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Best foot forward – what shoes to wear for Nordic walking

Tips when buying Nordic walking shoes and boots

The grass is getting wetter and our feet are getting soggy!  Annoyingly some of our instructors have found their Gore-Tex walking shoes are no longer waterproof so whilst we’re looking to buy we thought we’d share some top tips on what to look for.

Boots will keep you dry

  • Always go for a waterproof shoe or boot.  Gore-Tex or similar waterproof membranes allow your foot to breath whilst preventing water ingress. But buyer beware, in wet conditions a lot of waterproof shoes don’t stay waterproof for long, even with a Gore-Tex layer. Boots will generally keep your feet much drier – see our blog for our recommendations. 

Flexibility is important

  • Good sole flexibility is important, as part of the Nordic walking technique is to roll through from the heel to toe, pushing off actively with the toe.  Walking shoes have more flexible soles than walking boots, but walking boots offer more support for your foot and especially ankle protection.

Buy to suit your needs

  • Like most things, it’s a question of finding the right balance of flexibility vs protection for your particular feet.  Boots might be better, for instance, if you have weak ankles or if you are planning on regularly walking over rough terrain. Some of our instructors have both (walking is our job after all!) and we use our walking shoes mostly in the summer and walking boots in the winter.

Cushioning and fit

  • Make sure your shoe/boot has good heel cushioning as Nordic walking involves a heel strike. Also (apologies as this is really common sense) it shouldn’t rub or slip at the heel when the foot rolls through the stride and your toe should not hit the toe box and the end.  If any of this happens, you are walking towards blisters!

Weight matters

  • If you are buying a walking boot, try and get one that is as light as possible otherwise you’ll be even more tired at the end of a long walk, with sore hip flexors to boot (pun intended, obviously).

Maintenance

  • Look after your footwear. We repeat. Look after your footwear.  As with most things in life, the more care you take of your footwear the better it will serve you and the longer it will last.  Buy Nikwax and apply it regularly. Apparently, as soon as water stops ‘balling’ on your footwear, it’s time to re-proof it.  If you don’t, this will happen: the material will get saturated, which will impair its breathability, which will damage the waterproof membrane (which will negate your warranty) which will leave you with wet feet and a bill for new shoes.  We know. We’re culpable.

Socks

  • Add in waterproof socks like Sealskinz. They will keep your feet extra warm and dry, just trim any sharp toenails as you don’t want to snag the sock’s waterproof membrane. Don’t walk around the house in them and let them air dry after washing (no heat). 

Keep the receipt

  • Keep your receipt and don’t put up with a pair of faulty shoes/boots.  Most manufacturers guarantee their footwear against manufacturing faults for a year and Gore-Tex and similar fabrics often offer a lifetime guarantee. Take your shoes/boots back if you are not happy, even if you’ve had them for several months.  Make sure you’ve looked after them though.

So what do our instructors wear?

Merrell Gore-Tex Mid GTX

Ros (who has wide feet) likes the Merrell Gore-Tex Mid GTX. They’re very comfortable, good on flat grass but don’t fare so well on mud. 

Merrell Gore-Tex Mid GTX

Keen Men’s Targhee High Rise Hiking Shoes

Marcus favours the Keen waterproof walking shoes, which he prefers over boots as it gives him more ankle movement.

Keen Men's Targhee walking shoe  Bristol Nordic Walking

Salomon X Ultra

Vicky has both walking shoes and walking boots. She’s tried many different sorts over the years and her favourite walking shoes are the Salomon X Ultra.  They are light, waterproof (if she looks after them properly which she’s promised to do from now on) and best of all they have ‘lazy laces’ which means she can tighten and release them in an instant.

SALOMON Women's Ultra 3 GTX Low Rise Hiking Shoes Bristol Nordic Walking

Women’s Scarpa Terra

The waterproof boots we recommend are the fantastic Scarpa Terra.  These have a reasonably flexible sole and are leather which are so much easier to maintain. They are also extremely comfortable. Vicky wore them to complete her four-marathons-in-four-days Cotswolds Way walking challenge earlier this year and she didn’t get a single blister. You can’t get much better than that.

Scarpa Terra GTX Walking Boot

Happy shopping!

The Bristol & Bath Nordic Walking Team. 

You can find our favourite Nordic walking poles here plus if you’re looking for our advice on best walking kit here’s our recommendations: 

waterproof boots    waterproof jackets  walking socks ( animportant but forgotten factor!).