Buying the Right Hiking Boots

I went down that familiar track and bought the wrong hiking boots. Take a lesson from me; if they feel right, they are! Buy the right hiking boots! 

Let me set the scene, I was climbing the UK National 3 Peaks for charity. I needed some walking boots that were going to see me through the 24-hour challenge. Ben Nevis (Scotland), Scafell Pike (England) & Snowdon (Wales) – I needed support and comfort in my boots. They needed to fit like an old glove.

I was prepared and started looking to buy my boots months before the 3 Peaks hike. I knew they needed breaking in and seasoning to avoid any pinching, rubbing and blisters. I took myself to a small hiking and outdoors shop in Holmfirth. I spoke with the owner of the shop, she suggested a pair of boots from a brand I had never heard of, but the leather hiking boots were crafted in a town in the Alps. This should have been the first sign!

I let her know that I suffer from my feet cramping when I go walking/ hiking, and she advised I was likely wearing boots too narrow for my feet (I have fairly small – UK 5 ½ or EU 38 - but wide feet, very attractive!). You need to get to know a brand that has the right last for your feet, she advised.

So I tried them on. I popped my right foot into the boot and it felt like a slipper! The other foot felt the same (for those who have different sized feet like me). Sturdy Vibram outer sole, cushioned inner and supportive around the ankle. Surely, these boots were too good to be true. How can I describe them – brown leather, very simple and understated? Nothing fancy to the walking boots at all. But they fit! The price? £100-150 (we’re talking nearly 10 years ago now), pretty much middle ground for the type of boots, and worth the investment I’d say. 

This is when I did my usual – ‘I’ll think about it’. I can only think it was 2 weeks or so until payday, I had a brain fail or maybe because they were the first bloody boots I’d tried on. But I chose to NOT BUY THE BEST HIKING BOOTS EVER!!!!

A few weeks went past; I was doing practice hikes in my faithful Merrell approach shoes. Really, really comfy but as the name describes – they are meant for your approach to the mountain not the real deal. I still needed the hiking boots – time was now of the essence.

Off I went to another local outdoor store, BAC Outdoors in Elland, a legendary place for all skiers, hikers and snowboarders alike in West Yorkshire. Now I got down to the business of buying the boots. I was there to purchase. Same story with the cramping feet, and off we go to try the boots on. Walk up and down the little stony ramp that outdoor stores have to simulate hiking. I cannot remember how they fit on that day but I bought the hiking boots. The wrong hiking boots!

This a tale about the person who decided to buy the wrong boots. Not the boots themselves, or the shop I bought them from. Simply the decision I made.

It is not about the service in the store (excellent as always), the boots themselves (insert brand schpeel here). The aforementioned boots were broken in, but almost immediately I had heel rubbing, toe pinching and the tongue slipped round my ankle causing a front pinch! I bought some replacement inner soles, hoping those would help. Nope.

They climbed 1 of the 3 peaks, Ben Nevis. I wore them because I had bought them and worn them in. My left knee was shot when I finished, and I was an hour later off the mountain than everyone else (due to knee issues and said uncomfortable boots). I then had to jump straight into the bus for a 4 hour, overnight drive to Scafell Pike.

By the time we arrived, my knee had seized up completely and I couldn’t hike. I hobbled round the foothills. This and a dose or 2 of Ibuprofen did the trick, and by the time we got to Snowdon (where I had completed 2-3 of my practice climbs) I was able to complete this one too – in my trusty Merrell’s! I even ended up running a section of the decent, something unachievable I thought!

The moral of this story, if the shoe (or in my case walking boot) fits, buy it. Even if it is the wrong time of the month for payday, do the sensible thing – buy the boots that your feet and gut instinct tells you to! I still have the wrong bloody boots! They have been worn a handful of times. They have even made it on our big move to Australia.

Why you may ask – I still think they will break in! Every time the same thing, a change of socks or insole makes no difference. The boots don’t fit and never will. I also never will (unless of a miracle) be in possession of the right boots! Sorry (brand) boots, but you need to be gifted to charity or someone who has slim, small feet or feet that are not mine.