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.
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.
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.
Designed to help you stick to crags and faces too steep or technical for conventional shoes, they are very close fitting and sport a wide range of technical features. Inherrently uncomfortable on flat ground, these shoes come into their own when smeared against granite walls or perched on thin flakes.
For more information on Climbing Shoes, click the image to the right.
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.
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.
On a more day-to-day level, the environments at each end of the spectrum are:
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.
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.
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:
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.