Trainers may work for long walks on pavement, but hiking boots and walking shoes are meant to keep your feet and ankles stable over varied terrain, whether you’re going for a stroll around the park or a mountain hike.
It’s fair to say that a year ago not many people would have described themselves as avid walkers. But when the government then enforced a national lockdown told everyone that they could only leave the house for a daily walk or food shop and, suddenly, walking was having a major moment. It was no longer just a means to an end, getting you from A to B. Instead, going on a long walk on a Saturday afternoon became one of the only allowed pastimes.
Given that this new hobby sprung on people quite unexpectedly, few actually had the right kit for the job. But now, with searches for shin splints and heel pain skyrocketing, we know better than to just slip on our favourite pair of flat-soled trainers and head out for hours on end.
“When walking, your weight rolls from the heel, through the ball and continues to the toe, one foot after the other – with one foot always in contact with the ground. Walking shoes are designed with the specific strike pattern and body mechanics of this motion in mind,” explains product development manager at outdoor brand Berghaus, Glen Calloway.
Strong Women’s editor Meriam Ahari knows the benefit of getting the right pair of shoes only too well. “I never thought of using special walking shoes when going for hikes. I figured my trainers would do just fine. But when I spent a week hiking in the Lake District, I noticed that every person I ran into was wearing special hiking boots,” she says.
“So I thought I would give it a try to see if it made a difference. I expected my hard exterior, tall boots to leave me with blisters at the end of the day, but they were so warm and comfortable. My feet didn’t ache at all, even after eight hours of walking. Most importantly, they supported my ankles when walking on slippery and tough terrain.”
But you shouldn’t only consider your footwear when going on rambling countryside walks. While you might not think about wearing a proper walking shoe for a stroll around your local park, you should consider doing so if you’ll be out on your feet for most of the afternoon.
“A correct-fitting pair of walking shoes will be a benefit for all types of walking – from everyday walks in the park to longer walks over more challenging terrain, due to the additional comfort and support that they provide,” adds Glen.
What to look for in a walking shoe
As with everything, from running trainers to high heels, what works for your foot is individual. “Shoe selection will depend on foot width, arch height, and any predetermined foot conditions, such as bunions,” says Glen.
However, there are some general pointers when looking for a walking shoe. Firstly, make sure they “have enough room for you to wiggle your toes, as your feet will expand and swell during walking, and wearing shoes that are too small can lead to blisters and discomfort,” says Glen.
“Walking shoes should also offer a good level of arch support, with comfortable uppers and a flexible sole with a good level of cushioning and support.”
If you’re still not sure where to start, we’ve found some walking shoes that will get you through lockdown walks regardless of where and how far you’re walking.
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The best hiking shoes to buy now
Berghaus Explorer FT Active Goretex Shoe
These waterproof shoes are cushioned for comfort during relaxed strolls or active hikes. The studded rubber sole will stop slips, whether that’s on mountain terrain or rainy pavements. Most importantly, the waterproof coating means that you can get out for your daily exercise no matter what the weather.
Adidas Terrex Free Hiker Shoes
Featuring Adidas’s famous ‘Boost’ technology, these shoes have extra energy return, which means they give you an added push in each step. The high, sock-like shape provides support to your upper foot and ankle, while the knit fabric is breathable yet structured for lightweight protection.
Brooks Addiction Walker 2 Shoes
Brooks shoes are specially designed to help you avoid injury. The specially designed arch support keeps your foot well aligned, while unique cushioning adapts to your stride, weight and speed to reduce impact on your joints. A great choice for an afternoon walk that ends up lasting until evening.
North Face Oscillate Shoes
It’s always good news when North Face’s best selling walking shoes are in the sale. Combining the cushion of a trainer with the durability and grip of a walking shoe makes these a favourite. The sturdy midsole keeps you stable on uneven ground while allowing stretch and comfort so you can walk through city grounding until you reach your countryside destination.
Berghaus Fellmaster Ridge Goretex Boot
These boots are every inch as sturdy as they look, but they come packed with internal cushioning so your feet stay comfy. The rubber soles feature an anti-mud-clogging system to keep your grip on slippy pathways, and the supportive shape holds your foot in place for comfort and safety.
Columbia FACET 15 OutDry
This running-influenced hiking trainer combines the bumpy grippy outsole and tough upper typically seen in hiking shoes with the style and bounce of a trainer. Perfect for gentle trails, shorter hikes or everyday use around the park.
Merrell Moab Speed Gore-Tex shoe
Designed for fast, light adventures over rough ground, this environmentally friendly shoe (constructed partly from recycled materials), is well-suited for year-round use due to its waterproof and breathable category-leading Gore-Tex membrane. So whether it rains or shines you’ll be protected from the elements.
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