Walking is one of the most green activities, and spending a holiday walking can be enjoyable and eco friendly. But choosing the right walking footwear is important to ensure that you remain comfortable and injury-free throughout your walking holiday, as well as choosing a pair of shoes or boots which will be reliable and long-lasting.
Boots verses shoes
There is a wide range of walking footwear on the market, varying in price, material and levels of foot and ankle support that they offer. One of the key decisions you may find yourself making is whether to buy a pair of walking boots or walking shoes. Walking boots offer a higher level of ankle support which can help to prevent injuries, most commonly caused by ankle rolling on uneven ground. It is usually best to consider the kind of terrain you expect to be covering on your walking holiday when choosing between walking shoes or boots. Boots tend to provide better all-round support, while shoes can be lightweight and versatile, making a good piece of footwear for easier walks.
Walking footwear comes in a wide variety of materials, from full grain leather to synthetic fabrics.
Full grain leather has been used traditionally to make boots for generations and is still a much loved material by veteran walkers and newcomers alike. Highly durable and naturally water resistant, full grain leather boots often last for years and can offer unrivaled protection for your feet. With manufacturing technology always improving, the “breaking in” process of leather boots has now almost entirely been wiped out, with footwear companies Scarpa and Brasher now producing leather boots which are comfortable straight out of the box.
Nubuck leather and suede are similar to full grain leather but have a softer texture due to being sanded down (nubuck) or a different cut (suede). Both leathers retain similar properties to full grain leather but may be marginally less durable.
Synthetic footwear is made without leather or animal products, yet maintains much of the durability of leather products. High end footwear manufacturers are now paying closer attention to synthetic materials to produce durable products which are vegan friendly, such as the Salomon Cosmic walking boot.
Many footwear manufacturers also offer boots and shoes made from mixed upper materials. These tend to be lower in price and can vary in quality. The boot’s upper is often made up of a mix of suede and synthetic fabric.
Is it waterproof?
Most walking footwear will be water resistant in one way or another. This means that the surface of the boot or shoe will be coated with a water resistant layer, usually consisting of plastic or wax. This will allow any water to bead and run off the surface rather than soaking through the material and getting your feet wet. While this resistant coating is effective against mild to moderate rainfall, it is often not sufficient to protect against heavier rainfall or being submerged in water.
Gore-tex is a well known waterproof membrane which is used in higher-end waterproof footwear, as well as jackets and trousers. This membrane sits inside your walking shoe or boot and creates a seal against water, keeping it away from your feet and keeping them dry and comfortable. Gore-tex footwear can be a little more expensive, but can give some great peace of mind if the heavens open on your walking holiday. Another popular waterproof membrane is Event which is breathable yet waterproof. Some entry level footwear also includes the manufacturer’s own waterproof membrane, however these can vary in reliability so it can often be worthwhile reading reviews on how well these boots have performed in wet conditions.
If your walking holiday is planned for warmer climates where breathability, rather than rain is a bigger worry, a number of shoes and boots are available without waterproof membranes, allowing better ventilation to the feet, reducing sweat and dampness. Many of these shoes also feature mesh vents which allow air directly to the skin, making your walk much more comfortable whilst still providing adequate protection against the terrain. A good pair of walking sandals can also be useful if terrain isn’t too rough, leaving your skin completely exposed to the fresh air.
Trying on your footwear
The features of the footwear your choose for your walking holiday are all important, but choosing a pair of shoes or boots which fit comfortably is vital. A walking holiday can easily be ruined by a pair of boots which cause blisters or crush your toes. When trying on footwear, choose a pair which are snug on the heel and give plenty of space around the toes. Ask the shop if they have a boot ramp, which allows you to test how the boots fit walking up and downhill. This is important to check for any heel slipping, and to make sure that your toes aren’t forced into the front of the boot when walking down slopes.
The eco friendly choice
Walking holidays can be some of the most eco friendly holidays available, and choosing the right footwear can also influence how green your overall holiday is. Leather is often condemned for its polluting tanning process as well as its use of animal products. However, a good pair of leather boots, such as the Scarpa Terra, are highly durable and can last for years when well looked after, reducing the need for buying again and again which increases demand on new resources. Buying eco friendly often involves buying economically- a cheaper pair of boots bought again and again works out more expensive than a long lasting pair of more expensive footwear, not to mention the heightened risk of them failing on you in the middle of your walk! If wearing leather is an issue, however, a number of vegan friendly walking boots are becoming popular, most notably the Salomon Cosmic boot which is entirely synthetic.tagsbootseco friendly walking bootsleathershoeswalking footwearwalking holiday