Your feet are the most important thing to consider when bushwalking. Look after them by wearing well-fitting, specialist outdoor footwear so they will get you into the bush, to wonderful places, and back out again.
Never wear leather soled shoes or thin soled shoes on a hike. Not only is there a danger of trips and falls, but your feet will be very tired at the end of a walk.
It is not essential to buy an expensive pair of bushwalking boots before commencing your first walk. Initially you will find that joggers are adequate, particularly if the weather is fine and the terrain is easy. Some people prefer to wear joggers.
You will need to consider what weather conditions you are prepared to walk in, the need for waterproofing, the type of terrain you will cover, how much ankle support you require, pre-existing medical conditions affecting your feet and the comfort of each type of footwear.
In summer, thick rubber-soled joggers may be suitable for a walk, but wet weather or more rugged conditions require waterproof fabric or leather boots. Boots also have more ankle support, which is believed to prevent ankle injuries.
Fabric boots are softer and lighter. Leather boots are heavier but more durable and suitable for rugged track conditions.
Always buy boots from a reputable outdoor gear supplier with a sales assistant who can advise you on the correct pair of boots for your needs.
Bring a pair of thick socks with you when you try on boots. You normally need a boot at least one size bigger than your shoe size, to accommodate the thicker socks. Some people wear a thin pair of socks and a thicker outer pair of socks to prevent blisters. (See the Health page for more on blisters.)
Wear wool blend socks in cold climates. The higher the percentage of wool, the warmer your feet will be. In summer keep feet cool with a blend that includes a wicking, technical fibre such as Coolmax.
Rubber soled, leather or fabric walking boots, preferably lined with a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane, will keep your feet dry. Leather walking boots benefit from regular applications of boot wax to maintain waterproofing and water repellence. Fabric walking boots benefit from regular application of water repellent treatments, available from your outdoor gear supplier.
Care for your feet is just as important as having the right footwear and socks. Cut your toenails before every trip to avoid pain and possibly loss of the nails. Deal with tough or cracked skin well before a trip.
This is one person’s story:
In rugged country, it is common for legs to take the brunt of sticks, vines and prickly bushes. Shins get scraped, scratched, bleed and get thorns embedded in them. Long pants can help to some extent, but many bushwalkers choose to wear gaiters.
Gaiters are tough canvas or nylon sheaths that fit around the lower part of the leg to provide some protection from the scrub. They also provide protection from snake bite, and stop your socks filling up with grass seeds.
When considering gaiters, make sure they fit comfortably around your leg and down over the top of your boots or shoes. Most gaiters will have a strap or cord to go under your shoe to keep them firm.
Where the countryside is not so rough, but there is a lot of grass or weeds, you can wear sock protectors to save your socks from their seeds. These are short elasticised skirts that fit around the bottom of your leg and go over your socks and the opening in your shoes.