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Footwear can make or break your enjoyment when out in the hills. Bad footwear will not only leave you uncomfortable but will also leave you vulnerable to injuries such as twisted ankles and bad blisters. If you invest in just one piece of hiking kit, we strongly advise that you start with a good pair of hiking boots.
Finding the right pair of boots is a tricky process. In fact, it’s a little like dating. It can be hard to find the perfect match on the first try. And that’s where a boot fitting service really comes into play. Instead of buying a pair of random boots and hoping they do the job, a boot fitting service will ensure you find the perfect pair of boots from the get-go by using an in-depth analysis of your foot while also identifying the type of walking or hiking you will be doing.
We headed to Great Outdoors who are the industry leaders when it comes to bespoke boot fitting to find out what’s involved and how much of a difference a boot fitting really makes versus picking a random shoe straight off the shelf.
Located on George’s Street in Dublin, Great Outdoors is one of Ireland’s leading outdoor stores. Their free bespoke boot fitting service is unmatched in this country and it doesn’t even require a booking. You can just walk in and they will make sure that you get fitted perfectly, all you have to do is ask. They really leave no stone unturned when it comes to ensuring they find you the perfect hiking boot. Here is a brief summary of what our boot fitting entailed:
Every boot fitting starts off with a standard foot measurement. This is to get a base idea for what hiking boots will fit you best and allow the staff member who is helping you to pick out a selection of boots for you to try on. It’s worth getting your feet measured even if you think you know your foot size. The results surprised us and they might surprise you too!
A trick that the staff at Great Outdoors will teach you is that if you take the footbed, or sole, as it’s often referred to, out of the boot and place your foot on it, you should be able to put a finger between your toes and the end of the footbed. This tells you that your boot is the perfect length for your foot.
To ensure your boots are fitted just right, you have to try on multiple pairs and compare them to each other. Similar enough to how an optician would test your eyes to see which lens suits you better. You start with one pair of boots and get a feel for them before moving on to the next and deciding if they feel better or worse. To get the perfect feel for the boots, Great Outdoors has a sloping walk to replicate hiking up and down mountains. This process is continued until you have your perfect pair of hiking boots.
When you’ve found the perfect pair of boots you can step up onto a foot scanner to determine what insoles you might need. This scanner will tell you what part of your feet you place most of your weight on and then recommend the best insoles to suit your weight distribution. It’s truly a revolutionary piece of equipment, giving you exact measurements and fantastic insole recommendations.
Once you’ve found your perfect boots, you will be ready to take on the mountains. We trialed our boots on the mighty Carrauntoohill and instantly noticed the difference compared to our old pairs. Here are the benefits we noticed on our hike.
Your feet will feel better than they have ever felt before. Fitted boots make a massive difference in the comfort of your feet which in turn allows you to enjoy every second of your time in the hills. You nearly forget that you’re wearing boots, there wasn’t a single step that caused any discomfort which is insane, especially on the Devil’s Ladder.
You don’t need to worry about getting blisters with fitted boots from Great Outdoors. If your boots fit you well, your feet won’t slip in them, meaning you’re less likely to get blisters from friction. If you’ve ever had a blister before, you know how they can really impact negatively on your enjoyment in the hills. Our hike up Carrauntoohill lasted eight hours in 25-degree heat. Normally, this would leave your feet with blisters because of sweating from the intense heat but with these bespoke fitted boots, we remained blissfully blister-free.
When your boots fit properly your foot shouldn’t push through the front of them. Not only will this save your toenails it will also extend the life of your boots as you will find they last a lot longer.
Something to watch out for is how much more in control you feel of your movements in your new boots. Your steps should feel more stable and you should have a better grip as you ascend and descend any of the beautiful Irish mountains. You’re way less likely to sustain an ankle injury because of this.
Check out this article for more information on the benefits of bespoke boot fitting: Great Outdoors
By Killian Andersen
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