Considering I was going to hike 2500 kilometres, I was well aware that I would probably need some specific gear. Though not entirely sure what “specific” would imply I figured that, as a pretty experienced camper, it couldn’t be that difficult to sort out what I would eventually take with me or not. Three nights and two mornings of online activity later, I discovered that the resources providing information regarding “hiking gear” in the broadest meaning of the word, seemed to just never end. Ranging from lightweight self-inflatable mats to sporks, 3-season tent reviews, the benefits of merino wool, non-gtx advocates, intriguing layering systems and walking pole discussions… I had about 55 tabs open and thought I was going mad. It was just too much information and I did not know where to start.
So I asked myself: After your first hike, what was the thing you wished for most? Besides more food, which does not really qualify as gear, the first thing that came to my mind where shoes. I required a good pair of shoes. Bingo. I asked Google:
“hiking boots or shoes”
“hiking boots shoes or trail runners?”
“hiking two seasons boots”
“hiking long distance gore-tex or not???”
My online search for shoes continued for about a week. I read up on what shoes would be most appropriate for my journey, I read about ankle support (“Is it necessary?”), the discussion around gore-tex (“Your feet will get wet anyway!”) and discovered all hiking shoes and boots were not going to make me look any better, so I decided not to worry about aesthetics. Reading the diverse and, often, contradicting opinions and arguments on a wide array of forums, I concluded that there was only one way to find the right footwear: to fit some.
That said. I headed to an outdoor shop here in Amsterdam, walked in and told my story to one of the employees. I explained her about my doubts concerning shoes with ankle support, my preference for shoes without gore-tex and also provided her with the information that I was going to walk 2500 kilometres and would be carrying about 10 kilograms on my back.
I was in there for two hours (!) before I made a decision.
During these two hours, I fitted a f*** ton of hiking shoes, boots and trail runners and this is what I figured out whilst actually wearing the footwear:
The (low) hiking shoes and trail runners did not do it for me. I do admit their weight is ideal, however, the absence of ankle support whilst standing and walking didn’t feel right. The slightly heavier boots with the ankle support on the other hand, immediately influenced my posture and made me feel more grounded, which I consider being a plus when carrying weight on your back.
I personally prefer leather shoes over waterproof shoes. Why? To be honest, I cannot really put my finger on it generally eating a plant-based diet. Anyways, the two main reasons are the durability of leather boots and their ability to naturally repel water.
Every shoe or boot has a different fit and every foot is different. The front part of my feet are wide whereas my ankles are relatively small (yeah, picture that, how odd), This meant that I did not fit the boots of certain brands, some of which were highly promoted amongst hikers on the Internet. What I am trying to say is that, even though there is lots of useful advice online, try to find the right shoe for you.
Eventually, I went home with the Tatra Lady (leather) from the German brand Hanwag. The boots fitted my feet perfectly, they provided excellent support and I will be able to use them after walking the camino. To make sure that these were the right ones, I have tried them on at home a couple of times and I can tell you, these are absolutely it!