For the keen walker there is an enormous range of walking boots currently available. Not only are there heavy, robust boots for rugged conditions but also lighter boots for summer walking trips. While traditional leather uppers remain popular, in addition new lighter, “breathable” waterproof fabrics are now used. Walking boots are increasingly available to suit almost any sort of feet, whether you need narrow or wide fittings, it is essential that you choose the correct footwear. Walking in the wrong boots can be pure hell.

Therefore it is vital to get the balance right; purchasing incorrect footwear can lead to serious foot problems. Generally made out of slightly tougher leather or a combination of tougher synthetic materials and leather parts, walking boots are intended for anything from rough trails to light off-trail terrains.

Their increased support should also help on longer or even multi-day hikes as the sole and the general construction are less flexible than ordinary boots thus giving increased support to your ankle and bridge.

Bear in mind that these boots usually require a ‘breaking in’ period before you use them for real, as they may cause discomfort if you are not used to having your footwear reach that high up your leg.

Quality walking boots are normally built around a shaped model foot known as a “last”. The quality of the lasting, and the time that each upper spends on the last, is crucial in giving boots their shape and fit.

Many of the better boot-makers have lasts that are made to specifically suit British feet, with specific lasts for both men and women, the latter reflecting the generally more slender female foot.

Modern walking boots are manufactured by combining a unique blend of traditional boot making skills and modern technology. It is however, the boot maker’s skills that differentiate quality boots from cheaper boots. Also selecting the correct grade workable leather to meet the end use requirements of the boot is another essential and highly specialist skill as this will affect the quality of the finished boot.

Check carefully the type of soles on your boots. Most walking boot soles generally have a quite open tread pattern to allow for natural cleaning and avoid clogging in muddy terrain. The cleat pattern is fairly shallow to ensure that the boots are as lightweight as possible. The rubber used tends to combine cushioning with good wear properties, as well as impact protection zones, which are built into the sole to keep the boots comfortable and to minimise jarring.

On more rugged or mountainous going however be sure to buy boots with a proper tread, this is essential for safe, secure walking that can involve a bit of climbing. Many dangerous slips occur when travelling downhill. Make sure the boots you intend to purchase have a deep tread. Many high performance boots now feature a square cut heel with deep tread pattern, or rows of teeth on the heel; rounded heel designs without a deep tread design can be very risky on steep ground. On the whole, boots for hill walking and trekking should flex fairly easily toe to heel but remain stiff from side to side.

Fitting your boots correctly is very important for your future comfort. When laced, the boot should hold firmly around your entire foot without it feeling too cramped, your heel should not move, and your big toe should not be pressing against the uppers. It is always best to try your walking boots with the socks you intend to wear, before leaving home.

Using the right socks with your walking boots will make all the difference to foot comfort. Good socks should cushion and protect your feet, helping to keep them dry and blister free.

Be sure to try on both boots, most of us have slightly different sized feet, so while one boot may feel great the other could be too tight. Tightness is a good reason why you should try on boots in the afternoon, rather than the morning, as this is probably when your feet will be at their most swollen.

If the boots that are the correct length, but feel too floppy this can usually be improved by inserting thicker linings. Don’t always believe what you read, a boot that has had rave reviews may not be the best boot for you, if it doesn’t suit your foot shape, or fit you properly, it is bound to cause discomfort and disappointment. Although modern boots usually feel quite comfortable when new, you should still wear them in before you undertake a major walk in them, so that the uppers soften and the boot moulds to your foot.

Finally quality walking boots are not cheap, they are a long-term investment and caring for your boots properly is essential. Since they are what can keep you going to the completion of a long and tortuous journey on foot you must at all times keep your boots as supple and as waterproof as possible.

To enable you to walk in comfort over almost any terrain your boots should be kept clean and ready for action. If they become wet fill them with scrunched-up newspaper and place them away from direct heat to dry out, before polishing them. Try to look after your boots in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions or those of a top-class boot product; it will pay dividends in the end.