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Hiking Boots: Or how my travel footwear has come full circle

Ah, hiking boots. I’ve been thinking about these recently. In particular how my thoughts on hiking boots for travel have really evolved over the years. Or why I used to be a rubbish traveller.

For my first big backpacking trip, my ventures into Eastern Europe, I devoured all the guide books. (These were pre-internet times). And they all advised that one should wear hiking boots. So, as someone who was used to following the rules and advice in those days, I duly bought hiking boots alongside a backpack and sleeping sheet.

But looking back on it – most of the walking was city walking. Why did I need hiking boots? Truth be told, I hardly needed a backpack either.


My first trips and the out of place hiking boots

Fun was the order of the day for my earlier holidays. They were focussed on cities, pubs and nightclubs. I had a whale of a time at night clubs in places like Bratislava and Budapest. Yet when I look back at my wardrobe and footwear, I didn’t exactly dress appropriately. Now hiking boots are great for uneven terrain and rough slippy surfaces, but I wasn’t covering any of them. At this time in life, it was all about the town. I was not yet interested in nature or the countryside.

Looking back I am kinda shocked at how naive I was. Lemming like naive. Truth be told, I had no one to guide me. My family and friends weren’t travellers, so I went off the only information I could get. I bought hiking boots for the trip, wore them continuously for the trip then promptly never wore them again. They just disappeared from my wardrobe.

Getting into hiking

Fast forward 5 or so years. At some point in my 20’s, I discovered the joy of walking. And how much fun it was to just be outside. I could experience the countryside as nature intended and see the seasons evolve. I started to notice little changes that I had never noticed before. And they made me happy with life. Although actually, that might be a rose-tinted version of the story I tell myself. Memory can do that sometimes.

I believe the true version is that I had a dream of doing the Inca Trail as it looked awesome and exotic. Not to mention a feat of physical endurance and a challenge I wanted to succeed at. So I thought I’d better get in some practice in the UK. But the UK’s weathers is not really conducive to spending lots of time outdoors.

To counteract this, at this time I made a momentous purchase. My first cagoule, or waterproof jacket. And that prompted me to also buy my second pair of hiking boots. And these ones I actually used for years.

Getting into mountains

My early steps into the outdoors started an addiction. As well as pretty walks nearby, I was started to get into more challenging hikes. Adding a bit of gradient and tackling a few hills became a fun weekend out. As that Inca trail is not known to be very flat.

As any competitive addict knows, once you start on the hills, you end up on the mountains. I thought nothing of spending weekends in The Lakes, Snowdon or even the Brecon Beacons. And so to this day I still enjoy a good wander in the countryside and hike up a hill or two. And as such, always have a few pairs of muddy and well broken in hiking boots on the go.

Travel Footwear now

Which brings me to travels now. Whereas previously I wore hiking boots as I thought I should, today I wear them as I want to. I make a conscious choice in the selection and have not yet regretted it again.

My recent adventures in Georgia and Armenia were all done in hiking boots. It just seemed like the ideal choice. And similarly my Baltic adventures and Lviv trip were below zero and snowing, so obviously my winter hiking boots were the footwear of choice.

Moreover, I travel differently – country as well as city

The reasons why hiking boots seem more normal now is the increased range and variety of activities I do on holiday. I’m no longer obsessed with partying – getting up early is more important to me than staying up late. And now I spend more and more time exploring places on foot. 30k steps a day is normal when sightseeing.

And in walking around a lot, I’ve come to realise hiking boots are the best. They protect my delicate ankles really well and give great grip and traction. They are probably not going to win any fashion awards, but again I’m not exactly bothered about that either.

Additionally, as I’ve got more and more confident in my travels, I’ve been willing to go further and further from the cities. I love the countryside and getting to see rural life when travelling is so much fun and adds a different perspective. Not to mention I now look for day hikes and am confident enough to take a few risks and make up my own route with places I really want to visit.

How naive was I?

As I’ve come full circle on this item of apparel, it’s funny to see how I have changed and matured over the years. And things just become clearer.

There is no doubt, as I’ve aged I’ve been able to see things more clearly. And understand that some of my younger decisions were, shall we say it, a little circumspect. My critical thinking skills seem really bad and I seemed to just follow the guides blindly.

Over to you

  • What are your thoughts?
  • Do you ever look back at things you did and feel naive?
  • As you get older, do things start to make more sense?

Thank you for reading – please leave a comment below and join in the conversation. You can also connect on Twitter or contact me privately.

16 comments on “Hiking Boots: Or how my travel footwear has come full circle

  1. I’m a keen walker both at home and abroad so any holiday always has hiking boots. More recently however when heading to warmer climes (I’m from Scotland so most places are warmer climes!) I also take a pair of walking sandals for wearing at all other times, but that said I still like the protection of walking boots and are my choice for most hikes.

    It’s really about finding what works for you and it may not always be apparent when it’s the first time you do something. I doesn’t matter what age you are, I think we all learn from our own personal experiences better than any guide book.

  2. City walking is tough in hiking boots, all that weight and relative stiffness for not much win. In younger and more foolish days I climbed the tourist trail of Ben Nevis in office shoes. It was OK but tough on the ankles in the days after

    Interesting that you do city and nature when travelling, it’s a nice idea. I still do either or, but I have something to learn from you there!

    1. Hey Ermine – can’t believe you were one of those mad people climbing Ben Nevis in city shoes!

      And yes I love mixing up my holidays and travelling through the cities to see the best bits of nature.

  3. Hi Ms ZiYou, I’m more of a city walker myself, so I never saw much use for hiking boots. When traveling, I’m partial to my Doc Martens because they’re really comfy (once broken in), provide decent ankle support, and make me look more badass than I am 😉 That said, if you spend a lot of time in nature, hiking boots are totally worth it. Whatever works for you!

    1. Ah you have reminded me that I have, at the back of the wardrobe, a hardly worn pair of DMs I always say I will break in someday – perhaps when they are fashionable again?

  4. I have a love hate relationship with my hiking boots. My buddy and I have done a few sections of the Appalachian Trail and my feet came back absolutely mangled each time. I’ve changed boots a bit but it’s maybe just the name of the game? More likely, I need to keep shopping for boots.

    But now a days, I prefer a good tennis shoe/trainer if I have a choice. 🙂

    1. Hi DBF – wow, jealous you got to do some sections of the AT. It seems mythical and exciting as anything from here.

      I have had my share of mangled feet from hiking boots. The biggest tricks I learned were buying a size bigger and wear decent wool hiking socks. They have saved my feet. And I buy cheap hiking boots.

  5. Depends on your definition of hiking boots. My first pair were a very traditional pair of brasher boots. They only get worn in very wet weather now. Nowadays, I’m more likely to be found in something more akin to souped up trainer (hiking trainer?)

    For city walking in most climes, I’d probably use good walking shoes like Clarks Nature and in hotter ones, their walking sandals or potentially walking trainers.

  6. I’m sure there are a zillion ways I was naive (thinking I could live with a spender and/or “train” him comes to mind) that’d I’d cringe at now. Can’t say footwear is one of them though I definitely value comfort more these days in that arena. I’m likely to be found in sneakers at any given point.

    Glad you’ve come full circle if it means your values have evolved. That’s really most of what life is, I’m convinced: evolution of thought and belief.

What do you think?