Diary of a boot fitting

A pair of good boots remains the key component of a walker’s armoury. When it comes to ensuring they’re correctly fitted, it’s worth consulting an expert.

Trail’s photographer Tom Bailey covers more miles on the hill than most (if not all) walking gentlemen. Hence, so do his boots – and more often than not they’re transporting a fair weight of kit over difficult terrain. Correctly fitting boots are essential.

Finding himself in the Lake District in need of a new pair at short notice, he drops in to the George Fisher store in Keswick to chat with John Owens about his requirements. John is highly experienced in all things outdoor and has fitted thousands of pairs of boots and shoes during his time. Tom’s feet are in good hands...

1 Visual inspection

John starts by taking a look at Tom’s feet to gauge their shape. Are they narrow or wide? What sort of arch do they have? Does Tom have the usual number of toes? This enables John to immediately rule out certain models of boot and start considering whether Tom would benefit from dedicated insoles.

2 Measuring

Tom’s feet are both measured (not unusually, one is marginally larger than the other), and this information is used to narrow down a range of sizes that might fit him. Not all boots come up exactly the same – even from the same manufacturer – so it’s worth trying variations in size. Luckily, John has plenty for Tom to try.

3 Socks-on sizing

With socks on, boot insoles are used to determine the correct sizing by looking at how much room there is around Tom’s feet. It’s key to try on boots while wearing the sort of socks you will be walking in – in most cases, nice thick ones. Most boot fitters (including George Fisher) have socks you can borrow for this purpose.

4 Boot fitting

With a range of boots and sizes to try, John assists Tom in putting on and correctly lacing the boots to ensure they fit correctly, checking room at the toes, secure positioning of the heel, and the volume of the boot over the foot. This also gives Tom an initial impression of the weight and flexibility of the boot.

5 On the ramp

After walking around on the flat to check the fit, Tom is shown to the test ramp – a little replica of outdoors, indoors – to try his feet on some uneven and sloping terrain. He also walks up and down the store’s stairs using different parts of the boot to test performance.

6 Change and repeat

Tom is encouraged to try different boots in varying styles. Due to the load he typically carries, his preference tends to be for stiffer, more supportive boots, but John insists he test-drives more flexible models and subtly different designs to make sure he is going to be 100 per cent happy with his final choice.

7 Insole selection

The shape of Tom’s feet means that John feels he would benefit from some corrective insoles. Once again, Tom is encouraged to try a couple of different pairs of boots with a few different insoles, until the perfect combination of boot and insole is discovered for Tom’s hard-walking feet.

8 Happy feet

Success! And with an expertly fitted pair of Scarpa Manta Pro GTX boots to keep his feet comfortable and protected on the hill, that’s one less thing for Tom to complain about. That just leaves the weather, modern music, traffic on the A1, and the under-appreciation of photographers. Guess you can’t have everything, hey?