Final Score: Phill 17 – Heley 1
Walking over 350 miles requires good footwear. There’s no way we want to cut short the trip because one of us has foot rot.
When we first looked at boots our immediate reaction was to look at waterproof footwear. I was divided between boot or shoe, waterproof or not. Heley was keen on shoes rather than boots, but leaning towards the gore-tex waterproof models.
There’s little scientific evidence that boots are better than shoes for lowering the chances of injuring yourself. We decided we were best off choosing what we felt most comfortable with. We chose low-cut footwear rather than boots.
Waterproof or not
Over 3 weeks your footwear is going to get wet. Even the toughest most waterproof boot has one place that lets water in – how else would you get your foot in the shoe otherwise?
If the weather is bad and you are walking through mud and puddles, water is going to get in, even if wearing gaiters. If the weather is beautiful then the sweat from your feet has nowhere to escape either. Essentially you are walking with your feet in little water-collecting buckets. Your feet will get wet, and your footwear will be slow to dry.
Using trail runners allows your shoes to drain quicker. Sure, your feet are going to get wet, but over a long journey they are going to get wet anyway. The advantage of lightweight breathable shoes is that you can walk the boots dry. The water seeps out as you walk, and they are quicker to dry when than waterproof boots.
Gore-tex boots are better for shorter journeys, where you have a chance of keeping dry throughout the trip. They’re also recommended for situations where conditions are going to be below freezing.
The Ely warm-up trek
Heley had already got her lightweight inov-8 Roclite 268s by the time the Ely trek had arrived. I was still in my old Karrimor gore-tex boots. Bombproof maybe, but it seems the right boot had a leak. Five miles into the first day, walking through pouring rain, Heley’s feet were still dry; Heley being the one not wearing waterproof shoes.
My right foot was damp, and by mile number eight it was downright sodden. Ten miles in and water had managed to get into my left boot too. Heley’s feet were now wet, but she was still comfortable, water left her Roclites as easily as it went in. I was now walking on the newly formed puddles in my boots.
Every few miles I needed to stop and wring out my socks, in the hope of another half a mile before the puddles in my boot reformed. There was no way these boots were going to be “walked dry”. In the end I gave up.
Sitting down after the walk, Heley had one blister, which could have been prevented had we stopped when she noticed her foot rubbing on the 2nd day. Heley never complained about cold feet, and for the best part of 50 miles her feet were fine. She may not have been happy about the weather, but there were no complaints about the choice of footwear.
I had no complaints about the weather. I grew up in North Wales, I’m immune to rain. I did have some complaints about the footwear. Walking in waterproof boots is wonderful until they get wet. Then you’re in trouble. There was little I could do to dry the boots out, and short of carry another 50 pairs of socks I was stuck with wet feet. I hobbled home to a blister count of 17. This despite wearing a good pair of wool socks and a nice pair of liner socks too.
The choice we’ve made is to go with lightweight trail runners, which may not be waterproof, but are quicker to dry and allow water back out once it’s got in.