Spending more time outside is one of the great side effects of choosing to walk to work. But because you’re outside more, you feel the impact of the weather much more keenly.
This time of year, it’s hard to know how to dress to walk to work. February weather in Toronto this year has been like a smorgasbord – a little bit of everything.
Shoes or boots?
As a regular walker, the weather forecast is my best friend. Environment Canada Forecast for Toronto is my browser’s home page, and there’s a very good reason for that! I hate being surprised in the morning by a big change in the weather. If I know what’s coming, I can prepare for it much better.
There are as many different choices of footwear as there are walkers. Based on my personal experience, footwear is the most important element of your walking gear. After all, if your feet hurt, you won’t want to walk! You’ll be grumpy and whiny if your heels get sore or if any part of your foot or ankle chafes when you’re walking.
Do you see snow or ice on the sidewalks, or in the forecast? Snow and ice definitely call for winter boots.
Let’s talk winter boots
Unless they’re high fashion, boots are pretty boring. But being a walking commuter means that rely on your feet to get to work. You need to look after them, and that means wearing boots that will protect them from the elements – and will not hurt them!
I’ve bought great boots from various retailers including The Shoe Company, Mountain Equipment Co-op, and even Canadian Tire. My boots are not pretty! But that’s ok because they get me where I want to go.
I prefer the lace-up style of boot so that the fit can be fine-tuned. I have ‘problem’ feet so I am also partial to boots that are quite wide and roomy in the toe. Often I buy men’s boots to get a comfortable width.
Generally my walking winter boots need to be replaced after one or two seasons.
My checklist for great winter walking boots
- rated for sub-zero temperatures
- thermal lining
- Gore-tex is the “crème de la crème” of waterproof materials – but pricey
- Good soles
- traction rubber with deep treads
- low heels
- optional: ice traction cleats – may be built-in or slip-on
- Good fit
- wiggle room for toes
- roomy enough for a 2nd thicker sock
- stays put when you walk – no heel lifting or sole slipping
From the ground up! Soles and inserts
A word about soles. For city walking, the sole needs to be flexible enough to let your foot rock heel-to-toe a bit. Some hiking boots are designed to be stiff so that they hold you steady when you’re walking on uneven terrain, like steep inclines full of uneven rocks. Athletic shoes generally have a flexible sole because they are designed to support your foot in motion. Boots may be designed either way.
The soles also need to have a deep tread for walking in snow – think of a tire tread and you get the picture.
An arch support insert isn’t strictly necessary unless you have flat feet, I’ve heard. Personally, I feel that arch supports prevent my feet from getting that achy, tired feeling.
Keep your boots in good condition. If you see a well-worn sole, tears, rips, or holes in your boots, repair or replace them. If your insoles are so old that they are no longer springy and cushiony, you can bet that your feet are paying the price.
Walking is your mode of transport. Would you put off maintaining your bicycle or car?
If your boots are NOT made for walking, you’ll soon know it. Avoid injury – don’t wait until your feet protest!