Choosing Footwear


No other piece of equipment can affect your enjoyment of a trip as much as your footwear. With a comfortable pair of boots, you’ll eat up the miles, but in ill-fitting or inappropriate footwear, you can be painfully aware of every step you take. Good footwear is essential, but what is good for one person may not be good for the next person, or even the next trip.

Some things that you may need to consider before choosing are: the intended purpose for your footwear, the sort of ground you will be traversing, keeping your feet dry, ankle support comparative to the weight you're carrying, durability, cost, weight and more. There's a huge range of suitable footwear on offer, and only you can decide what feels best for you. However, the expert staff at Paddy Pallin are always happy you help advise you on what footwear best suits your needs. 


What type of trip are you planning?


Outdoor footwear can be divided into a few basic categories. Some of these categories can overlap, while others are quite specific. When choosing the right shoe, consider the main conditions where you will be using your footwear.


Day walking

Boots or shoes designed for day walking and very short overnight trips only. With an emphasis on lightness, comfort, stability and breathability. They will be less supportive and durable than traditional trekking and hiking boots. 


Boots or shoes designed for use on two to three-day walks with light to moderate backpacking loads both on and off the beaten track. Although the emphasis is still on lightness and comfort, these boots should also be durable, water-resistant and supportive.


These boots are designed for long-distance walking over moderate to rough terrain while carrying moderate to heavy backpacking loads. They are designed with multi-day trips in mind. Durable and supportive, they provide a high degree of ankle and foot protection and as a result, they are heavier and will take longer to break in than softer, less supportive boots. Emphasis is on control, long-term support, water resistance and the boots' ability to withstand abuse. 


Boots designed for mountaineering, glacier travel, or aggressive backcountry travel. These boots are stiff and very durable. Mountaineering boots are compatible with step-in crampons for more technical walking/climbing. 

Trail running

Lightweight technical shoes designed with running in mind but with greater stability, support and a more durable tread to withstand the rigours of the trail. Some trail runners will often be available with waterproof lining.

Approach Shoes

Often quite similar to day walking shoes but with a softer rubber compound in the sole for better grip on technical terrain. Approach shoes are traditionally for shorter walks on technical terrain such as walking out to hidden crags for some rock climbing. However, they remain a comfortable and supportive option for many different outdoor pursuits.


Shoes designed with travel in mind. Often simple and fashionable yet offering the support and footbed of a more technical shoe. Travel shoes are designed to be versatile by covering all bases on your adventure, from going out on the town to sightseeing. 


Durable, all-purpose sports sandals are designed for walking and water wear with Technical footbeds and athletically inspired outsoles for traction on a variety of surfaces. Lightweight sandals offer stability and comfort for everything from day walks to days at the beach. 


Scarpa Trail Running Shoes | Paddy PallinScarpa Trail Running Shoes | Paddy Pallin
Trail Running Shoes


What are the different types of Footwear Materials

The materials used in a given boot or shoe will affect its weight, breathability, durability and water resistance. Different fabrics can be very similar in performance, so again the intended purpose of your footwear is often the key when deciding upon materials.



Lightweight but still water resistant and durable. Compared to full-grain leather, it is generally less abrasion resistant, is more prone to stretching and is less stiff. Although suede is less durable, its flexibility, breathability and lower price make it a good choice for lightweight boots and shoes.

Nubuck leather

Softer full-grain leather, distinguishable by its sanded, textured finish that looks close to suede. This finish is more resistant to marking than full-grain leather and requires less break-in time. Because nubuck is softer it requires more maintenance. Otherwise, it has similar characteristics to full-grain leather.

Full-grain leather

A denser leather with more water resistance, durability and support than softer leathers or suede. It is used primarily in boots designed for extended trips, heavy loads and hard terrain. As the material resists abrasion these shoes will last for years when properly cared for. Keep in mind that full-grain leather requires a break-in period as the leather conforms to the foot over time. 


Often used in lighter shoes as either a mesh or 1000 denier nylon for its breathability, low cost and relative ease of breaking in. Fabric is often used in conjunction with suede or leather to construct footwear that achieves a good balance between being lightweight and breathable while remaining supportive. Fabric footwear may come with a waterproof membrane as it is difficult to waterproof. Fabric is generally not as durable as leather, so it is usually found only in lighter-duty footwear.

Waterproof membranes (GORE-TEX®, eVent®, H2No® etc.)

Breathable waterproof membranes like GORE-TEX® and eVent are often built into footwear to improve water resistance. This membrane adds an extra layer of water resistance but renders the footwear less breathable. Best suited for colder and wetter climates.


Full Grain Leather GORE-TEX Hiking Boots | Paddy PallinFull Grain Leather GORE-TEX Hiking Boots | Paddy Pallin
Full Grain Leather GORE-TEX Hiking Boots


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Buying Footwear Online


Unfortunately footwear cannot be returned  once you have worn them out on the trail, due to the fact they may be dirty, smelly, or scuffed. At Paddy Pallin we recommend that you try your footwear inside your home and walk around where there is no chance of damaging the shoe just in case it's not what you expected. Here are some ways to test if the shoes you have chosen are fitting correctly without taking them into an outdoor situation.


Fitting footwear

Boots or shoes must fit well so try to be certain. Once you have narrowed down the options to a handful of boots or shoes, the best way to decide between them is to try them on, as every boot model is built around a different "last" (standard foot shape), so each one will fit you a little differently. Don't rely solely on your usual shoe size when searching for the best fitting boots or shoes as the sizing varies across manufacturers. When shopping online, charts are available on each product page via the “sizing” tab, which will help explain each individual manufacturer's sizing interpretation.

  • Pick the right socks. Wear the type of socks and sock liners that you will be wearing when you use the shoe.
  • If one foot is larger than the other (which is quite common), fit your larger foot first. You may need to use extra socks or an insert to take up extra space in the other boot.
  • Before lacing the shoes, slide your feet forward in the unlaced boots to mimic descending down a slope, then bend your knees slightly so your feet are positioned as though you are walking. In this position, try to stick a finger between your heel and the back of the shoe, one finger should fit snugly behind the foot. If you can fit two fingers stacked together the shoes may be too big.
  • Kick the feet back in the boots and lace up firmly. The 'ears' of the boot at the lace holes must be well separated.
  • Do some deep knee bends. The heels should not rise in the boots more than about 3mm.
  • Stand with your heels hooked on the edge of a step and use your body weight to push your feet forward in the boots. Your toes must be free to wriggle and should not touch the front of the boots.

If your feet feel like they are "floating" inside the boots, you may require a pair half a size down. If your foot feels cramped or your toes make contact with the front or sides of the toe box, you may require the next size up. If the boots are a little tight sideways, remember that they often stretch in width, but never change in length. The fitting of heels and toes is more important. New boots may feel a little stiff at first, but they should still be comfortable.

NOTE: Most manufacturers design footwear for both men and women. Women's are usually distinguished by a narrower heel cup and foot-bed.

NOTE: Feet often swell becoming longer and wider, with both walking and the carrying of a load, so please take this into account.


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Choosing the best hiking shoes and boots for men | Paddy PallinChoosing the best hiking shoes and boots for men | Paddy Pallin
Choosing the best hiking shoes and boots for women | Paddy PallinChoosing the best hiking shoes and boots for women | Paddy Pallin

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