Whether you’re going out on an extended trek or a short woodland walk, what you wear on your feet is one of the most important things that you need to consider. Making sure you have the right footwear allows you to enjoy your time outdoors in comfort, it can be dangerous if your footwear isn’t suitable.
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– The weather or climate you’ll encounter
– The terrain where you plan to walk
– The comfort and fit
Bearing all these factors in mind will allow you to make the best choice for you and help you have the best possible experience on your walk or trek.
So why choose walking shoes over walking boots? Walking shoes will often be a lightweight option, when compared to most walking boots. They are ideal if the route of your trek or hike is relatively flat with little to no climb, where heavier walking boots might slow you down. As walking shoes are less restrictive they are useful when being a little more nimble is required. Walking shoes are also more suited to summer when the weather is likely to be good.
Walking shoes are more flexible and versatile than a boot but do offer less ankle support and protection. It often comes down to personal preference. Many people find that the additional support offered by a boot gives them more piece of mind. A boot will protect you from going over on your ankles and twisting them.
Find out more about walking boots in our walking boot guide.
Walking shoes can come in many different styles- some very basic with few features and higher specification shoes with many of the features you’d find with a pair of walking boots. Not all walking shoes will be waterproof or breathable and the materials used, most notably for the sole, will differ. This is more than likely to be reflected in the cost of the shoes.
The upper refers to the upper most part of the shoe (typically above the sole) and can be made from leather, suede or other fabrics such as mesh.
The insole is the padded base that sits directly under your feet (the bit that you can pull out) and is also referred to as the foot bed. These will often be made using a high density EVA foam which provides ample cushioning between your feet and the ground. Insoles can differ depending on the shoe you choose, some will provide more cushioning than others. Insoles will lose their shape over time as well and may need changing to avoid causing any damage as they will no longer provide the necessary protection.
The midsole of the shoe sits between the outsole and the inner sole. The midsole is designed to provide cushioning and shock absorption as well as protection from sharp objects under foot. The midsole is often made of EVA or Phylon. EVA is lightweight and comfortable and a Phylon midsole is a denser material and will offer up a higher level of comfort over a longer period of time.
Walking shoes can have a variety of different soles (referred to as the outsole) depending on what they have been made for. The majority will be made using a variety of rubber compounds, certain compounds are designed to have better traction and durability than others. A lightweight, thin sole, often found in walking shoes, will wear quickly and provide less grip but will be a lot more flexible and lighter weight.
You will find some walking shoes will have the same soles as those found on walking boots. These sturdier soles will provide a higher level of traction and durability. Vibram is probably the most well-known high performance outsole. Vibram soles are made from a compound of rubber, silicone and carbon, which is similar to that used in the production of car tyres.
Heel and toe bumpers are designed both to protect your heels and your toes from rocky terrain and guard the shoe from damage (increasing the shoes life span).
Walking shoes will be made using leather/suede or fabric upper- sometimes they will be a mixture of the two. Walking shoes made with a suede and mesh upper will be more breathable and lighter weight than more traditional leather shoes. Full leather shoes are often the heavier option of the three whereas fabric is often the lightest.
Leather shoes, just like boots, will be more durable compared to fabric. However, this does make them heavier and harder to break in. Fabric boots can be very light and flexible and are very easy to break in.
|Tougher material so will cope in more abrasive areas||Heavier|
|Fully covered so will protect from elements well||Often more expensive|
|Easy to clean||Takes time to wear in|
|Long lasting if cared for properly||Less breathable than non-leather|
|Lightweight||Doesn’t give as much protection against the elements|
|Highly Breathable||Not as good in abrasive areas as leather footwear|
|Generally cheaper than leather||Harder to clean|
|Less wearing in required||Need reproofing regularly|
Walking and running shoes may look similar, but they are designed for two different purposes; the key difference being in the cushioning.
When you walk, your heel contacts the ground first in the typical heel to toe motion, so the heel will absorb most of the shock. Walking shoes therefore have a thicker, often beveled heel (that improves stability) but are more flexible towards the ball of the foot which helps the walker push off.
In contrast runners land flat footed so the cushioning is across the whole sole which are much stiffer. Running is also a much higher impact exercise than walking and the thicker soles act as shock absorbers. They will also be lighter weight and have greater arch support.
It is not advisable to wear walking shoes to run in, it is however acceptable to walk in running shoes. It is worth bearing in mind that the thicker sole on running shoes may be more of a tripping hazard when walking.