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Buying Footwear That Fits - or why it's best to buy in store

You know what they say: "warm feet, warm heart". If you have comfortable, dry feet in a pair of well fitting boots then the rest of you is likely to be happier. But shopping for footwear can be taxing so we though we could give you a few tips to help.

Where to buy...

Over 20% of footwear we sell online doesn't fit and comes back for an exchange or a refund. If you order the size you think and a half size up we don't mind one pair coming back for a refund, (thick socks add a half size or so and most peoples feet get longer as they age). We also do mail order by phone for that particular boot or shoe you have bought before and loved! We have our range online for those who are replacing a tried and trusted brand and style but your feet are incredibly important so treat them with respect and visit a good outdoor shop with a reputation for good boot fitting. Obviously we would like you to come to ProAdventure in Llangollen for our knowledge and expertise and range of Meindl, Oboz and Grisport boots and shoes, but other shops are available - just make sure they know their stuff.

When to buy...

Pick the right time and take your time: Mornings and weekdays are usually quieter and shop staff should have more time to assist you. Your feet will be happier in the morning too as a general rule. If you shop for footwear when you have been on your feet all day your feet may be swollen and hot so you won't get the best fit. Yes your feet will swell on a hot day on the hill too but most boots will give a little as you wear them and will learn to accommodate your feet but if they start out too big you could get problems with rubbing.

Remember socks...

A good shop will have a variety of socks for you to try on with new boots but if you can, take your regular walking socks with you. Be prepared to admit when your socks are wearing a bit thin and need replacing themselves though. A new pair of socks will make a world of difference to your walking. Remember to take any orthotics you may have too but more on those later.

What kind of footwear do you need?

Well trained staff should ask you about the walking that you do but it's a good idea to think about how much, how often and what kind of walking you do before you go shopping. Scrambles on Tryfan and rocky hill walks may require a leather boot with ankle support but a long distance walker might need a more breathable lightweight boot.

Try plenty of makes and models...

Be prepared to try on a few pairs which fit your brief and remember that while you might have a budget in mind, comfort is the key. There's no point in buying a boot because it's 1) in the sale or 2) the right colour/style. It's not a bargain unless it's a great fit!

Ask for advice...

Our staff would rather you went out empty handed than with a pair of boots which don't fit properly so we wont be giving you a hard sell but we do know our range and should be able to help you find the best fit we can.

Check your size...

Most adults know their shoe size roughly but over the years, your feet do expand and change shape - when was the last time you were measured? All brands and even models of the same brand may have a slightly different fit so it is a good idea to get measured up by one of our experts. Measuring will determine your foot width as well as your size. We can then give you a better idea of which brand or models to go for and which to stay away from.

Lace them up...

Always try both boots and do the laces up properly before deciding they fit! This might sound obvious but an unbelievable number of people try on one boot and say "Yep, that's fine" without lacing it up. Every foot is different, so one boot that fits is no guarantee the other one will.

Our staff have tricks up their sleeve when it comes to lacing so don't be afraid to ask or be offended if we offer to help you lace up.

Try them properly...

A good boot shop will have a slope or ramp for you to try out your boots on. Stand on the ramp facing up hill. Lift up onto the balls of your feet and see if your heels lift out of the heel cups. A small amount is normal but any more that a 1/3 inch or a centimetre or so might lead to rubbing. If there's movement it's worth retying the laces at this point as this can stop the problem. Turn around and face downhill. Do your feet slide forward so your toes hit the ends of the boot? If they do then again, lacing might be the key or they might just be too big. A volume reducer might help if you have your heart set on those particular boots but better to try other boots first.

When you think you have a good fit, keep the boots on and have a wander round the shop for ten minutes or so. Did you forget you were wearing new boots or are there any niggles developing? Now is the time to find out. Not half way up a hill.

Should you wear them in?

Most modern boots shouldn't need wearing in, but your feet might if you aren't used to boots or haven't been out for a while. We would recommend shorter walks and always keep compeed or other blister treatment with you. If you get any rubbing then deal with it before a blister develops if you can.

Look after your footwear...

Looking after your boots post-purchase is what will make them last years longer and give you best value for money in the long run. It is a subject in itself for another article but on the whole you should clean them off under a tap with a soft nail brush when you finish your walk and give them a coating with a waterproof spray or wax according to the instructions on the pot. If the boots are really wet you can remove the foot-beds, stuff the boots with paper and let them dry naturally (NOT on the radiator) Every now and again you should rinse them out to get rid of any grit which can work its way into and make a hole in your lovely goretex lining.

Foot-beds and volume reducers...

Most of the tips here will help the vast majority of people to find boots to fit, but what if you have "interesting" feet? Sometimes nothing seems to fit, and either one boot or the other (or both) is almost there but not quite. There are things to be done to help. Take a look at the foot-beds. It is one area that even the higher quality boot manufacturers save money on. You can transform a boots fit (even an old pair you had given up on) with a high quality foot-bed. Some are designed to give extra cushioning, others more support for arches and others to cup the heel and keep it in the right position. Most will provide a bit of extra volume which can turn a boot that's the right length but a bit big in volume into a boot that fits all round. Volume reducers are also available to fit underneath the foot-bed purely to remove volume.

Do you use Orthotics?

Some people have a medical need for orthotics to correct their gait and stop pain in their hips knees and feet. If you have these you should make sure you put them into boots before trying on (removing the boots own foot-bed first). If you don't but you think you might need them then it's worth chatting to your GP for a podiatry referral before you buy expensive boots. There are off-the-peg orthotics available such as Superfeet, but unless you know what you are buying you might end up in more pain than you started with so be cautious.

Enjoy your new footwear!

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