It seems the easiest way of making nearly a whole month a complete washout due to rain is to declare ‘National Walking Month’ (drought-stricken areas take note!). I’ve only had one walk in the month of May, the weather has been so bad, or the few good days I was ill or busy. Thanks Living Streets! :-/
Sadly the washout also spread to the blog, for which there isn’t much excuse apart from just as I was preparing one post, the weather cleared and I went walking – only to go crap again. I hope this means the spring is all raining and and next month is AMAZING (partly because I iz going to Glastonbury for the first time). Busy with other projects like the podcast and some mixes, and some server woes needing fixing took me away from walking & blogging too.
Anyway when the weather is crap like this, even in urban areas walking can be a bit fun. I said in the previous post how you don’t need anything special for walking – and I stick to that, you just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep doing that for as long as you want. But, if your footwear is either of the genteel work/dress shoe or even traditional walking boot you’re going to slip if it’s persisting it down….I learnt this the hard way walking on the cliffs near Garennin in Lewis with some CAT boots and an army pack on my back. It had been raining heavily the night before, and I hit some wet grass and over I went…
Since then, grip has been a priority. So enter the cross-trainer or approach shoe, the same but different names depending who you ask. The idea is for the crazy people who go running across clifftops and along mountain paths , or a lighter sort of shoe for the mountaineer so he or she doesn’t have to walk to the mountain approach in big heavy mountain boots.
They are waterproof (I’ve waded through the sea in them, through puddles and muddy fields which are more like swimming pools), light and breathable, with soft soles for grip. I usually wear wanky North Face Hedgehog XCR III GTX, I’m on my 3rd pair. They are not only are not cheap, they version I liked aren’t made anymore, and about the new IVs – as a friend says, sequels are so disappointing aren’t they? Don’t look as nice, they’re still silly price (although shop around, I bought one of the last pairs of the old sort in garish red for the future) and according to reviews, cheaper made than the old ones.
So given that my current ones are wearing down (they only last a year at best if you wear them all the time) I decided to investigate cheaper footwear for general use, but with a similar grip, waterproof because even in the city puddles are deep, and breathable. Via the recommendation to a friend of a cheaper but not waterproof pair, I came to Karrimor Mount Low shoes. And at £20 (shop around, Navy is cheapest oddly, but Amazon & Ebay have good deals), rather than £100+ they’re Nice Price, and again I think I’m buying the older ones here, it seems a similar situation to the North Face shoes, cut price. But if you stick to the style I bought (see the picture) and/or buy like I did via Field and Trek which is actually a cheaper outlet of Sports Direct seemingly, then you’ll be OK.
I’ve been wearing them for a few weeks. So are they waterproof? (being ‘Weathertite’ and not the tried-and-tested Goretex). Well even the king of Cross Trainers the North Face Hedgehogs have let me down once (wet tall grass, it’s the worst test for any waterproof, more than standing in a puddle seemingly) but I’ve been wearing them in rainy London, even wading through a few deep puddles For Science. Yes for Science! And this blog! And they’ve been fine, so not sure what happened with some of the Amazon reviews . They are thicker and chubbier than the Hedgehogs, seem to be more ‘support’, but surprisingly not much heavier. Only thing I’d say is they’re not as breathable…OK for light socks or colder days, less so for a long run or walk in hotter weather. Hedgehogs definitely keep your feet cooler. But it’s not like a boot sauna, something I got with my old boots, you know when you take them off and steam comes out, and the feeling your feet have been spending far too much time in a Sweat Jacuzzi? Not that.
And remember that the down side of soft sole shoes, be they Karrimor or North Face is they do wear down – it seems some reviewers on Amazon and other places do not understand this basic fact. If you wear them always down the shops on hard surfaces, rather than the grass or earth/stony paths they are designed for, then of course they will wear out quickly – or if you wear them for regular long walks or runs after a year or so. That’s the trade-off between soft grippy soles where you can climb up wet rocks at the seaside or wet grass on 30-45 degree inclines (yes to both of those) and hard-wearing soles like you get on Walking Shoes/Boots that will feel like glass on a wet manhole cover or wet pavement/shiny floor. Those soles are tough, but won’t grip on smooth/wet surfaces. I hate that, despite the extra ‘ankle twist’ protection…although proper and careful foot placement is better than a hundred rigid boots. Anyway quite often a stiff hard boot just moves the damage up to your shin if you fall over/twist your foot!
So I’d say 8/10 – good for wearing around town, light walking, getting wet. Not sure yet about long hikes, but certainly I’d not be bothered about a 5-10 mile walk in them if it was all I had. Good bargain, but for the really long/hot walks, I’ll save my precious Hedgehogs for those. Which was the idea really – general/small walks I’m happy to trash these on pavements and tarmac.
Other purchase (yes, spending far too much time indoors due to rain leads to online shopping) has been some leather waterproof boots. Now some of you might remember earlier in the year, the Mud Trilogy, and when I faced a literal field of water to wade through…something even my cross trainers couldn’t cope with, too deep. I needed wellies. But as a former sailor, wellies are evil, they chafe and rub, and don’t breathe – worse than boots for that in fact. Also as I said I’n going to Glasto, so the idea of walking miles in rubber wellies in mud does not appeal. So my Dad recommended what are called ‘Country Boots’, ‘River Boots’ or ‘Sailing Leather Boots’ – the Dubarry ones are SCARY PRICE, but have a variety of sizes, expensive for the Horsey Set I guess. Dublin boots are cheaper, but no size 12 – grr – and many of the other Dubarry clones again don’t do larger sizes. In desperation I tried the sailing sphere, and surprisingly found cheaper ones there. Orca Bay did a boot called Bute, and I bought those. I tried them a few days ago in the rain and mud helping John with some photos in Hertford, and they were find. Not waded through any rivers yet, but they will be fine I think. And unlike wellies which perish. I think I’ll get many years from these. I hope so, since they weren’t as cheap as I’d like…but then again it’s my big feet. Cost me a lot of money over the years these feet!
I did a couple of miles in them OK, no blisters/rubbing. Not sure if I’d do a 15 mile walk in them – I think I could, might be harder going than the usual trainers. We’ll see – probably next Mud Season, or this Summer, whatever comes sooner.
I won’t mention where I got these from though (a place that ironically promotes fast delivery and Marine in it’s name), because they entrusted delivery to UK Mail, and didn’t even tell me they tried to deliver them, in fact nothing except many spam emails to say that the item was dispatched. First I know is a call from them and a message that the boots had been returned…seems that UK Mail didn’t bother to even ring, or leave a note as I’m usually at home at the moment, I know they didn’t ring. Very bad.
Then it will be all BUY MY LOVELY BOOK!!!! 😉