Hiking and trail running in Ireland have exploded in popularity since COVID. In September 2022, the CSO published “Our Lives Outdoors” survey. Of the people surveyed, there was a combined increase of 53% in the number of people spending time outdoors. Your footwear is a crucial element to your time outdoors. We’re blessed with spectacular scenery in Ireland. But the weather can be unpredictable, and the terrain can be rough and rocky.
When you think of footwear you often think of boots or runners. But you should think of it as a package deal. Buying boots or runners without buying socks is like buying bread but no butter. We're often asked "What are the best boots for hiking or the best runners for trail running". And with so many different types of shoes on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right pair for your adventure. In this blog, we’ll discuss 5 questions we ask our customers when you're looking for footwear.
1: What terrain are you exploring?
It may seem obvious but the terrain you're exploring will dictate your footwear. For hiking and trail running in Ireland, you'll want to choose a shoe that offers you good support, traction, and protection from the elements. Look for shoes that are waterproof or water-resistant, as the weather can change quickly in Ireland, and you don't want to be caught with wet feet. For hiking, footwear with ankle support can work best. Additionally, shoes with a sturdy sole and ample cushioning will help protect your feet from the rocky terrain. Trail running shoes with a more flexible sole can also work well, depending on the difficulty of the terrain you'll be running on.
2: Do you have any issues with your ankles, knees or spine?
Your feet are weight bearing joints and it's important to look after them. Wearing good supportive properly fitting footwear is an essential part of caring for your feet. You'll notice some footwear have higher arches than others and some may be wide fitting. Depending on your activity, wearing high ankle support boots may offer additional support when you're out exploring. And before your trip, make sure to break in your shoes and socks by wearing them on shorter hikes or runs. Yes, ideally wear them on a short walk or hike but you can just wear them around the house. This will help your feet and joints adjust to your new footwear. And if you wear custom orthotics be sure to bring these with you to try on with the footwear in the store.
3: Are they comfortable?:
Where possible, try on your footwear. We recommend walking around for two hours before you come into our store to find your perfect pair. This will help in accounting for your foot swelling which naturally occurs when you're on the trail. If they’re not comfortable when you try them on, you’re unlikely to enjoy wearing them on your adventure. If you can, when you’re trying on footwear, wear the socks you plan to wear on your hike or run to make sure they fit comfortably. You need enough room in the toe box for your toes to move freely. Your footwear should be snug around your heel to prevent slippage and blisters. Blisters can be a common problem when hiking or trail running, especially if your socks are too thick or too thin, or if they bunch up or slip around on your feet.
4: Do you need Gore-Tex?
Do you need waterproof footwear? Whether you’re hiking through Killarney National Park or The Wild Atlantic Way it’s likely to rain at some point. Depending on the climate you plan to run or hike in, waterproof footwear may or may not be what you need. But Gore-Tex will allow your feet to breath and stay dry even in warmer temperatures. Wet skin is a major cause of blisters. This leads us to our last question.
5: Do you have the right socks to match your shoes?
Like we said earlier, buying footwear without socks is like buying bread but no butter. You’ll want to choose a pair to suit the activity you’re doing and to suit your boots or shoes. Whether you wear ankle or full length socks will depend on what you’re doing. Merino wool or synthetic blends are good choices because they’re quick-drying and wick moisture away from your skin, keeping your feet dry and comfortable. Just like shoes, socks can provide support for your arch, heel and ankle. Look for socks with extra cushioning in the heel and ball of your foot for added comfort and support. And we recommend you bring multiple pairs of socks with you on your trip because you may need to change them. You don’t want smelly feet. Look for socks with anti-microbial properties because these can help control odur. And don’t forget socks can also help regulate your body temperature on the trail. Look for socks with different thicknesses and insulation levels to keep your feet comfortable in all types of weather.
In conclusion, the best hiking boots or the best runners for trail running are the ones you can comfortably wear for your entire hike or run. Different brands are likely to have a slightly different fit so it's important to find a pair to suit your feet and your activity. Your feet will thank you for it