Friday, 5 August 2016

Bigfoot & the Boots

I heard a great saying once – “there’s only 2 things in life you need to spend money on, boots and beds, because if you’re not in one, you’re in the other.”  Good advice – but, like beds, boots are expensive and it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right pair – but how do you know?

Steve has big feet and has recently acquired a knee injury quite likely linked to substandard boots and, while his knee heals, we’ve taken the opportunity to get him some proper boots to stop it happening again.  So, here are my top tips for buying walking boots:

1.       Go to a proper boot shop.  Sometimes you get lucky with the shoe department of a big chain but for good independent advice you’ll need a good independent shop.  We headed up to Keswick because we know, and trust, Keswick Boot Company. The place is owned and run by hiking enthusiast Alex Charlton who has been a passionate hiker for as long as he can remember and has been selling boots for 20 years.

Here’s what happens when you go there.

·         First of all he’ll chat to you about what you want the boots for and how you intend to use them – are you a Sunday stroller, a serious hiker or a polar explorer - he’s had them all and they all need different boots.  As he told us, while you need to get the best boots you can afford there’s also no need to go overboard and spend a fortune on a boot that can cope with -40oC temperatures when all you’re planning are a series of strolls around the South Downs.

·         Then he’ll look at the boots you came in with – he’ll examine the tread to see how you walk.

·         Next up he’ll select a pair of boots with you and take the insoles out – this is so he can get a feel for how the boots will really fit.  By getting you to put your feet on the insole he can see how much space your foot will have in the boot.  What he DOESN’T do is measure your feet and that’s mainly because, like clothes, boot sizes can differ from manufacturer to manufacturer – we all have a good idea of our shoe size and that’s the starting point.

Who knew soles have so much soul?

All of this obviously takes time, so allow ½ hour to an hour for boot buying.

2.       Once you try them on prance around a bit.  ALL good boot sellers should have a ramp that you can try walking up and down on so put it to good use to see how your foot moves within the boot – a boot that feels comfy on the flat may not be so great on a steep downhill, which can be painful at the end of a long day in the fells.

3.       Don’t buy online!  Though places like Keswick Boot Company do sell online because, let’s face it, it’s expected these days – it’s far from the best way to buy boots.  You don’t get the expert advice and proper fitting and aftercare tips you get from going to a proper boot shop.  And definitely DON’T go to the boot shop to get all the advice then buy them from Amazon because they’re cheaper – the reason they’re cheaper on Amazon is because the people selling them there can afford to make next to no profit and don’t have the expertise to share with you.  Support your local businesses – I’M WATCHING YOU!

4.       Love your odd feet – whatever is odd about your feet, chances are there’s a pair of boots out there to suit you.  Steve’s huge feet were no problem at all.  While we were in the shop a lady came in with very narrow feet and within 20 mins she was walking around in a perfect pair of boots saying she could cry with delight because no one had found boots that fitted her before.  Different manufacturers and different boots suit different weird and wonderful feet – so love your feet and wave them under the nose of your local boot expert.

After all that Steve settled on a pair of rather lovely Aku SuperalpNNK GTX boots which will be perfect for the activities we have in mind – great ankle support for the fells, rigid enough to keep his feet (and knee) sorted but flexible enough to walk in.  Alec showed us how the soles were put together and I had no idea there was so much technology involved.

Aku are an Italian manufacturer that has grown in 30 years from a small workshop to a well respected outdoor brand.  They are understandably proud of their heritage and have boots to suit everyone from gnarly outdoor types to those just wanting comfortable and interesting casual wear.  (Watch this space for a full review of the boots – I don’t believe in reviewing something after one short walk, we’ll let you know how he gets on with them on our impending Scottish trip and review them when he’s given them a bit of a bashing).

Each pair is individually numbered
& fully traceable 
No the boots weren’t cheap but the knee injury, caused by poor grip on his other boots, has been very painful and meant a long period of enforced rest.  Of course it also means he’s getting his money’s worth out of the bed we invested in a couple of years back, but the downside is he’s not been able to get out on the hills he loves for some time now – and that’s something that’s hard to put a price on.

While you're in there ask to see their FAB collection of old boots - amazing
how people ever walking in them!

Head of customer services keeping an eye on things...

Seriously, nothing gets past her.  :-)

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