I used to travel to Asia and warm climate countries so much, that I rarely needed to pack anything else than flip-flops and some other “summer shoes” for my trips. But then I got to work as a freelancer at an open-air show and heavy-duty shoes became a necessity. (Forget sneakers, those things didn´t survive more than a day in those circumstances. Besides, you´ll really appreciate having steel toe caps once someone accidentally drops that heavy box full of cables or other gear in front of you.)
But even though traveling isn´t the same as being a roadie, if you go on a trekking trip for the first time, or simply need really good walking waterproof shoes, here are some tips to get you started. (Still, I´d advise you to use google search. There are many websites from experienced travellers on this subject and it is never bad idea to get more opinions and choose the one that suits you.)
I took my working heavy-duty boots to my trip to Tuscany. Yes, that was the time I didn´t travel much and we wanted to do some trekking, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought they have everything needed – ankle support, waterproof, toes protection, warm enough…
Boy, were I wrong.
After couple of days, my feet were more uncomfortable as ever. I knew the shoes fit me – I had them for some time, that wasn´t the issue. But it turned out, that you need different shoes for different purposes. Who would have thought? 🙂
Although the additional ankle support was great and really saved me once or twice, the shoes were far to heavy for everyday walks and exploring. It almost never rained in Tuscany during the time we were there and the shoes were far too warm for that weather. (And obviously not breathable enough.) I ended up with blisters because my feet felt like being in sauna every day.
So please, please, think about the weather conditions and terrain you´re going to use your shoes in. Sometimes heavy leather or other waterproof materials are necessity. On the other hand, mostly what you really appreciate is lightweight materials.
I never did any ice hiking or climbing mountains (at least not any serious ones), so I´m not going to give you any advice on those boots, except that google can again be your friend here. (Besides, if you´re going to that kind of trip, you probably are experienced enough so don´t need advice on buying the right boots.)
For day hikes and so on, you can use running shoes. (Please, do avoid white sneakers when wandering through town. Really. My American friends, I´m looking at you especially! It´s just… simply no!) They´re light, have almost no ankle support and will probably not be waterproof, but are really comfortable and (once again) light. Remember you´ll be spending days in those shoes.
Stage two are hiking shoes – not running shoes anymore, but not yet boots. Sometimes waterproof – much, much lighter than boots, mostly low-cut. You can take them for long distance hikes and they don´t require any break-in time (or almost not any). Again, not that much of a protection.
Stage three – hiking boots. Good for light hiking or backpacking, mostly reach up the ankle and have thick sole. Usually waterproof. Good ankle protection. Some can be used in snow as well.
Stage four – I don´t own these my own. So mountaineering boots. These are required for (obviously) mountaineering, ice climbing, extreme hiking and so on. To buy these would be too much for anything other than that, really.
What was very important for me, was that the shoes remain waterproof (you need at least one pair of waterproof shoes!) and still light enough to carry them in my backpack or spending one-two days or more walking in them.
Second – the material must be easy to dry. Even though the shoes are waterproof, water still can get into them, or you´ll need to wash them (or simply your feet will sweat at some point), so it´s better if you don´t have to wait three days till your shoes will finally be dry enough to wear them, which can be real deal breaker if you have limited time to spend on your destination. (Road trip for example.)
I opted for the mid-cut boots. These offer some support for your ankles with moderate load on your back and are still light enough to wear, even if I only need some waterproof shoes during exploring the city.
I don´t remember the name of the first boots I had, but couple of years ago I bought something little bit lighter from GriSport- Mozzanica. The shoes are not too warm and protect my feet just enough. They are really light and breathable with vibram sole, I never got any blisters in them. After the right care, even waterproof. Besides, I like the color:). (Not that it´s any reason why to buy shoes, but I still am a woman, I have at least like them:)
Another important thing is sole. Many stores have boot-test area so you can try to walk in your potential new shoes on various of terrains. If you feel each bump uncomfortably or it just doesn´t feel right, search for other ones.
Beside of trying to walk in the new shoes, try to sit and squat, to see if the shoes doesn´t hurt or dig into your foot.
I guess, I don´t have to talk about how important it is to buy shoes that really fit. Just imagine yourself in middle of nowhere, with blister on your feet just because “they looked so nice in the shop and I didn´t want to look anymore”.
Take the kind of socks with you, that you plan to wear on your trip. If the sock´s doesn´t rub and fit perfectly with the shoe, you´re on the way to avoid blisters.
Ask the shop assistant how to care for the particular material your shoes are from. Cleaning, drying, waterproofing are things that can improve life and comfort of your shoes very much, even though people tend to forget about this.