Footwear - Buying Guide

Follow this 5 step guide to help you decide on the best footwear for your activity. 

Step 1 - Choosing the Outsole

The outsole, also known as the sole, is the bottom part of footwear that will come in direct contact with the ground. Consider the ground the footwear will be covering such as wet, icy, dry, hard or soft.

What type of compound (mix of materials) is the outsole made with?

Tip: You can push your nail into the sole to feel the difference in the compounds.

Harder compounds offer increased durability whereas softer compound offer increased grip. For example, trail running shoes use softer compounds for exceptional grip while mountain hiking footwear will use harder compounds for superior durability.

Vibram are one of the best out-sole manufactures

The well-known yellow octagonal Vibram logo can be found on many types of footwear from key outdoor brands like Meindl and Salomon. Years of development means Vibram now use over 40 different compounds to offer specific traction across terrains. You can view more information on the optimal combination of Vibram rubber compounds here.

Tip: Footwear with a Vibram out-sole is normally high in price and quality.

What sort of Lug Pattern do you need?

Tip: Always take a look at the lug pattern to see if it offers suitable grip in places you need it.

Spaced out and deeper lugs are better for cutting through terrain to grip the surface and shed dirt.

The more surface area the greater the durability particularly on harder terrain.  

Lug patterns that wrap around the out-sole increase grip for lateral movement and traction on uneven terrain. Places where it’s not possible to place your foot flat every time.

Tip What is the lug pattern and depth on the outsole? The deeper the lugs, the greater the traction will be.


For example, you need a durable pair of walking boots for long hikes. The outsole should feature a hard compound, deep lugs with good spacing. Here are some suggestions from our brands:

Step 2 - Choosing the Midsole

The construction of a midsole (or shank) plays an important role in how comfortable the footwear will be when you wear them. The mid-sole can be described as the 'engine room' of the footwear. A well-designed mid-sole will work to offer good shock absorption, flex, support and cushion. The mid-sole is a sealed unit with lots of tiny air pockets that act as resilient and rebounding foam. 

Injection-moulded EVA mid-soles

Some mid-soles are pumped in liquid form, into moulds and injected with air before they rapidly expand to the size required. The advantage is zero wastage, while the manufacturer can tweak the density to create different levels of cushioning, weights etc.

A cheaper creation of a mid-sole is to cut or sculpted them from sheets of EVA that are open-celled and will collapse quickly after considerably less use. There are also other ways of producing mid-soles.

Tip: Look for the use of the following materials in your footwear mid-soles:


Ethylene Vinyl Acetate


More cushioning

Material quicker to deform

Less durable

Less expensive





Material slower to deform

More durable

More expensive

If you’re planning multiple day trips with a large backpack you need footwear that offers more rigidity. The higher the intensity level the more fatigued your feet will be. This means the more the footwear needs to work for you with a stiffer mid-sole.

However, if the need is faster and lighter go for less rigid and more flexible mid-sole. Ample cushioning with EVA materials should be more comfortable.

Tip: Give the footwear a twist to test the torsional stability, research and ask about the mid-sole design and construction.

Step 3 - Choosing the insole

In-soles are also called footbeds, or inner soles. 

The insole is the inner part of the shoe that runs underneath the bottom of your foot. The In-sole can usually be easily removed and experienced wearers sometimes replace the manufactures in-sole with ones purchased from specialist brands such as Superfeet. There are a variety of styles because when you walk, run or stand, you are typically putting much of your weight on the insole of the shoe and need different support.

Tip: There is a wide range of insoles. Consider investing in quality ones that can help control foot odour, offer extra cushion and support natural foot freedom.

Tip: A good pair of walking socks can make a huge difference. The best walking socks will wick away sweat, keep your feet cool and dry, and prevent chafing with wicking wool and cushioned panels.

We recommend:

Step 4 - Choosing the outer material

Does it need to be waterproof footwear?

Not all walking footwear needs to be waterproof as you may be looking for ventilated shoes for warm and dry conditions. However, being waterproof is a key demand for outdoor adventures. Waterproof walking footwear features other costs to design a breathable and waterproof product.

Waterproof measurement is given as Hydrostatic Head. Hydrostatic Head is the measure of how water resistant the material is. It measures how tall a column of water the fabric can hold before water starts to seep through the weave. For any fabric to be considered fully waterproof it must be able to withstand the pressure of a column of water 1000mm high without leaking.

GORE-TEX is the industry leader for waterproof, breathable fabric membrane. Keeps rain out while allowing sweat vapour to escape. ‘GORE-TEX Surround’ offers 360 degrees of ventilated technology. It combines a fully covering membrane with a technical in-sole. Click here to read more about GORE-TEX footwear technology.

Outer MaterialPros
Full Grain Leather is the outer surface of the leather and the most expensive part of the hide. Can be smooth or textured. One of the heaviest outer footwear materials.– strong
– responds well to various waterproof treatment
– the thickness and tightly knit fibres offer durability
Nubuck Leather is full grain leather that has been buffed to reduce irregularities in the hide.– responds well to embossing
– responds well to waterproofing treatments
– best of both worlds being strong like leather and soft like suede
Suede is taken from the underside of the skin by splitting the hide.– softer feel
– doesn’t need breaking in like traditional leather
– cheaper than leather
Synthetic materials such as Polyester and Nylon are common in modern style boots. Popular for walking footwear but tends to feature more stitching than leather.– lighter
– comfortable
– fast drying times
3D Printing is relativity new technology still being developed which will possibly reduce waste and improve fit.– lighter materials
– strong construction
– little or no stitching

Step 5 - Choosing size

The last used is very important to fit 

A shoe last is a 360 degree model of the foot used to create each shoe’s heel width, instep height, toe box width and depth. Though it’s not the primary factor, in conjunction with length and width, a shoe last helps achieve the best possible fit. Brands use a number of last moulds to cope with the multiple demands of the outdoors such as hiking, multi-sport and casual.

Footwear Last


Same brand footwear styles can fit differently. This is because of different lasts. Tip: If you are really unsure try in store before you buy.

Here are 10 bits of advice we offer for choosing the correct fitting walking boot: 

1. Walking boots need to be a half to full size larger than your normal foot size to allow for the wearing of walking socks.

2. The actual fitting shape of the boot is brand dependent - different brands will hold your feet differently.

3. Allow for a finger's width fitting down back of a walking boot when wearing before lacing up.

4. The boot shouldn't have any noticeable pressure points or tight spots - there is no such thing as 'breaking in' a boot to loosen it up.

5. The ankle should feel restricted and supported in a way you may not be used to at first.

6. Leather walking boots will always feel stiffer to wear.

7. Zamberlan & Scarpa brands have an overall narrower fitting.

8. Merrell, in general, tends to be shorter, so for normal fitting, get a size larger.

9. The Meindl Matrei is our widest boot - perfect for anyone who requires a wide fitting.

10. Shoe-style footwear and sandals have a regular fit and size.