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Boot FAQ (v.1.5)


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Archive-Name: uk/walking/boots
Posting Frequency: 28 days
URL: http://www.drabble.me.uk/usenet/urw-boot.shtml

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UK.REC.WALKING Frequently Asked Questions (Boots) 

Version 1.5 Last Updated Monday 30th December 2002 

This FAQ contains material pertaining the acquisition of boots 
designed for and appropriate for country and hill walking. 

THINGS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO KNOW ABOUT BOOTS 

We often get questions along the lines of 'Which boot should I 
buy ?'. There's no really hard and fast rules other than you get 
what you pay for. Good boots do cost a lot of money but you 
can avoid paying over the odds for your chosen pair by 
shopping around for the best price. Without going into an 
enormous amount of detail, here are some things that you 
might consider. 

Fit
The fit of the boot is the most important factor in considering
a purchase. Boots made outside the UK (especially Italy) are 
often a narrower fit than boots made in the UK. Apparantly British 
people have wide feet so if you try on a non-British boot and it's 
a bit of a squeeze try and find a boot made in the UK. Regardless, 
try on as many boots as you can in the price range you can afford 
as no two boots will be the same anyway.

Size 
Most people will require a boot that is larger than their normal 
shoesize. A good rule of thumb is, while wearing a pair of socks 
that you intend wearing with your boots, put your intended 
purchase on your foot *without* lacing it up. Now push your foot 
forward so that your toes touch the toe of the boot. If you can 
comfortably fit a finger or thumb into the gap between your heel 
and the heel of the boot then the boot is probably the right size. 
The toe gap allows you to descend a slope while taking your body 
weight on the instep of your foot rather than your toes. Move your 
heel well into the heel cup of the boot and lace it up, making 
sure that you're not lacing too tight. Walk around the shop to see 
if the heel of your foot 'rises' within the boot despite being 
laced up. A significantly rising heel will probably blister on even 
the smallest walk and the boots are unlikely to ever be comfortable. 
The rising is caused through a combination of the stiffening of the 
sole of the boot and too large an instep gap in the boot cavity. 
The foot flexes away from the stiffened sole into the instep gap 
causing the heel to rise. If you have already bought a boot that 
permits too much movement consider fitting it with a padded footbed 
to reduce the amount of space in the boot. Extra socks may also help 
but the footbeds will reduce the amount of vertical space in the 
boot without affecting the other dimensions. If a footbed 
uncomfortably restricts the space available in the toe of the boot 
then consider using heel pads. Some insoles double as a shock 
absorbing medium. Specific brands include Sorbothane, Eagle Rock 
and Superfeet. The author's own preference is for Sorbothane which 
has been found to be both extremely comfortable and very long 
lasting. 

Midsoles
A midsole is piece of stiffened material, usually nylon, that is 
incorprated in the sole of the boot. If you intend doing a lot of 
hill walking then a boot with stiffened midsole will help 
considerably in stopping your feet from getting tired too quickly. 
Some boots have significantly stiffened midsoles and these will also 
permit the use of walking crampons if you are going to go winter 
walking. If all you are going to do is low level walking then a 
moderately stiffened midsole will probably prove sufficient when 
something quite stiff will probably prove uncomfortable. 

Material 
Leather or Fabric ? Fabric was trendy for a while but *most* people 
have found it to be less hard wearing and reliable than leather. 
It's still pretty good for summer walking though. If buying leather 
then boots made from a single piece are less prone to leaks but are 
correspondingly more expensive. Multi-piece boots, usually 
manufactured from the off-cuts of single piece boots, need a bit 
more care but are cheaper. 

Seasons 
A 4 season boot is one that is designed for all-year-round use but, 
in that it is suitable for winter walking, it is likely to be too 
heavy and warm for comfortable summer walking. A good 3 season boot 
will cope with non-extreme winter walking and, if stiff enough, will 
take a walking crampon while still being light enough to be 
comfortable in all but the hottest weather. 

Breathable linings
Many manufacturers these days offer at least one model of boot in 
thier range which incorporates a breathable lining. The most common 
lining is Goretex but there are others. Theoretically the lining 
permits the foot to breathe while minimising the liklihood of wet 
feet. In reality breathable linings offer minimal improvement on the 
basic design of boots and make the care of the boot more complex. 
All boot linings are prone to abrasion by the foot and breathable 
linings are no different. The lining is thus unlikely to remain 
intact physically for more than a fraction of the potential lifetime 
of the boot structure. In fabric boots the lining can become clogged 
with the fine dust that penetrates the nylon shell or even by spray-
based boot care products. Also, breathable fabrics work through 
vapour pressure differential. A waterlogged outer shell is likely to 
have a much higher vapour pressure than the inside of the boot 
causing water to migrate *into* the boot eventually. Linings in leather 
boots are likely to be more effective while they last but a well built 
and looked after leather boot can offer all of the characteristics 
offered by breathable liners while at the same time being infinitely 
more robust. Many feel that it's a gimic aimed at parting the unwary 
purchaser from thier readies but if the boot is only intended only for 
occaisional, light use and is unlikely to be used so heavily so as to 
threaten the physical integrity of the liner then it may be worth the 
added expense.

