Many a holiday crashes in ruins with these words “I can’t walk another step – my feet are killing me!” Travellers, tourists and even day-trippers need the best, most comfortable shoes that money can buy: shoes that don’t tire your feet, have a good grip even on wet and slippery surfaces, give good support, and are light. And yet are not expensive.
Many holidaymakers walk much more on holiday than they usually do, so cool, lightweight footwear that is easy to wear and does not require extensive “running in” is going to be a great help.
Good walking shoes are helpful even if you have not planned a very energetic holiday. The foot has a whole bunch of bones that are held in place by ligaments. Without support from your footwear those ligaments have to work hard to keep the foot in shape. That quickly results in tiredness. Once your feet are tired you put more pressure on your knees and back and your risk of injury increases.
Our recent article Suitable shoes for trouble-free travel covered a number of popular footwear options. For many people there is an even better option than cross-trainers: walking shoes, or hiking shoes.
One could be tempted to think that hiking boots are the answer. For most travellers however they are overkill – often too heavy, too chunky and the fashion sense can make you look like you are on your gap-year. If you are already accustomed to hiking boots, go right ahead – they will serve you well, and you can do little better.
Enter the walking/hiking shoe. These are light-weight, sturdy, and have a gauze top that breathes, which prevents your feet from getting too hot and sweaty. That also means that it is easier to be in the same room as the shoes after a long walk!
A good hiking shoe has the following additional features:
- A sole that supports the instep (unlike tennis shoes) which helps one walk or stand for longer without getting foot fatigue.
- A stiff sole, resistant to twisting, so your feet are not going to be hurt when walking over uneven ground.
- A sturdy heel counter, so the shoes do not slip about on your feet.
- They are lower cut than a boot and the rims are padded for a comfortable snug fit under the ankles.
- The soles have a ribbed profile for a sure grip in wet conditions and rough paths in a Open Air Museum.
- Plus, they don’t come in the gaudy colours of some running shoes!
Walking shoes for fair weather
For summer wear, perhaps with occasional showers and puddles, get an open mesh, neutral coloured, medium-priced walker. Don’t buy too cheap – you get what you pay for! It will serve to traipse through cathedrals, museums, parks and open-air museums and will be just right to wear to “off-off Broadway” shows.
Walking shoes for wet weather
It is said that there are places in Ireland where it rains just twice a week: once for three days and the other time for four days! For wet places like that, get enclosed walkers link those shown in the photo above. If you get them in black they can also serve as formal footwear when you get an unexpected formal invitation, perhaps to listen to the fourth movement of Mahler’s Fifth played by your host on a banjo at the Town Hall.
If you are lavish and get both mesh-topped walking shoes and closed walkers, they will see you through every situation except deep mud. You probably only need to take one type with you on an average holiday though.
Well-constructed walking shoes are long-lasting, so you money will be well-spent. The shoes in the photo above have already been in service for many months and have walked a few hundred kilometres but show few signs of wear, even on the soles.
If you are planning an extensive hike then you should take a spare pair of shoelaces. We recommend that you also keep four cable ties in your backpack. They take up no room but can be used to hold your shoes together if you suffer the unlikely but debilitating problem of the soles of your shoes becoming unstuck. Think of them as a “spare wheel” for your shoes.