I’m planning a 780km hike: the Camino de Santiago, across the top of northern Spain. That’s 33 days of walking. Any wonder I’ve developed a fascination with shoes! Finding a shoe that fits is of paramount importance if I’m going to successfully complete this hike.
Hiking footwear can be ridiculously expensive, but money aside, these feet have carry me a long way, so it’s vital that I give them the best experience possible. I’m no hiker…I’ve only ever done half day hikes before, and I know nothing about hiking shoes! Not only is finding a shoe that fits important, but finding the right shoe for the right hiking conditions is also a factor. Never fear, experts abound…
What to consider
It seems that the things I need to factor in when finding a shoe that fits include: fitness, flexibility, length of hike, pack weight and terrain. I am in training already, so by the time I come to the hike, I’d expect to at least be of a medium fitness level. I have had issues with Achilles tendonitis and I feel like my ankles are much less flexible since then, so I guess I want something that will protect my ankle, but not aggravate the Achilles. I’m aiming for a 7kg pack, but definitely no more than 10kg. The terrain will be mixed…shale in parts, steep in parts, uneven in parts and leisurely and flat in other parts. At 780km, this will be no day hike!
What kind of shoe?
I need to work out what type of shoe will be best: hiking boot, hiking shoe, trail running shoe, cross training shoe, hiking sandal…who knew there were so many varieties to choose from. I’m a big believer in the right tools for the right job, so when looking at finding a shoe that fits, what exactly will I need?
Waterproof or not?
There are also things to consider such as the weight of the shoe (Light, medium, heavy), and whether or not waterproof shoes are the go. I would think that the lighter the shoe the better, especially after hiking all day for 33 days – any additional weight on your feet has got to contribute to a whole of tired and sore. Without a doubt, I will also face rain…so waterproofing sounds like a good idea, but I tend towards sweaty feet and I wonder about 1) breathability for my tootsies, and 2) how quickly they dry out if they do get wet. I guess I should also consider socks for comfort and gaiters for waterproofing…but I’ll leave these considerations for another blog.
The opinion of others
Campor says you need hiking boots if: 1) When trails are particularly rocky, covered in roots, or are made uneven by other objects in the trail; 2) When the trail is wet; 3) When there the possibility of rolling your ankle is high; 4) When trails are exceptionally steep; or 5) When hiking in the snow. Well, I know the Camino, in parts at least, will be rocky, uneven and steep. There will be no snow, but there could very well be rain. It looks like boots might be a good option then.
Adventures All Around have a blog that gives similar advice ‘A newbie hiker’s guide to the best hiking boots or shoes for your money’ They offer some suggestions when buying your footwear: 1) Use the same type of socks for testing the hiking boots/shoes you plan on wearing on the trail. It might not be a big deal but thickness of the socks can make all the difference; 2) Once you put them on without lacing them, make sure you can slip your index finger between your heel and the back part of the shoe; 3) Do the lacing afterwards and check out if you feel your heel moving backwards; 4) Your toes shouldn’t touch the front end when you walk around, even at sudden movements; and 5) Check if your heel and the shoes’ back end are moving together. You don’t want there to be any slipping going on inside. That’s just a blister waiting to happen.
CleverHiker says to “look for shoes that 1) feel immediately comfortable 2) have good traction 3) have enough sole padding 4) breathe easily and 5) will dry quickly.” This sounds like reasonable advice.
There are heaps of sites that compare the pros and cons of hiking boots, but Sole Labz has pretty comprehensive reviews included. This is the link to the women’s hiking boot reviews, but there is an equivalent men’s review page there too.
It seems that a good pair of hiking sandals could be a good idea too as a lightweight alternative when your shoes are perhaps wet, or when you want to give your feet some air, or as a comfy option around your overnight accommodation. Sole Labz have a good post about these sandals.
Kathmandu have a good blog about choosing hiking boots and shoes that is worth a look too.
Finding a shoe that fits…me
I’m still not sure which boots I will choose, but at least I feel more armed with knowledge to help me in finding a shoe that fits!
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