The Right Footwear?

Mary Tweed
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One of the joys of Nordic Walking is that it does not involve complicated or expensive equipment or any dodgy lycra in order to participate. It is one of the most accessible sports for a beginner to try. All you need is a strong pair of poles - usually provided by the instructor - and a decent pair of shoes.

So what does constitute a decent pair of shoes for Nordic Walking? Shoes or boots? Trainers or walking shoes?

At Nordic Walking East Anglia, we recommend our clients wear shoes rather than boots. The added ankle support and stiffness from boots restricts the amount of movement that the sole of the foot can achieve. In Nordic Walking the aim is to roll the foot from the initial heel strike to the push off from the toes, through the centre of the foot. Remember to “squeeze the lemons” under your feet. The only exception to this rule, is if there is heavy snow on the ground, in which case the height of a boot is beneficial in preventing snow from entering inside the foot cavity and making the foot cold, wet and uncomfortable.

So that leaves us with shoes. These should ideally be lightweight, durable and breathable. A good grip is essential as is flexibility, in order to achieve that all important foot roll. Modern trainers are designed to be protective and to add traction. They have evolved to incorporate lightweight materials that cushion the foot from the trauma of running, making them extremely comfortable for long walks. Most cushioning comes from a special foam, called EVA, which is a lightweight material injected with air cells that absorb impact, thus reducing the amount of strain on the joints. These air cells do eventually become compressed and after time their cushioning benefits are reduced. Most trainers need replacing between 300-500 miles of wear, leaving you at risk of sustaining an injury. The best way to test how much absorbency is left in your trainers is by pressing your thumb into the midsole. If it's not cushy, then its time to go shopping! Equally, if you are beginning to notice the odd little ache or pain, particularly in the foot, it is an indicator that you need to bin the old and buy new.

Walking shoes tend to have an even greater tread on their soles than trainers. Look for shoes with good cushioning of the heel; as this is the first part of the foot to strike the ground, it bears the greatest impact and requires consideration. Many are designed to be both breathable and waterproof. Look out for shoes that are made from Gore-tex fabric as they combine both these aspects. Waterproof shoes do need to be looked after well in order to maintain their advantages. All good outdoor shops sell waterproof sprays that need to be regularly applied to gain maximum benefit.

Personally, I favour a good running trainer whenever possible. However, in wet weather and mud I switch to a waterproof walking shoe, which is slightly stiffer, but keeps my toes warm and dry. Above all, make sure that you are comfortable, as that is the key to an enjoyable Nordic Walk through the gorgeous footpaths of East Anglia.

It is worth bearing in mind that if you join Britain's Nordic Walking community, by becoming a member of British Nordic Walking for just £12 a year, you can receive up to 15% discounts on shoes, clothing and equipment from Cotswolds Outdoor and Barefoot Studio Online Store.

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