How to buy walking boots

Rohan, winner of Wanderlust's Top Gear Provider 2013 Award, answers your most frequently asked questions on choosing the right boots for you

8 mins

How do I know what boots I need?

The footwear that you need will depend on a great many factors and you need to ask yourself a few questions before making a purchase: What will I use them for? Do I need something waterproof? Do I need a boot or will a shoe be fine?

You can buy boots specifically for outdoor activities including trekking, trail walking, or for casual and everyday wear. Whether you are choosing outdoor footwear for the first time or replacing an old worn out pair of boots, it is important to consider your primary activity as well as the type of terrain you want to cover. This will affect the boots' style, grip and mud shedding, torsional stability and all round comfort. You can also buy boots that include a waterproof membrane ensuring your feet stay dry.

Don't forget that good footwear works better together with good outdoor socks. Often two pairs are better than one as they'll rub against each other, rather than rubbing afainst your skin.

How long will my shoes or boots last?

This is a difficult question to answer because there are a number of variables involved. This will depend on how often you wear them, what you wear them for and how well you look after them.

Can I buy shoes or boots that are waterproof?

Not all walking boots are waterproof. If you are unsure, check the tag that comes with your boots/shoes or the product description for the product you are interested in online.

How do I clean my walking boots?

After use always rinse off mud and dirt with water. Remove any stubborn dirt with a sponge, damp cloth or brush, and use leather cleaner or leather shampoo to get the best result.

Dry your boots naturally over time in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. Never force dry your boots using heat, as this will damage the leather uppers.

It is very important to nourish the leather, to keep it soft and supple, and to provide a long-lasting shine. A good shoe shine cloth is not only great for buffing your shoes, it also works wonders for the gentle application of shoe creams and conditioners.

Regularly treat your boots or shoes with a suitable waterproofing treatment applicable to the type of boots you have.

Take care to apply treatments to tongues, D-rings and hooks. Do not over treat them as this can soften the leather and damage stitching.

What is the best way to tie my laces?

Tying your laces may seem like a trivial factor to consider when getting ready for an outdoor pursuit such as walking but well tied laces could actually mean the difference between sore feet and comfort.

The shoes or boots will be criss-cross laced through the loops, so the next few instructions are for tying the lace hooks:

1. The first lace hook is the ‘locking hook’ and will lock the laces in place. Tie the lace over the hook (from the top down), and cross over in the middle up to the second hook. This will hold the lace in place securely.

2. Tie the lace under the second hook (from the bottom), and cross over in the middle up to the third or top lace hook.

3. Tie the lace over the top lace hook (from the top down, as with stage 1) and finish with a bow or knot. This means that the top knot or bow isn’t right at the top of the shoe/boot. A lot of people, especially women find that the front of the ankle is particularly sensitive and by tying the knot sitting lower down there is less pressure on the most sensitive part of the ankle.

Wanderlust readers voted Rohan their favourite Gear Provider in the 2013 Travel Awards. Find out more here.

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