Service 
A good shop will let you try the boots on in the shop and will 
invariably provide you with some walking socks to use while doing 
so. They will let you pay for the boots and take them home so that 
you can wear them around the house for a couple of days. If they 
turn out to be really uncomfortable then, as long as they have not 
been taken outside the house or damaged in any way the shop 
should either allow you to exchange them or give you your money 
or a credit note back. Don't take our word for it though, check with 
the shop before you buy. 

Boot Care 
There is a wide range of footwear care products that are designed 
to be used in conjunction with the usual cleaning described below. 
Look for the following; 

Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather (the original Nikwax)
Nikwax Aqueous Wax for Leather
Nikwax Nubuck and Suede Waterproofing
Nikwax Fabric and Leather Waterproofing
Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel
Nikwax Conditioner for Leather (restores suppleness)

Grangers NT Footwear Protector (for all materials)
Grangers NT Footwear Conditioner (for leather)
Grangers NT Footwear Cleaner
Grangers Footwear Proofer (Spray -for leather, nubuck, suede and fabric)
Grangers Footwear Conditioner (Spray for nubuck and suede)
Grangers Footwear Cleaner (Spray)
Grangers G-Wax Beeswax Proofing for all smooth leathers (Spray or Wax)
Grangers Leather Conditioner
Grangers G-Sport Waterproofer (Spray - for all materials)

Caring for leather boots: Some manufacturers these days coat their 
boots with a hydrophobic substance which is an effective repellent 
for water but which will eventually wear off. The boot should be 
periodically cleaned in warm, clean water and allowed to dry 
naturally ( as opposed to dry by placing next to a heat source). 
Leather boots should *never* be force-dried as it will encourage the 
leather to crack) before applying one of a number of different 
waterproofing/conditioning substances all of which have their merits 
and demerits; Natural Wax (Dubbin) is readily absorbed but may 
cause the leather to become overly pliable with prolonged use. 
Synthetic Wax (eg. Nikwax) is best applied with the fingers as the 
warmth makes it easier to apply. Liquid Repellents ( eg. Liquid 
Nikwax ) are applied with a brush and do not have to be 'forced' 
into the stitching of the boot. Prolonged application of liquid 
reppellent may also cause the leather to become overly pliable. If 
your boots get really wet then you should stuff them with newspaper 
to draw any water out of the liner while the leather is drying. The 
newspaper should be replaced periodically. 

Caring for nubuck leather: Dried in a similar fashion to ordinary 
leather boots but to clean, wash in warm, soapy ( non-detergent ) 
water with a soft brush. While still damp ( as opposed to wet or dry ) 
apply a liquid repellent like Liquid Nikwax. 

Caring for fabric boots: Care of fabric boots is pretty much the same 
as for leather. If they are not waterproofed you can use a water 
repellant such as Grainger's G-Sport, which you simply spray on 
when the boots are clean and dry. You need to apply a couple of 
coats and allow a few hours for the boots to fully absorb it. The 
coating should be re-applied as necessary, e.g., after you have 
washed and dried the boots. To keep the boots clean, simply brush 
off any excess mud, and then wash them in clean warm water. The 
best way to dry them (as with leather boots) is to stuff them with 
paper and leave them in a warm place. You can get away with 
putting fabric boots next to a heat source to dry but beware any
leather or suede reinforcing patches. If the boots are a fabric/suede 
mix, you can use a special brush to revitalise the nap of the suede 
bits. You should do this before applying any water repellant. 

Socks
It's logical to chuck in a short discussion about socks when talking
about buying boots. Unfortunately there's loads of different ones 
and you can't really try them on and take them back in the same 
way you can boots. It's unlikely that you'll find your preferred sock 
the first time you buy. It may take years which is a pain when these 
days walking socks cost a pretty penny. As a general rule, modern,
cushioned walking socks are designed to be worn as a single pair but
if a single pair does not afford your feet either the protection or
the comfort that you require then consider wearing a pair of thin
inners underneath them. You can buy sepcial inners, they'll be on
the same shelf as the outers, but these are expensive and you may 
just require a thin pair of cotton sports socks. The theory is that 
the inner and the outer will move relative to each other as you walk. 
This significantly reduces the risk of abrasive blistering. Beware, 
however. In hot weather this combination is likely to cause excessive 
sweating which in itself can lead to blistering. Reputable names in the
sock manufacturing arena include both Thorlo and Bridgedale. They are
not cheap. You get what you pay for. 

And a final word
Is it really a boot that you need ? There is a presumption that
if you are going out into the hills then you should have a 'stout
pair of walking boots' but the experience of many people is
that while there are many circumstances in which boots are a
must there are just as many where they clearly are not the best
thing that you could have on your feet. Lugging around an 
extra Kilogram or more on each foot on a dry, warm day is
perhaps not the best strategy when a pair of well-made, 
lightweight cross-trainers or even walking sandals might well
make the whole experience even more enjoyable than it
would be in boots.

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