I packed my bag and in it I put .....(3)

Many thanks to Gyorgy who recommended "The Backpacker's Handbook" by Chris Townsend.  There is more information in it than you could throw a stick at (in fact it even describes different ways you can hold your walking stick) and it certainly got me thinking about boots.

I don't think I have ever owned the big chunky walking boots described by Chris and which used to take hundreds of miles to wear in but my boots have got progressively lighter and my current ones weigh 1.2 kilos.

I like my walking boots and I like the idea of walking boots. Putting on walking boots makes you feel you are preparing for something special, not just going for walk.  I don't get the same feeling from light weight walking shoes - they don't feel serious.  Unfortunately in over forty pages of information Chris challenges much of what I use as my boot wearing justification. .

Firstly he completely rejects the argument that boots provide some additional ankle support. If that's a priority you would need to wear some sort of nordic ski boot (no longer a priority).

Secondly he rejects the justification that stiff soles provide some sort of protection against uneven surfaces.

He makes a very strong case for going light although he possibly goes a bit far when he advocates the bare foot option.  He makes a really interesting claim that a pound on your feet is equivalent to five on your back.  He quotes Ray Jardine who, in his book The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook, states that "each additional 1.5 ounces removed from a boot would add about a mile to the day's hiking progress". On that basis going bare foot could mean getting to Budapest about a two weeks earlier than anticipated.

Although my walking boots are already lightweight (just about the lightest Scarpa's I could get) they are heavy compared to the trainer type walking shoe and much heavier than the walking sandals Chris also advocates.  My biggest concern in terms of my feet is that they  start to hurt after about 15 miles particularly if you end the day walking on hard surfaces.  I'm pretty sure that they will toughen up but my experience is that they hurt more if I wear the trainer type walking shoe rather than walking boots.  Maybe it's because I spend a lot more effort choosing my boots than I do my shoes.

Anyway Chris has given me something to think about - maybe I should invest in some good walking shoes as an alternative to boots and see how I get on.

I have speculated in an earlier blog as to how many pairs of boots I might need to complete the E4 walk. Chris helpfully provides some pictures of the impact on soles of about 1000 miles - not much left in the way of tread!


  1. One thing to bear in mind wrt lightweight walking shoes, fell running shoes, trail shoes or whatever people want to call them is longevity. A few years ago I switched (in the summer at least) from heavy boots to Inov-8 Roclites - a very light, wonderfully comfortable, fell running shoe and the experience was exhilerating - the only problem was I would only get about one season of use from a pair of shoes.
    Their lightweight construction also seemed to ensure they would fall apart quite quickly - for me, in as few as 200-300 miles of upland walking.
    This experience is limited to Inov-8 I hasten to add - cant comment on other brands - but perhaps something to think about based on the number of miles you're planning on doing.

  2. hey.. just found this site..... i go everywhere in Salomon XA pro 3D running shoes with Superfeet innersoles ..... in the swiss alps i get 2 months out of them when running up and down rocky paths..... i hiked the ABC trek in Nepal with 1OKG back pack.... have been in the heat, rain, snow and across streams.... great shoes used with Inov8 socks..... i road walked , Lands end to John O groats in 1990 at 22.... 1071 miles, 56 days. in tennis shoes..... feet hurt like hell for most of it but i did it. they did not have salomons in them days...

    1. Great to hear from you. Walked all the way with Inov 8 trainers but should have got the Gortex version rather than the standard ones because the weather was bad and I suffered from cold feet. Just taken delivery of some Soloman Salomon XA Pro 3D GTX, I think they are a bit more comfortable than the Inov 8s.

      Sounds like you have done some great walks