I recently bought a new pair of walking boots. I’ll tell you about my experience visiting MountainFeet, a local shop in Marsden, near Huddersfield, where I was sold a pair of boots that were right for my feet.
Walking Boots: Past and Present
I’ve had a pair of walking boots for as long as I remember. When I was young, my parents had a caravan near Lake Ullswater in Cumbria. I have all sorts of memories from this time, but right now, what springs to mind is my parents lacing up my walking boots (and my sister’s) while we questioned ‘but none of the other kids wear them, why should we?’
Now I realise the kids with the cool trainers (the sort of thing that we wanted to wear!) weren’t hiking around Ullswater like we were. They were playing in the park on the caravan site.
Our parents wanted my sister and I to have the right shoes for the job, as they took us for long walks up the fells and around the lake. My favourite walk from when I was young was Aira Force Waterfall to Dockray. I’m lucky enough to have booked a trip to take Leo and my sister-in-law, Sippy, up to Ullswater later this month – so keep your eyes peeled for this walk on Wild Walks with Wine.
I can’t remember I time when I didn’t have a good pair of boots. Some better than others, of course. Most of the walking that I do is in the UK and over the last few years I’ve gone for the full leather versions as they’re more waterproof. My last pair of boots were a £40 pair of standard Trespass leather(ish) boots who’s sole was coming away from the boot, leaving a gap for water to get in.
After years of dog walking and hiking in the Lake District, Northumbria and Yorkshire, I’ve come to find (not surprisingly) that:
- Having wet feet is awful
- Having blisters is worse
- You get what you pay for when it comes to boots.
I had a bit of good news this week (I got offered a job!!!) so in celebration, I thought I would treat myself to a new pair of boots – so rock and roll!
Word of mouth recommendation
On Wednesday last week, I did a short walk (3.6 miles) in Farnley Tyas with Max, Leo, my Mum and her next door neighbour Nicky. Nicky told us about MountainFeet in Marsden; she has had a few problems with her knees in the past and so needed something a bit more specialist when it comes to walking boots. She told us that Simon in the shop was excellent and very knowledgeable, and that there was a good range of walking boots on offer.
In all fairness – Nicky did tell my mum and I that we should ring before we went, but we rocked up at Mountain Feet unannounced, just as some other customers were leaving. ‘Great – he’s open’, we thought.
Yes he was open but his shop runs mainly by appointment only, so we waited as the next customer was seen to.
In the shop
While browsing the boots, running shoes and walking shoes he had on offer around the shop, I was picking out the ones I liked the look of. But I was also evesdropping slightly on his other clients conversation. It was clear that she’d been to the shop before, bought a pair of shoes from him and wanted a similar pair to what she already had. I could hear him telling her that they weren’t the best choice for her gait. I was intrigued as to what he was saying, and thought she must have been a customer of the podiatry clinic next door.
As we didn’t have an appointment, Simon immediately told us that he would do his best but he did have another appointment booked in 20 minutes or so, so he might be pushed for time. He was apologetic about this, but turns out that appointment didn’t turn up, lucky for us!
Mum went first. He measured her feet; think of when you tried on school shoes and they took out the measurer. Except way more involved. Simon was looking at her feet from a health perspective. He looked at the shape of her foot in a relaxed position, then got her to stand up and flex her toes. Straight away he was able to suggest a boot for her – she has super narrow feet. And she tried them on.
My mum had a wander around the shop in the boots he had suggested for her, while Simon had a look at my feet.
Turns out – my feet are just a slightly bigger (in both length and width) version of my mothers. Who’d have thought!? We have the same issue of fairly (but not overly) flat feet and both of us have big toes that curve outwards. He told us that this was a genetic thing, but… it’s also related to wearing shoes that are too small for you.
Apparently wearing poorly fitting shoes exacerbates the outwards curvature of the big toe which, as we get older, could potentially become a problem. Simon suggested some boots which I had actually picked out while browsing, just because I liked the look of them!
Trying them on
I actually ended up trying on a size 6 ½ (EU 40) – which is a full size bigger than what I would usually wear, but Simon assured me that the length was correct; it was the volume that was the issue.
I got around this by trying them with insoles – ones that would help support the arch of my foot, as well as correcting the issue with the volume inside the boot. When I tried these, they felt a much better fit, although a little weird for having that extra support in my arch. I was a little concerned that they would give me blisters under my arch, and basically its a trade off between what’s right for your feet and the alignment of your body, and what is comfortable to wear.
I left the shop with a pair of Scarpa Ranger Active Lite GTX, a pair of insoles, and a pair of socks – you can never have too many pairs of socks. My mum was planning to come back to the shop after Simon had ordered her a specific pair of boots in a narrower fit from the manufacturer.
We went on a short walk with the dogs along Marsden Canal, to test them out. They felt fine, if a little strange with the arch support.
The following day, I did 8 miles around Farnley Tyas, Stocksmoor and Thunderbridge, stopping at The Woodman for lunch. I didn’t have a problem with the boots at all. They are lightweight and waterproof and so far seem to be doing fairly well. They don’t look new and shiny any more though!
If you’re due a new pair of walking boots, I’d highly recommend a visit to MountainFeet. Most of the boots they have are quite pricey, but the old ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ thing definitely applies when it comes to walking boots! Obviously I’ve only had mine a few days, but have probably done about 25 miles in the already, so I think if there was a problem, I’d have noticed it by now.
When the time comes to replace them – I’ll let you know how long they lasted!
Thanks for getting to the end of this post – I’ll get round to posting my walk and review of The Woodman, Thunderbridge as soon as I can!