THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING
By Sheila Frampton
Walking has so many benefits for those of us who are retired or nearing retirement. It strengthens our muscles, helps to keep weight steady, lowers the risk of a whole range of diseases including heart disease and diabetes, it strengthens the bones and helps prevent osteoporosis as well as keeping joints flexible and improving our moods. Indeed, walking has never been as important as it is at the moment when the only time we are supposed to leave home is to go for a daily walk. Our walks don’t have to be strenuous – 30 minutes of walking at a steady pace every day will be really beneficial – but it’s important to wear the correct footwear.
If you’re just planning a gentle stroll, supportive trainers might be enough but if you’re going to do any more strenuous walking, a good, durable pair of waterproof boots would be a wise investment. A pair of well-made boots will cost about £100, but if you’re walking any further than the local shops and want to remain comfortable and blister-free, you’ll be glad you bought a pair.
HOW DO I CHOOSE THE BEST WALKING BOOTS?
- You need to decide whether you want leather or fabric. Leather is heavier and somewhat stiffer but will last longer. They will mould to your feet but will need breaking in. Fabric ones are good in summer, can be lighter and if you’re not doing heavy-duty walking could be perfect.
- Take a look at the internal support. Walking boots have ‘shanks’ which are inserts between the midsole and outsole of the boot – 3 mm to 5 mm thick – and they add load-bearing stiffness to the midsole. Some shanks cover the entire length of the midsole while others only cover half. Walking boots also have ‘plates’ a thin, semi-flexible insert between the midsole and outsole and below the shank. They protect the feet from bruises when walking on the uneven ground including roots and rocks. Check that the walking boots you buy have both shanks and plates.
- You’ll need hiking boots that are waterproof – look for Gore-Tex or another waterproofing system. You need fully waterproof boots rather than water-resistant. Walking in Britain, you never know when a light shower can develop into bad weather. Walking with wet feet is not recommended!
- Look at the sole of the boot. Most have rugged rubber soles. Vibram is synonymous with toughness. You’ll probably need bouncy soles with deep ‘lugs’ which give a good grip. You can’t go far wrong with a boot that boasts Gore-Tex and Vibram but it won’t be cheap.
- Check the fit. You’ll want to have plenty of wiggle room for toes and a comfortable fit around the heel. If you are likely to be walking over rocky or uneven ground, go for a boot with a higher ankle support. If you’ve got wide feet or bunions, you’ll be able to find boots designed to suit. Wear your hiking socks when testing boots and lace the boots tightly to check they don’t rub.
The following are heyday’s choices:
- Scarpa Peak Lady GTX hiking boots are priced from around £125 to £190. They are good all-weather lace-up boots made of water-resistant suede with tough, durable soles and a weight of approximately 1.2 kg a pair.
FOR MEN AND WOMEN
- Terrex Free Hiker Hiking Shoes are more like trainers in appearance and are priced from around £90 to £170. They are designed for comfort – the sock-like build and upper hug the foot leaving you feeling snug. There is a torsion bar which provides a stable, controlled and natural flex of the midsole and foot. These are just one of the types of Terrex walking and hiking shoes but all are good quality. Because they are lightweight they are especially good for summer walking.
- Brasher Country Master walking boots. Priced at around £125 these are classic hiking boots – simple, sturdy and make of leather. They have Vibram soles and are an excellent choice for a walking holiday.
- For men, The Karrimor Munro mid is excellent value – a comfortable leather boot that is priced around £50 – and is great for all-weather walking.
BUNION FRIENDLY/WIDE FEET
- Whalley Warm & Dry has a range of walking boots specially designed for people with bunions. These have more room at the big toe joint and soft leather with no aggravating seams around the bunions. Whalley also has a specialist fitting service and can hand-build custom insoles. Look at www.whalleyoutdoor.co.uk
WHO SHOULD I WALK WITH?
- Walking with a friend or family member makes the experience more interesting, you’re more likely to walk further and it’s safer.
- Join a walking group – this way, you’ll meet new people with a common interest. The Ramblers Association website – www.ramblers.org.uk – has a group finder.
- Walking for Health organises free short walks to get people active at their own pace with walks ranging from 30 minutes to 90 minutes all across England. Look at www.walkingforhealth.org.uk.
- The Long Distance Walkers Association organises long-distance group walks and challenge walks in rural, mountainous and moorland area – be prepared to walk at least 20 miles. With walks in England, Wales and Southern Scotland, membership is about £13 a year and you can try a few social walks for free before joining.
- Try Nordic walking – look for the British Nordic Walking website – and walkers hold ski-style poles and move their arms in time with each stride giving a full-body workout that isn’t too strenuous.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU TAKE WITH YOU?
- A light backpack – for your water bottle, a snack bar, your sun-cream and sunglasses in summer and a hand-warming heat pad in winter – and your keys.
- A reusable water bottle – keeping hydrated is important and people over 60 get dehydrated much more quickly than younger counterparts. Dehydration leads to a dry mouth, dizziness, confusion, memory loss and weakness. Steel bottles are particularly good for walking – keeping drinks hot or cold for 12 to 24 hours. A favourite place to find an expensive bottle relatively cheaply is at TK Maxx.
WHAT SHOULD YOU WEAR?
- Comfortable socks made of high-tech fibres rather than cotton which can hold sweat next to the skin and allow blisters to form quickly. Walking socks should be made of a ‘sweat-wicking’ fabric and be designed to fit the foot rather than being ‘tube’ shaped so they stay in place.
- Trousers made of a sweat-wicking fabric so they don’t hold moisture. Try to avoid denim which holds sweat next to your body and soaks up the rain.
- A good walking hat or cap – rather than a sun visor which will leave the head bare.
- Layered clothing – including a tee-shirt, a wool or down sweater and a good waterproof jacket for moderate temperatures. If you’re walking in colder weather add a hat, gloves and scarf and additional layers. You can always remove a layer but take care not to get too cold or too hot.
WHERE TO WALK
At the moment we can’t walk much further than the immediate area around our homes but now is a good time to plan walking trips and holidays – having something to look forward to always lifts the mood. Here are some of our favourite walks in the UK – in no particular order. Some stretches are challenging but if you prefer to tackle gentler stretches, you’ll find advice on the internet.
- Hadrian’s Wall Path – National Trail: a six-day trek through countryside and moorland, taking in Carlisle and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
- Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula Coast stretching from Porthleven to Helford taking in some beautiful fishing villages.
- The South Downs Way running for about 100 miles from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in East Sussex passing prehistoric sites, pretty villages and delightful pubs.
- The Cotswold Way National Trail covering 100 miles of beautiful countryside, passing pretty villages and historic sites between Chipping Camden and Bath.
- The Pennine Way is a challenging 268-mile route from the Peak District through the Yorkshire Dales to the Scottish borders
- The West Highland Way, Scotland – opened in 1980 this is Scotland’s first designated long-distance trail which starts at Milngavie outside Glasgow and passes Loch Lomond and Rannoch Moor, ending at Fort William.
- The Causeway Coast Way, Northern Ireland is a 33-mile two-day route through a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty stopping off at the Giant’s Causeway on the way to Ballycastle.
- The Lake District National Park is a wonderful place to walk – taking in the route called the Coniston Round.
- The Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail – a 186-mile route which takes in towering clifftops, sandy beaches and coastal towns. The first section from St Dogmaels to Newport is challenging and for the experienced hiker whilst the stretch between Stack Rock and The Green Bridge of Wales to St Govan’s Chapel is less strenuous.