Footwear is one of the most important pieces of outdoor gear you should own. Without it, your feet are in for a bumpy ride. But with so many types of footwear out there, and such a variety of features and technologies to choose from, it's hard to know what it is you’re looking for. Here at Millets we feel that it’s important to know the details before choosing your pair as having the right footwear ensures your feet remain comfortable and fully supported in the great outdoors for years to come.
In this guide we aim to fill you in on everything you need to know about each different type of outdoor footwear, so then hopefully you can see the type that suits you most and take the first step on your outdoor adventure!
A good pair of hiking boots is essential when it comes to taking your stride to the next level. Picking the right pair of hiking boots is different from picking a new pair of normal shoes however, where style usually takes top priority. Hiking boots are different all together, you want to choose for purpose, meaning you want to find the boot with the best support for you and your feet. Consider a range of factors such as what terrain will you be tackling? What conditions will you be hiking in? or what foot shape do you have?
In order to know which walking boot is best for you, you first need to actually understand the walking boot. Knowing each components of a hiking boot will help you figure out exactly what type of boot it is you need. The anatomy of a hiking boot can be broken down into four key components:
- The Outsole – Most likely the first thing you'll look at when choosing a new pair of hiking boots. The outsole is the strip of rubber at the bottom of the boot which also features the tread. Tread patterns will vary from boot to boot but all serve a purpose for certain terrain types. Shallow treads are best suited for rocky paths where chunkier patterns are better for mud.
- The Midsole – Sitting between the insole and the outsole, the midsole is the shock absorber of the shoe, designed to cushion and support your feet with every step you take.
- The Upper – The upper of a boot is everything above the midsole on the outside. Usually, uppers are made from sturdy and reliable materials such as a hard-wearing leather. Alternatively, synthetic fabrics are commonly used to create more lightweight boots.
- The Lining – Hiking boots can commonly be found with a waterproof liner, such as GORE-TEX®, which enhances the boots waterproof ability and further protects your feet from the elements, however waterproof liners do compromise on breathability.
Walking shoes are similar to hiking boots in how they should be chosen for purpose and practicality rather than just their style. Walking shoes are ideal for smoother and flatter terrains because of their lightweight construction, giving you extra manoeuvrability without dragging you down. The weight of the shoe is also an important factor when the seasons change as lightweight footwear is better for warm temperatures, while heavier walking shoes and boots will be ideal to wear in the winter due to the extra insulation in them.
Walking shoes follow the same anatomy of a boot, however, won’t always have a waterproof lining in them, therefore making them better suited to drier weather. Having no liner does provide some benefits however, for one it makes them more breathable, which is very useful during the dry summer months. The sole on walking shoes also tend to be slightly thinner than those on walking boots, offering less protection but better manoeuvrability. All in all, walking shoes generally provide a little less protection with more practicality, but if you choose a pair wisely, you can end up with an excellent all-rounder shoe that provides reliable protection, purpose and support.
Trail Running Shoes
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a growing trend in hikers picking up a pair of trail running shoes to replace their old reliable walking boots. Trail running shoes have been continuously developed over the years and were once a specialist item that only avid running fanatics would buy, and yet now they’re a go-to choice for a wide range of outdoor activities! Despite this obvious trend though, it still begs the question, are trail running shoes really a viable replacement for a pair of classic reliable walking boots?
Let's say it how it is to begin with, you’re not getting the same level of protection that you would with a good pair of hiking boots, this is down to their size and purpose, but that's not to say that boots are automatically the better option. Trail running shoes are made from much lighter materials and will usually have a thinner and more lightweight sole as well, so chances are they won't stand up to the same amount of rigor that a pair of walking boots could. So why even consider trail running shoes in the first place if boots offer more support?
Well due to the lightweight materials and their more compact size, trail running shoes offer a lot more flexibility, resulting in a better range of movement. You can also keep light on your feet as the materials weigh so little. It's all down to personal preference really, if you prefer to be quick and nimble on your toes then trail running shoes are definitely the one for you, however, if you're tackling more challenging terrain that requires you to have support, then a good pair of walking boots are going to be much more up your street.
There's also an option available out there for the more casual walker, especially one who likes a nice walk by the beach. Sandals have the most flexibility and manoeuvrability of all our footwear types, but offers very little support as a compromise, this makes them ideal for easy, urban terrain such as along the beach or just strolling around town, but not so great when it comes to rockier and more uneven terrain.
We hope that little guide clears a few things up for you and provides all the information you need when choosing your next pair of footwear. We offer a fantastic range of footwear that includes all the different types of shoes, boots and sandals that we’ve discussed here in this guide, our range also features all the latest technologies designed to keep your feet protected, supported and comfortable. Have a look now and find yourself a pair that suits your needs only at Millets!