For those of us who walk, selecting good boots is probably the most difficult decision that we make. Whilst all other kit is binary – it either works or it doesn’t, like a stove or a waterproof – we never know about our boots until we have actually tried them in anger on an actual walk. Even then they may seem fine for the first few miles, or for a day walk. But how will they hold up to many days over varied terrain?
The choice is so very personal. Do we have wide feet, or balletically narrow? Are the toes on our right foot longer than those on the left? What about those seemingly large ankle bones that always rub? Of course we may also need to select boots for differing conditions such as the ability to take crampons.
I have struggled most of my life to find the right boots. The DMS boots issued to me in the Army were killers. The “improved’ version, the Combat High, was only marginally better. I had some fair success with a stout pair of Meindl boots which were much better suited to mountain walking than long trails. I used them on my 2013 walk to Santiago de Compostela, but I suffered various pains and blisters after a while. Eventually things settled, feet hardened and I wore them again (after a period in sandals and socks!!).
After the Camino, I searched for a replacement, seeking something lightweight and unsuccessfully tried some Scarpa boots which just didn’t size up correctly and caused problems after some miles, and another expensive pair of newer Meindl’s which again were not right and I gave them away.
Both my daughters successfully achieved Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards and as they got older and their feet stopped growing I gave them each a pair of Zamberlan boots. My eldest still has hers. Ten or more years on and after many, many miles, they have never given her any reason to complain. I thought maybe I should try Zamberlan next, but they are difficult to find. Last year I invested in a pair of Zamberlan 309 New Trail Lite GTX Walking Boots from Uttings Outdoors which is where I had bought the boots for my daughters. Since then I have walked over 500 miles in them, often day after day, carrying weight, and have never suffered from any pain or blisters. My lifelong search is over! Having said that, selecting good socks is also very important, but don’t worry I shan’t be showing you pictures of mine.
I thought that I would share this with you, as many of you will be walkers, and may experience the same problems that I have had. These boots are Italian and are therefore made on a small last. I am normally a size UK 11-11.5 (with narrow-ish feet) but I bought a size “Euro 48 – UK 12.75”. Size charts (and conversion charts) vary enormously so in essence I bought a pair at least one full size larger than normal. They are made from one piece of leather which means no seams to rub you, and the Gore-Tex lining works very well keeping my feet dry. Zamberlan make many other styles of boots (and Uttings appear to have the best range in the UK), but for support, comfort, and confidence, I cannot recommend my boots too much. So, if you are thinking about buying a new pair of boots consider these. But remember, we are all different, and what works for one may not work for another.
It would be great if you could join the debate and comment, telling us about your boot experiences!
Meindl Burma have always worked well for me.
When I worked in the bush – Northern BC and the Yukon – I always had stiff boots that basically clamped on your foot and gave you traction and support. That was absolutely necessary if you wanted to be goat foot sure on steep glacial slopes. I carried that mentality and those boots when I went to the Himalaya to work for three years and abandoned then quickly in favour of chinese canvas shoes and flip flops because of the humidity … and because that’s all the locals wore. A couple of years ago we walked half the french camino in just what you would call trainers and they did just fine. Lately I’ve been thinking of getting a stouter pair of boots so your post is topical … that hardest thing is to find a shop and staff that actually understand how to fit a shoe.
I am writing this after a day’s walk in the cheviot foothills. I have tried lots of boots and shoes over the years. All I can say is if they don’t fit they are no good. Regardless of reviews even though these can determine quality,waterproofness etc,if the don’t fit they are no good. At the moment I am wearing a pair of Brasher/ Berghaus Supalites and they are great. Light and comfortable for my wide feet. I try and treat them with a natural beeswax and this seems to work for me.
Indeed you are correct Bob, but getting a fit that is right is not easy for all. It depends on the feet and most of use do not have perfectly sized, symmetrical feet. The Zamberlan construction, with no seams helps a lot. It is an important discussion.
I totally agree. If they don’t fit then regardless of quality they are useless.
Try Le Chameau Condor. Very expensive but good.