…so here's how to get the most out of your new footwear!
When selecting walking boots, the main choice is between leather and fabric. Leather boots tend to be more expensive, but are easier to clean and will last much longer. Leather is also naturally water repellent (fabric boots may be treated to give them repellency), but both kinds of boots will need re-proofing throughout their life to give ultimate performance. The bottom line when choosing footwear is to make sure your feet are comfortable…or you won't enjoy your walk at all!
When you get your new boots home, wear them indoors for an hour or two so that you get used to the fit and feel of them. Do not wear them outside until you are 100% happy, because if you are still not happy with the fit, you can return the boots as long as you have your receipt, the box, any packaging and they have not been worn outside! Hopefully we will be able to find you alternative footwear.
Remember, most boots will need some breaking in to adjust to your feet. Go on some short walks at first, then gradually build up to longer ones. The stiffer the boots, the longer the breaking in time will be.
Do you suffer from blisters? They are caused by friction from footwear rubbing repeatedly on the skin. The layers of skin then separate and fill with fluid. Wet boots and wet socks will cause blisters to form far quicker than dry ones.
To avoid blisters…
- Don't wear boots outside until you are 100% happy with the fit
- Break new boots in gradually
- Use proper walking socks (1000mile socks are specially designed to prevent blisters)
- Use high wicking socks for hot conditions
- Maintain your boots to make sure they remain breathable
- Try spraying your feet with anti-perspirant to keep them dry
- Before a long walk try rubbing Vaseline into your feet to prevent soreness
- On a long hot walk, take a break and remove your boots and allow your feet to breathe and cool down.
- After a long walk use Sudocrem or a moisturiser to treat any sore areas of your feet.
If you do find yourself with blisters, Compeed Blister Patches - developed for the Danish Army - act like a second layer of skin to help prevent new blisters whilst soothing and healing those that already exist. Placed on top of the sore skin, the patch repels water, dirt and bacteria and can stay firmly in place for 3 days! The hydrocolloid particles in Compeed Blister Patches absorb wound fluid, creating a gel that protects the area by sealing in moisture and preventing scab formation. In turn, this creates the optimal wound healing environment, speeding up the healing process. If you're off on a walking adventure, blisters can ruin a trip, so it's a great idea to take a pack of these lightweight patches…just in case!
You should clean the outside of muddy boots with a sponge in warm, clean water and then allowed to dry naturally (do not dry by placing next to a heat source). Leather boots should never be force-dried as it will encourage the leather to crack. After cleaning, apply a waterproofing/conditioning product, to keep your boots waterproof and performing at their best...
Synthetic Wax (eg. Nikwax, Grangers Gwax or Brasher conditioning cream) is best applied in small circles with the fingers, as the warmth makes it easier to apply. Liquid Repellents (eg. Nikwax Aqueous wax) are applied with a built-in sponge applicator (like some shoe polishes). They are also water based which means that it can be applied to wet or dry leather. Nikwax leather conditioner may be used to revitalise dried out and cracked leather.
Wash your boots in warm, soapy (pure soap…i.e. non-detergent) water with a soft brush. While still damp, apply a liquid repellent like Nikwax Aqueous wax…which may leave a waxy finish. Alternatively you can use Nikwax nubuck and suede proof. Dry your boots as you would ordinary leather boots.
Fabric boots require a bit more effort to clean than leather. Brush off any dry excess mud, and then wash them with a sponge in clean warm water. After this you can also apply Nixwax footwear cleaning gel to give better cleaning results. The best way to dry them (as with leather boots) is to stuff them with paper and leave them in a warm place. You can get away with putting fabric boots next to a heat source to dry but beware any leather or suede reinforcing patches. If the boots are a fabric/suede mix, you can use a suede brush to revitalise the suede areas. You should do this before applying any water repellent.
Most manufacturers these days coat their boots with a hydrophobic substance which is an effective repellent for water but which will eventually wear off, especially after cleaning. If your boots have a waterproof lining you may think that applying any waterproofing products is unnecessary. Unfortunately this is not the case. If boots are not re-proofed with a waterproofing product, they are likely to become saturated with water in wet conditions. This will not cause the boots to leak, but the saturated materials will reduce the breathability of the waterproof lining. The reduced breathability will encourage moisture from perspiration to build up in the boots and your feet will feel damp and uncomfortable…possibly causing blisters. Granger's footwear proofer, Nikwax fabric and leather proof or Brasher protector spray can be applied when the boots are clean and dry (Nikwax can be applied to wet footwear). Sometimes you need to apply a couple of coats and allow a few hours for the boots to fully absorb it. All proofings should be re-applied as necessary, e.g., after you have washed and dried the boots.
Nikwax fabric and leather proof is suitable for all combinations of suede, nubuck and fabric…it's a brilliant all-rounder! It is easily applied with a built-in sponge applicator and can be used on wet or dry boots. It is safe to use on footwear with breathable membranes such as Gore-Tex, Symatex, eVent etc without affecting the breathability.
Don't forget all boots will let in water if they are submerged and the water goes over the top of the bellows tongue! Also rain water can drip down into the ankle cuff if this area is not protected with a pair of gaiters or waterproof overtrousers.
Walking boots are much more comfortable when worn with good walking socks. Modern walking socks, often made from a technical looped yarn, are designed with extra padding around the toes and heels to cushion impact and without potentially irritating raised seams. Most are made from material that "wicks," meaning sweat is drawn outwards to keep your feet as dry as possible. This helps to prevent rubbing and blisters.
Socks also need to fit well so that there is no bunched up material in the boots. Specialised walking socks are designed so they gently grip the ankle, avoiding slipping down. Some walkers wear liner socks, a thinner pair next to the skin, and a thicker pair on top, this helps reduce friction and prevent blisters. 1000mile socks are designed with a built in membrane for this purpose, so if you are prone to blisters these socks are a great choice.
You may consider laces an afterthought, but carefully adjusting them can really increase the comfort and performance of your boots. Laces need to be laced and tied to comfortably hold your feet in position at the rear of the boots. You do not want your feet slipping down so that your toe touches the end. If your boots are reluctant to bend across the bridge of the foot, you might want to re-thread the laces so that they do not cross over and place additional pressure on this particular area. On really easy terrain, some walkers do not lace up the top 1 or 2 hooks, as they find this is more comfortable for their ankles. Take the time to experiment with lacing to get the best fit. And don't forget to replace your laces when they are worn-out!
Boots have an insole or footbed built in to add comfort and to support your feet. These are usually removable and it's important to keep them clean and dry…replacing them when they are worn out. If you want to add additional support/shock absorption, especially if you have problem feet, replacing your supplied insoles with Sorbothane or Superfeet insoles can be a really good idea. Designed for active lifestyles, they have great shock absorbing properties and better arch support than most ordinary insoles. Volume adjusters can also be placed underneath the insoles or footbeds to make the boots slightly smaller if necessary.
Most walking boot soles are designed to be anti-clog, but watch out for soles clogging up with mud and especially clay. You can suffer from a loss of grip if you do not stop and clean out the tread of your soles. Also remember that walking boots are not designed for constant road/pavement use or at work and if you do use your boots in these environments, it is likely that you will wear the tread of your boots out prematurely and loose out on the benefits of any guarantees.
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