and are naturally waterproof, however they are heavier, harder to break in and need to be cared for, otherwise they will dry and crack. Suede uppers will be highly breathable and lighter than traditional leather uppers. Fabric walking shoes are very lightweight and flexible however are not as durable as a leather upper and needs regular reproofing.
Any moisture that builds up within your walking boot can cause rubbing that can lead to blisters and discomfort, so keeping your feel dry is of the up most of importance.
If you intend to use your walking shoes in a hot, dry country, then a lightweight shoe without a waterproof membrane may be the best option. However, it is important to consider that when walking in a warm climate your feet will sweat. Buying a shoe that incorporates a breathable membrane will allow the perspiration to be drawn away from the foot, leaving it dry and blister free.
Waterproof walking shoes come in two different forms. Leather shoes are naturally waterproof; these boots will require reproofing over time. The second is the use of a waterproof membrane in the lining, the most popular membrane used is Gore-Tex, known for its industry leading waterproof and breathable membranes. These will need less treatment than leather but will still need washing to maintain its waterproofing.
Approach shoes are the closest cousin to walking shoes. While the design and construction is often very similar, there are a handful of characteristics that separates them. Approach shoes are designed for security when scrambling on talus or traversing rock slabs. They are intended to be used on light climbs or bouldering on you backpack trips, very few walking shoes will have a sticky rubber sole appropriate of this use.
The lug pattern of an approach shoe will differ from a walking shoe, where walking shoes lugs will be aimed toward tractions for walking in, approach shoes can either be aimed more towards maximising climbing performance or maximising traction on dirt, scree and snow.
Approach shoes have been a staple in the climbing world for decades. However, they are becoming increasingly popular in the hiking world. Approach shoes were developed for use on long, semi technical approaches to climbs, making them comfortable for long hikes.
Approach shoes are more durable then walking shoes as they tend to be used in abrasive, rocky terrains. The shoes upper is usually made from nubuck leather, reinforces by a protective toe cap, made out of a sticky rubber. The most durable approach shoes will have a toe cap that extends completely around the upper material.
Approach shoes have a sticky sole, made from softer abrasion resistant rubber then that found on hiking shoes. This rubber formulation creates more friction on smooth rocks.
Depending on whether the approach shoe is climb or hike oriented the tread will differ. Climbing oriented approach shoes will have low profile dot lugs that provide the most contact with the rock for smearing ability. Whilst walking oriented approach shoes will have a similar lug pattern to walking shoes but will climb much better.
Although these shoes are not designed to handle anything too technical, approach shoes often have a climbing zone at the front of the sole that provides precision when edging and scrambling on route to a climb.
Trail running shoes have become increasing popular with long distance hikers and obviously trail runners. A big benefit using trail running shoes over walking and approach shoes is the weight, trail running shoes are lightweight, creating less fatigue over a long distance. Yes, they are not as durable and might get wet, but changing from a leather approach shoe to a lightweight trail running shoe can make walking feel effortless.
Trail running shoes differ from your normal running shoes with a more aggressive tread and a sole that wraps over the front of your toes. These shoes are great for hot and dry climates, where walking boots just do not cut it, the difference in weight and comfort is significate.
Trail running shoe will be made from a synthetic fabric as opposed to natural fabrics such as leather. A man made synthetic fabric can offer a superior breathability, that will help to keep your feet dry and offers a lightweight option.
When compared to road running shoes, trail running shoes have a grippy sole to navigate the slick, uneven, rocky and muddy terrain. Those who are looking to use then on a stone or hard dirt trail should opt for a short lug pattern, where those who are looking to use them in muddy or soft conditions should look at a deeper lug pattern to gain more traction.
Only a handful of trail running shoes are “waterproof”, many use a water replant upper, but they have sacrificed being waterproof for being highly breathable. This makes them great for walking in hot and dry climates where you expect to sweat a lot.
Many will argue that the lack of waterproofing is not an issue as if it rains heavy enough for long enough your feet will get wet anyway. Yet not everyone believes in this argument, and some companies have invested heavily in waterproofing their trail running shoes with Gore-Tex to ensure the highest amount of waterproofing and breathability.