I’ve never been particularly into my shoes. I don’t do designer labels, fashion or trends. For the last 20 years or more, my opening gambit on entering a shoe shop (which I do as infrequently as I can get away with) has been “What have you got in a 12?” It’s pointless looking, setting your heart on a particular style, only to find that it tops out at an 11 and the shop assistant is looking at you like you’re some sort of huge-footed freak. Still, could be worse – a friend of mine has feet much bigger than me and has to have his shoes specially made, poor bugger.
One thing I’ve got to have, though, is a good pair of boots.
This is only the second pair of hiking boots I’ve needed and they’re a mere handful of years old, youngsters at the start of their journey through life’s terrain. The previous pair were a marvel – these “new” ones have a lot to live up to!
Back when I was 16 or 17, maybe even younger, I joined the local fell-walking society. Every other Sunday we’d all meet up in Ripon, drive off to some godforsaken arse-end-of-nowhere and spend a few hours walking through some truly amazing countryside. It was on these walks that I learned that it is possible to spend 4 hours walking consistently uphill and end up back where you started, that Lincolnshire is a lot less interesting than Yorkshire to walk round (especially when you’re following canal-side paths) and that a good pair of boots is something you need.
My dad got me my first hiking boots, from the local cobblers/shoe shop near his warehouse. They were, according to the shop owner, Polish army surplus stock, Size 12, and had been sat in his store-room for as long as he could remember. He was embarrassed to take money for them, even if it was only a fiver. These boots lasted. They’re one of only 2 pairs of footwear I’ve ever had re-soled (twice, as it happens). They must have clocked up thousands of miles in their life, taking me all over Yorkshire (and a bit more) with the fell walkers, around Scotland on the Haggis bus, up Kilimanjaro. They had a holiday to Zimbabwe once (though they never got worn there). It was only a complete and terminal failure of their stitching that they were finally laid to rest in the SIC Waste to Energy plant around 2004.
So these new boots have a lot to live up to. They’re good ones, though, and I’ve no doubt they’ll have their own stories come the end.