A good day's walking starts from the ground up and that means boots. A well fitted pair of boots can make the difference between a quality day on the hill and an exercise in suffering.
At The Epicentre we have a great range of Women's Walking Boots from brands such as Scarpa, Keen and Meindl. With leather and fabric offerings, a range of fits, designs and styles, there's a boot to fit almost any foot.
Leather - Many people swear by it and just as many swear at it. Traditionally the preserve of the red woolly sock brigade, intent on massacring their feet; leather has come on a long way. With new cutting and construction technology, leather boots are lighter, softer and better made than ever before. They still tend to be heavier than fabric alternatives and the leather can add a stiffness to the uppers, which some people like as it lends extra support. Leather is naturally waterproof and traditionally has never required any extra waterproof layers but brands increasingly use membranes such as Gore-tex for added protection against potential leaking through seams and wear points. This can mean a less breathable boot than some fabric or mixed material options. Leather, if looked after, tends to last longer than lighter materials and so, though often initially more expensive, they can represent a more economical choice.
Fabric - Fabric boots tend to be lighter, softer, more breathable and with a greater scope for funky styling but they also tend to be less durable when compared to leather alternatives. With extra stitching across the uppers, cleaning fabric boots can be tricky but unlike leather, they don't require the same level of conditioning and moisturising.
Sole Unit - The majority of our brands use some form of rubber sole and for most that means Vibram. There are many different types of Vibram sole, with many manufacturers looking to use different combinations of rubber compounds to reach a balance between durability and traction on a range of surfaces. For muddy and wet conditions, look for deep, wide-set lugs. For drier, rockier conditions, a flatter, more uniform sole with shallower lugs allows greater surface contact and traction.
Waterproofing - Most boots use a waterproof membrane (be it Gore-tex or proprietary alternative) that works to keep water out and transport moisture away from the foot. The average foot sweats half a pint of water a day...that's a lot of moisture to shift so breathability is very important.
Last - The last refers to the shape around which a boot is made. Each brand and range uses a certain last to get the desired fit. Some lasts suit some people better than others with variations in length, volume, arch, width and depth.
As a rule, in order of width from narrow to wide, our brands are as follows: Scarpa, Meindl, Five Ten, Keen - though this is a very rough guide.
Stiffness - The degree of required stiffness in the sole and from the upper depends on your intended use, past footwear choices, pack size and terrain. From soft and sloppy shoes on high street pavements and very easy clear paths with no pack or steep slopes right up to rigid boots for winter mountaineering. Most hill-walking boots have a degree of stiffness to provide a stable platform for the foot when covering loose, uneven and slippery ground.
Crampons - Some of our boots are compatible with crampons, where this is the case, we have stated. If you are not sure, it is best to contact us directly. All our boots can be used with pavement crampons or micro-spikes for occasional winter conditions but its best to read up on our Winter Walking Guide for more information.
Lacing - Some boots have lacing that extends further down the length of the boot, this gives a greater degree of support to the foot for scrambling and rocky ground.
Ankle Support - The main thing that makes a boot a boot is the ankle support provided by a higher cuff. While this may feel odd if you are used to low-cut shoes and trainers, the support offered by even a soft upper can be invaluable on rough ground or under the weight of a pack. The correct level of ankle support will depend on the intended use, pack size, previous footwear use etc. Just don't be put off if it feels alien at first!
Rand - This is the rubber 'bumper' that boots have around the toe-box and sometimes along the length of the boot. This protects the material from the trail and provides friction against rock on any scrambly sections.
For information regarding boot care, see our Care Guide and consult the literature of your individual boot.
As with all footwear it is best if you are able to try it in store before buying but if you have any queries regarding sizing, fit, boot care or our returns policy, don't hesitate to get in touch and we'll be happy to answer any questions.