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Choosing the right outdoor shoes

Before you throw yourself headfirst into looking for outdoor shoes online for next weekend's hike, stop and think about what shoes you need, as opposed to which ones will match your outdoor clothing.

Start off by asking yourself these questions: Where are you going? Will the terrain be muddy, snowy, rocky, smooth or full of puddles? How long are you going for? The longer your trip, the more supportive and durable your shoes should be. What will the weather be like? If you live in Britain, accurately forecasting the weather will be an impossible task, but getting a vague idea will mean you can prepare for all eventualities. How experienced are you at hiking? Beginners need more support than more experienced hikers, who usually have stronger feet, ankles and legs.

Different types of outdoor shoes

Once you've answered these questions you can begin to think about what category of walking shoes is most suitable for your activity and level of ability. To make things simpler, we've grouped together shoes by average weight. The key is to choose the correct amount of support at the lightest possible weight.

Let's start with the lightest: approach shoes are snug and supple and are used mainly for scrambling up rocks, as opposed to long hikes. Trail running trainers are also rather light and can be used for longer expeditions if worn by experienced hikers. They are not very durable and offer little support, but their light weight means the wearer wastes less energy dragging around a heavy load and can therefore focus more energy on actually going somewhere.

Now for the medium weighted shoes: hiking shoes are usually offer a medium amount of support, whereas hiking boots are usually a little heavier and support the ankle better. These have more resistance to mud and water than hiking shoes. Finally, in the "heavy" category we have backpacking boots and their upgrade: mountaineering boots. Both types are heavy, hardwearing and supportive - ideal for beginners on long hikes with heavy rucksacks. Mountaineering boots are often used in snowy or icy conditions.

Extra details to take into account

Another factor to take into consideration when choosing outdoor shoes is the materials they contain: leather uppers tend to be durable and waterproof, but they're a bit on the dear side and are less breathable than cheaper synthetic uppers made from polyester, nylon or faux leather - these wear out quickly and may let water in more easily, but don't let that put you off synthetic fabrics! You can buy shoes with a waterproof membrane, though these will not let your feet breathe much during warmer weather, so, before you buy, think carefully about what weather you'll be walking in. Next, the midsole: EVA midsoles are spongy, lightweight and cost-effective, but they aren't as durable as firmer and more expensive polyurethane ones. The choice of midsole all depends on the terrain: rocky routes will require more durability than grasslands.

Last but not least, the size and fit. An outdoor shoe should be snug enough for your heel not to slip out but your toes shouldn't touch the end of the shoe. It is generally recommended that you buy half a size larger than your everyday footwear because your feet swell more while hiking, but take into account that sizes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so look into the size thoroughly. Having said that, if you find that your shoes are a little too wide or too narrow, try buying thinner or thicker socks and insoles. When it comes to avoiding blisters and friction burns, 1mm could make all the difference. All in all though, it's much better to ask for size advice before you buy. Here at Keller Sports we can guide you through the different sizing systems and help you choose the right shoes for you - and not only for outdoors! We sell tennis shoes and running shoes too; why don't you check them out?