Camping 101: If Your Feet Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy

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Getting out and enjoying nature is one of the most enjoyable aspects of camping. Here’s the least enjoyable: finding yourself in the great outdoors with the worst instrument-of-torture footwear since wooden clogs.

There are many factors that go into the science of building and buying hiking shoes. We have no clue about any of that, so we’ve included an excellent link that gets into those issues in detail. Here’s what we do know:

  1. Comfort. If your feet ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. The most staggering natural phenomenon is so much background noise if your dogs are barking. Those shoes may cost a mint and  be designed for trekking Mount McKinley, but if they pinch your toes or rub blisters on your ankles, they are goners. Try them on before you buy, walk around in them as much as possible. If the store has a little fake hill you can try, don’t be afraid to show ’em what you’ve got. Above all, make sure your feet are comfortable. Leather takes longer to break in than nylon and other materials, but if they feel terrible now, don’t count on that changing.
  2. Fit. Remember way back when, when the shoe salesman had a little machine to x-ray your foot for size? Yeah, that was stupid. They’ve learned a thing or two since the 50s, so rely on your salesperson to properly fit your shoes and tell you what you need to know about snugness, toe wiggle-room, ankle height, etc. Be sure the salesperson is knowledgeable about hiking shoes, though, not just someone that popped in off the street because the store was air conditioned.
  3. Tread. The more nooks and crannies in the bottom of that shoe, the longer they will probably last, and the longer you will probably last if you start skidding in gravel or on your way down a hill. Leave the slick-bottomed shoes to the dance floor, because ‘tripping the light fantastic’ takes on a whole new meaning on the trail.
  4. Bargain. While it’s true you get what you pay for, sometimes you get a whole lot of what you don’t want. Be sure you’re not buying heavy, winter mountain-climbing boots if you’re only planning delightful summer day jaunts. Also, as in all things, remember what your mother told you: it doesn’t matter how great a bargain you got if you won’t wear it. Don’t let the salesperson bully you into getting the limousine of shoes if all you need is a scooter. Buy what you will wear and enjoy. Which brings us back around to comfort. Make your feet happy! After all, you just have the two of them, you want them to last.

For great advice on buying proper footwear, visit http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/hiking-boots.html. Have a favorite hiking shoe? Lace ’em up, come on out and show them off!

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