It’s the school holidays, and for some of us, it’s time to get out there and see the countryside. Whether it be well defined tracks through forests, venturing off the beaten track or scrambling and scaling mountains, the correct footwear will be pivotal to the experiences your kids take home from these adventures, especially if they are first timers. Coming from a family keen on trekking I remember my first pair of boots and the weeks spent prior to our holiday ‘breaking in’ these heavy, thick leather boots. Many blisters later they would finally feel comfortable. Fortunately things have moved on from those days and in this short article I’m going to give you a few important tips in choosing the right trekking footwear.
There are a few things to consider first:
- What’s the terrain your walking on
- How long will you be walking
- Getting the correct fit
- Socks, socks, socks!
The type of terrain you will be walking on is an important factor. I always say that you need to increase support when the trekking gets more demanding. A short stroll on a track through a forest which is mainly flat and even would only need a trekking shoe without ankle support or a less stiff lightweight boot. For this walking scenario (where the going is not so tough) lighter is better making things easier, less tiring and more enjoyable.
high ankle support
If you are off the beaten track or scaling rocky terrain then I would always go for a stiffer trekking boot with ankle support. Obviously when the terrain gets rocky we need to protect our kids from twisted ankles and ruined holidays (the same goes for parents as well). The more demanding trekking often results in walking for many hours at a time. Kids tend to tire out quicker and start to get lazy with their footing (especially coming down hill at the end of the day) which increases the risk of a twisted or broken ankle. A stiffer boot that covers the ankle will protect your child against these injuries.
Once you know what type of boot to get then getting the right fit is important. Gone are the days when boots needed weeks to break in. With the help of manmade synthetic materials and Gortex, boots should feel comfortable from the box. Always buy boots from somewhere that allows kids to try many pairs on, lets you walk around the shop and has knowledgeable staff. Ideally the shop should have a small ramp to test walking up and down hill.
For sizing take the insole out of the boot (most hiking boots will have a removable insole) and get your child to step on it making sure the heel is in the correct position. You should have the width of your index finger from the front of the longest toe to the edge of the insole. The boot should grip the heel of the foot with minimal slipping when going up the ramp. Coming down the ramp the foot should not slide forward and the toes should be well clear from the front of the boot. Your child should feedback saying the boot “feels comfortable”. Buy boots at the end of the day rather than the morning. Always buy boots with time to do at least one walk before the holiday. Just to get them used to wearing them and if there are any issues you have time to fix them.
Don’t underestimate the power of the sock for your kids comfort when walking. Ignore the socks and welcome blisters on the first day! I always invest in good socks. There are many reasons why. Firstly a proper hiking sock is fitted with elastic under the arch and around the ankle and thicker padding at the toes and the heel. This means the sock will not ‘bunch up’ in the boot and it means the foot is getting extra padding wear it needs it most. Secondly the materials are such that they ‘wick moister away from the foot through the boot and keep you feet drier and more comfortable thus reducing blisters. Thirdly You can use the sock to help with the fitting of the boot. If your child has a skinny foot then you could use sock combinations to bulk up the foot, for example, a thin sock liner with an extra thick trekking sock will provide bulk. For the chubby foot then just one fitted sock with less padding at the toes maybe helpful.
I hope you find this article helpful. Enjoy your trekking!
Peter Barker, Senior Podiatrist