May is National Walking Month and never is there a more perfect time to don your walking shoes, stretch your legs and head into the big outdoors.
Whether your walk is in a local park or high in the mountains, getting outdoors has enormous benefits for your all-round wellbeing. Sometimes the Great British weather threatens to get in the way, but Wainwright’s adage is true - 'there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing’ But what to choose from the plethora of differing brands and technologies?
Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports have 25 stores nationwide and over 85 years outdoor experience. They have their finger firmly on the pulse when it comes to choosing the latest innovations. So, who better than their team of expert buyers to walk you through what you’ll need.
‘The main things you’re looking for are weather resistance, a reliable grip and a comfortable fit.’ say Jeremy Stevens, Footwear buyer for Ellis Brigham. Many models will have a waterproof lining such as GORE-TEX, which keeps out any water that might get through the body of the boot, while also allowing any moisture from the foot to escape. Look for a well-defined tread pattern, especially if you’re likely to be walking in soft ground - the deeper the sole pattern, the more grip you will have on muddy ground. Finally get the boots or shoes that fit you best! Ellis Brigham offer a variety of brands to give suitable options for different foot shapes, wherever you plan to roam.”
The Salomon Quest 4D GTX boots are comfortable, lightweight, robust and offer protection on trickier terrain and The Merrell MQM Flex walking shoe offers light and agile performance on your day hikes.
What do I wear?
Layers are key. Choose a comfortable support bra, a technical tank or tee, a mid-layer for cooler climes and a lightweight jacket for summer that you can easily stuff into your pack.
Look for fabrics that ‘wick’ - draw moisture from the body, especially if you’ll be wearing a backpack. Many might be surprised to learn that Icebreaker, a brand renowned for their merino wool clothing, champion wearing wool in summer as merino fibres reverse the warming effect they offer in winter to keep you cool and odour-free. On longer hikes, it’s always advisable to take a lightweight shower-proof jacket. There are any feather light options on the market that offer you protective barrier should you be out all day and the weather turn. Some models handily fold into their own pocket when no longer needed (product) and should you know the weather is set to be sunny and hot, it’s worth opting for clothing that offers UV 50 + protection to shield skin from those harmful penetrating sun rays. Try Rab Kinetic Plus Jacket or Salomon One & Only Jacket.
Technical walking specific trousers or tights are key as many offer stretch in the hardworking zones and unrestricted movement. Opt for stretchy or elasticated waistbands for added comfort and don’t be put off by thoughts of old fashioned ‘ramblers’ hiking trousers. Today’s walking pants come in a variety of colours (Mountain Equipment Comic pants) and tapered styles (Salomon Outspeed Pant).
Will any old socks do for walking?
In short, no. Technical walking socks are designed to address the issues walker sometimes experience for example, irksome blisters as your feet warm up. Some brands offer a blister-free guarantee, offering socks with a double-layered construction to eliminate the foot to shoe friction that causes blisters. As well as offering support and padding and support in those hard-working areas such as the ball of the foot, heel and achilles, there are socks on the market that can keep feet whiff-free or that work to actively cool the feet. Pick a longer length sock when wearing boots and ankle socks for shoes. 1000 Mile is a well-established brand with a variety of socks that cater for your walking / outdoor needs.
Do I need walking poles?
Walking poles are often a personal choice, but many find they assist with their walking stride, pace and balance. Some female walkers like the added security of poles when encountering fields with farm animals or meeting unfamiliar dogs. Pick poles that handily collapse down to be packed away when no longer needed, ideal when you reach that pub. Try Leki Voyager Poles or Black Diamond have a variety of poles to suit your walking needs in women’s specific designs. Some also like the reassurance of having a pole to hand when encountering a field of farm animals or any wayward unleashed dogs.
“Make sure you have enough water to last you just in case you get lost exploring.” Says Luke Scrine, accessories buyer for Ellis Brigham. Be environmentally aware and opt for a re-usable water bottles such as the Camelbak Eddy .
Mark Brigham, Marketing Director for Ellis Brigham gives his 3 top tips for walkers this summer:
- Be Tick Aware! The month of May is also Lyme’s Disease Awareness Month, a debilitating condition caused by tick bites. Carry a handy pocket-size tick remover card and wear long trousers in long grass
- Learn a few basic map reading skills and don’t just rely on your mobile phone
- Make sure your footwear fits really well, sore feet will ruin your day. Ideally, have them fitted in-store with an shop expert and you don walking specific socks.
Lastly, Pop dry bags into your pack to keep your spare clothing dry, this is England after all! Try the UP pack of 3 Stuff Sacks for £19.99.
So, turn off your smartphones, grab a walking partner or two, food, water and a few good kit essentials and enjoy the great outdoors.