These boots are made for walking?

Over the years I have settled on using Meindl Burma walking boots, now superseded by Meindl Bhutan.  Both are high quality MFS (Memory Foam) walking boots, made in Germany.  I have worn through 3 pairs now.  They are comfortable, waterproof and durable.  I can walk 20+ miles in a pair right out of the box and with careful maintenance (using Nikwax) they provide excellent protection from the worse that British weather can muster.

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But for summer months and increased amounts of walking on good paths, do I really needed such a sturdy boot?  Too much walking on asphalt wears these boots out at an alarming rate and they now costs upwards of £200 a pair.

I experimented using a pair of Meindl approach shoes on the South Downs Way.  They worked well for the first 3 days, covering some 75 miles, but on the last day I was suffering from bruises and bad blisters on the balls of my feet.  Then I used Scarpa Vortex XCR approach shoes on Peddars Way and after 4 day had terrible blisters on the balls of my feet. Using these shoes for everyday walking are fine, but longer trips?  They may work for some people, but not for me so far.

I am now going to try walking the Wales Coast Path using Brooks Cascadia 13’s – a trail running shoe.  These are much lighter. The Gurkha saying is –  “a pound saved from the boot equals four pounds saved from your pack”.  They weigh 420g each compared to 1045g for the Meindl Bhutan (socks included, size 12) a figure which will be higher still when they are soaking wet.  So that’s a massive 5kg (1045-420)*2*4 equivalent in the pack!

My pack will weigh 10kg wet (water and food carried) – a light hiking setup, so not too much strain on my feet.  They cost £110 for the non-GTX version and my choice given my dislike of Gore-Tex, a membrane that just as effective as keeping water in as out.  Water will get in eventually, particularly as the shoes wear and the membrane breaks.  I prefer footwear that can dry out in-use and overnight easily.

I have often thought thru-hikers using such shoes are more athletes than ramblers and have adapted to such footwear.  I am keen to try them out as I would much prefer lighter shoes for the Wales Coast Path in 2018 and the England Coast Path in 2020.  These routes will have a high proportion of road and high quality paths.  I would definitely use Meindl boots for the Scottish National Trail, given the rough / wet terrain.

I estimate a pair of Meindl Boots last 1,500-2,000 miles and Brooks Cascadia will last 500-700 miles.  So a quick calculation:

  • Meindl boots – £200 / 1,500 = 13.3p a mile, but can be re-soled for about £90
  • Cascadia shoes – £100 / 500 = 20p a mile and a new pair needed

So this is not an exercise in lower cost walking, but comfort and the pleasure in use.  Perhaps the solution is a blend of both, Meindl’s for autumn, spring and wet conditions, and Cascadia’s for the summer.

We shall see.  I’ll take plenty of Hypafix tape to wrap up my feet.

Hypafix

It was a revelation when someone introduced me to Zinc Tape for blister protection and recovery.  I have been using this for many years and it has saved the day on many occasions.

Hypafix

Then someone told me about Hypafix tape.  A few youtube videos later and I realise this is used by runners and extreme athletes for blister prevention.

This stuff really works and is very easy to apply, maintain and remove.  It is useful stuff for improvised plasters – just add lint and disinfectant to a wound and seal in place with Hypafix.  If you do get a blister, you can build custom solutions with this tape quite easily.

But for me, it’s all about prevention. I tape up any part of my foot, which is beginning to feel it might blister beforehand;  usually my heels, but everyone will have their own blister hot spots.  A good covering of 1-2 layers really works wonders.

 

National Trail popularity

Digging into the web site statistics, I am surprised at the web site traffic for the National Trails.  Is there an inverse correlation between my favourite trails and their popularity?

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You would expect the Pennine Way and South West Coast Path to lead the table, but why is the West Highland Way so low in the chart when it is easily the busiest path I have walked.

Finished…

…after 12 years of sneaking time off and pounding the paths, I have finally finished all 19 National Trails. Some 3,000 miles, over 150 days, perhaps 6 million steps over the most beautiful and awe-inspiring countryside in the world.

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Now, what to do?  Shall I wait for the completion of the England Coast Path and completed the Wales Coast Path first?  What about a Scottish challenge?

Actually, the plan is to cycle the North Sea Cycle Route next year, if time allows. Some 6,000km from Bergen to Shetland via Dover.  See the Cycling section as it evolves.

I even got an LDWA Diamond certificate. How sad is that?  There are only 25 odd members who have done them all.

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Martyn

Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Overview

(Photographs pre-digital era, scanned film prints)

A great alternative to the SWCP, if time is limited. An excellent introduction to the pleasures of coastal walking.  Outside the holiday season the path is quiet and there are numerous remote cliffs, headlands and beaches to rival any in the British Isles. Rugged and rewarding.  Pay attention to the tide tables at Dale and the military range closures at Castlemartin, as alternative routes involve road walking.

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Completed in September 2004, my first National Trail, inspired by a journey I took when I was 15 and responsible for committing me to this life long adventure.

Time of year

Ideal times are late Spring or early Autumn, when the YHA hostels are quiet and the bird life is more pronounced.  Seal Pups can be seen seen from September and wild flowers proliferate in the Spring.   Continue reading