Here at LD Mountain Centre, we believe the best shoe for an activity is the one that fits you. We are constantly curating a range of brands with overlapping products, to give us the best possible chance of finding something comfortable and suitable, without the possibility of inconsistent quality.
Regardless of your experience level in the Great Outdoors, choosing footwear can be a lengthy process, and the variety of styles, materials and fits can be overwhelming. However, having even a cursory idea of what you may need will go a long way in making the process more accurate and less painful!
To get yourself on the track to find a new pair of outdoor footwear, you need to ask yourself 3 simple questions:
WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
The activity you are intending to use your shoes for will greatly influence your choices. For example, the most high-spec technical climbing boot such as the Scarpa Mont Blanc, would probably be a terrible choice for walking coastal trails in. Similarily, it would take a very rare breed to think tackling the Matterhorn in a pair of Meindl Respond’s. The reasons for these being bad choices is hopefully obvious. However, swap the activities’ round and things start to make sense for equally obvious reasons.
We break our footwear down into:
- Walking Boots
Typically very supportive, high-ankled boots designed to keep your feet supported over a variety of surfaces in any manner of conditions. Within this remit, however, is a lot of scope for variety, and factors such as sole stiffness and level of ankle support can vary greatly.
Everything from your typical trainer (albeit with a few outdoorsy features), to full-blooded trail running shoes, via cut-down versions of walking boot found above.
We have tried to curate a range of sandals that offer the comfort and breathability you expect from a sandal, with the high quality walking sole of walking shoes.
Admittedly more climbing-specific, but sometimes the approach to – or descent from – a crag can be the most dangerous part of the day. They are very robust, quite stiff-soled shoes designed to cope with the rigours of scrambling as much as walking.
WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
Modern boots contain a lot of technology designed to improve the efficiency and comfort of the user. Much like above, you need to be able to match the feature to the environment it will be used in. Many features are universally useful, but others, whilst at first glance may be, are not. For example waterproof membranes such as Gore-tex or KeenDry are great for keeping your foot dry, but if used in exclusively dry and hot climates can cause your foot to overheat due to reduced breathability.
On a more day-to-day level, the environments at each end of the spectrum are:
- Paths & Lowlands
i.e: where the ground is well trodden and predictable. In less challenging terrain such as this flexibility is good as it helps your foot move naturally, which over long distances aids comfort. Look for lightweight boots or shoes with a reasonable amount of flexibility in the sole and upper.
- Cross Country & Hills/Mountains
i.e: uneven and/or steep ground. A more rigid boot with good ankle support will give you a much more stable platform to stand on, and a higher/stiffer boot cut will support your ankles, protecting connective tissue as well as joints.
Obviously, this is a very polarised view, but the crux of it remains; the more extreme the environment, the more boot you need on your feet.
DOES IT FIT?
Possibly the most important factor for long-term comfort and enjoyment. Everyone’s feet are different, and surprisingly not many people have symmetrical feet! It is not uncommon for one foot to be ½ a size bigger than the other.
Thankfully, shoes come in a range of widths, lengths and volumes, so finding something that fits is not an unreasonable task. Typically, it is shoe width which can have the biggest effect on a shoe fit, so it is important to get this right. A simple break down of the main brands we stock would be:
Low width and volume.
Low width and medium volume.
Medium width and volume.
Wide and high volume.
Wide and high volume.
The best way to knowing what type of shoe would fit is to get your foot properly measured.
If you consider these questions and get your foot properly measured, you will be well on your way to finding your perfect shoes. Even once you have one found, we would always recommend wearing them around the house as much as possible, and at different points in the day, for a week. This is because your feet swell and retract throughout the day, and ensuring they fit correctly is vitally important to long term comfort and usability.