These are the essentials, and make the difference between an enjoyable day out and the most excruciating agony, so don’t skimp. Fit and quality are vital, whatever the price. You only have to go Stumbling once in trainers to discover their limitations.
Our advice is to go to a specialist outdoor shop and explain that you want a pair of three-season walking boots. A good shop will have a ‘slope’ in their boot department; if they haven’t, go to a shop that does.
First choose a pair of walking socks, put them on, and start trying on boots at least one size bigger than your normal shoes. Lace them up fully and check that they are comfortable. Then stand on the ‘slope.’ This is to check that your feet won’t slide forward and cripple your toes when going downhill; the pressure should be taken by the tongue and lacing.
Regardless of the price, if the boots don’t fit perfectly don’t buy them. Good dealers will encourage you to wear the boots around the house for a few days and exchange them if you’re not completely satisfied with the fit.
The insoles, or ‘footbeds’ that come with the boots are usually pretty thin, but a wide range of alternatives are available, so you might try something like Sorbothane or gel footbeds. But these will be thicker, so it’s wise to try the boots on with these in place.
Finally, buy a spare pair of laces and a re-proofing kit. Nikwax is pretty much the market leader for fabric boots. Ledergris is the stuff to use on leather boots. Make a point of re-proofing your boots regularly.
Effectively part of the boot, so don’t skimp on these either. One of their principal functions is to wick sweat away; your feet perspire profusely when walking.
Any of the quality brands are worth considering. Double-layer socks may be helpful at preventing friction blisters.
Some people wear two pairs; a thin cotton inner and a thick wool outer.
Walking socks are specially made for the job, so don’t let your gran knit you a pair! Seams in the wrong places can rapidly cause blisters.