Buying power – footwear

Okay, you need some new outdoor or travel boots, sandals or shoes

What’s best for you? The ones that match your needs and any aspirations you may have…

It’s a common sense approach that’s been thought about after years of walking, travelling and selling both town shoes and activity footwear of all different kinds.

I’ve had people ask me about materials used in the making of footwear. Some wanted a Vegan product whilst others didn’t want items made of leather or pigskin because of their respective religious beliefs. Some wanted a waterproof lining, others didn’t.

One thing that’s always worth doing – use a bricks and mortar retailer rather than an internet outlet. You can try on as many pairs as you like, you can pick the brains of the sales staff and even take your purchase home and try them before using in anger.

You can also try the ones you like on, then go for a coffee and try them on again later as a means of ensuring that you have the right pair for you and that you’re a happy bunny!

There five rules to bear in mind when you’re buying new footwear for outdoor or travel use

Don’t leave it until the last minute.

I’ve had people coming into the shop I used to manage who were wanting boots to wear on the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge – the following day…

They were kitted out, but only after trying on several different pairs and a recommendation to buy appropriate socks and a couple of packs of Compeed blister plasters to use as preventative maintenance on their heels and little toes.

Go shopping in the afternoon (unless you’ve just done a night shift!).

Your feet can spread between a half and a full size between morning and afternoon, so it makes sense to go shopping in the afternoon when your feet are at their broadest.

Buy the best footwear that you can afford rather than going for the cheapest. 

It’s also worth mugging up on how long a particular footwear model has been around for. If it’s been around for years and is virtually unchanged, then that’s good as it would indicate that the brand got that model right first time or has made subtle changes to get it right.

Give yourself at least an hour to do the deed and try on as many pairs as possible in order to get the one that is suitable for purpose which also fits you well.

Let the assistant know what your plans are as they should know what each model they sell is suitable for.

Different brands can have different size and width fittings in their products. I know from my own experience that I may take a size 8/42 in one brand’s footwear and a size 9/43 in a rival’s footwear. The assistant should know about any sizing traits in models sold.

Walk around the shop and take advantage of any slope or step simulators the store may have.

Or indeed walk around the shop and then up and down any stairs they may have. Are there any pressure points? Is your heel being cupped nicely or is it moving up and down as you wander around the shop?

If you’re happy with the size and the fit of the footwear, ask a very important question –

“Can I take them home and try them indoors for a longer period of time and if they’re not right, can I bring them back and get a full refund?”

Any retailer that’s worth their salt should say yes to this and give you a specific time period in which to return that item of footwear. The main proviso is that the item can be resold as it is and it hasn’t been worn outside of the house, flat or bedsit or been given any kind of use, proofing or treatment that has changed the outward appearance of the footwear.

If the answer is yes, then it’s almost time to get the card out and pay for them. If the answer is no, then it’s time to take a long walk out of that shop’s door and go elsewhere.

I’d also ask about the best ways to look after the footwear in terms of cleaning and proofing the product and whether there are any specific cleaners or proofers that should be used to do those deeds.

I’d also get a spare pair of laces, and think about investing in a boot bag to carry the footwear in both before and after use. The latter’s the most important here as it’s always easier to clean the boots and boot bag after a muddy walk than it is to clean damp or dried on mud, grit or animal dung off the car’s carpets or boot lining…

And the last pointer? Find out what the guarantee is on the item and always, but always keep the receipt and the box the item came in for the duration of the guarantee. If the receipt is printed on thermal paper (most are nowadays), keep it in an envelope and file and use the box for storage in your office or whatever…

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About Keith Rickaby

Fiftysomething writer and occasional photographer who has worked in both the tailoring trade and the outdoor/travel clothing, equipment and footwear game. Past lives include working as an outdoor instructor, managing three bands and doing PR work through an agency or my own contacts. Was a student in the mid-90s and whilst I'm originally from the North East, I'm now firmly based in't Yorkshire...
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