Tag Archives: Fitness

Choosing Hiking Boots | A Beginners’ Guide

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Recently I bought my first real pair of proper hiking boots – following weeks of researching, speaking to hikers and climbers and finally having a lengthy conversation with an ex-Himalayan Mountain Rescue guide and getting some boots professionally fitted.

I thought I’d share some of my newfound expertise as it can be rather a daunting purchase to make – they’re so expensive! If you’re a hiker, climber or walker please feel free to chip in with advice in the comments!

My first tip would be to go get your boots from a reputable retailer with well informed, experienced staff. They’ll be able to help you with the right fit, give you advice on materials and steer you in the right direction for what you’ll be using your boots for.
Obviously visiting a high street retailer isn’t in everyone’s budget, and with such great online deals available the temptation to blind buy can be very strong… so here are a few other pointers for buying that could help…

Your Size may not be Your Size. I bought boots 1 full size bigger than my regular, but I tried on other brands that were comfy in a huge range from 1 size smaller right the way up to 1.5sizes bigger. When buying online, many brands will give you the insole measurement in length. To guess the right fit, you want the insole to be about 1 finger width longer than where your big toe sits. This gives your foot enough space to wiggle and stops your toe bumping on the end of the shoe during descents, which would become super painful.

Proper Socks are Just as Important. I tried my first pair of boots (and the ones I bought in the end) on with regular ole thick boot socks and they were not very comfortable. I then tried them with proper hiking socks that had appropriate padding, and they were a dream. Buying proper socks is a must and you’ll thank yourself for it when you’re at the top of your hike with no blisters.

Material & Design is important. It really depends on the type of hiking you’ll be doing. Will you need crampons, will there be scrambling or tough terrain? Do you need/prefer ankle support? You don’t want super tough ice hiking boots for a walk in the Lake District, and you don’t want bog standard walking shoes for climbing Kilimanjaro.

Price is a factor. I’m not saying the most expensive boot will definitely be the best one, but £30 Sports Direct shoes simply won’t cut it for proper hikes. A good pair of boots should last years when looked after correctly – do your sums, if you’d replace a pair of £50 Karrimor walkers twice a year, buy some better quality ones that’ll last longer.

Ordered Online? Wear them Excessively at Home. Returns policies are great – and you can return most things unused under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – so make sure you love your boots and they fit you right before you take them outside. Wear them indoors, hike the stairs slowly and quickly, repeatedly, carrying things. Make yourself a ramp and walk up and down it. Rock your feet back and forth in them and take note of how they feel.

Look for the big 3. All trekking shoes for any environment should be, at minimum, waterproof, breathable and with a sturdy grip. Don’t settle for anything less.

Finally I want to share what I’ve discovered to be the most important questions to ask when buying hiking boots. If the answer to these is “yes” then the boots get a big fat “No!”

Does my toe touch the tip of the shoe when standing/walking on flat?

Does my toe touch the tip of the shoe when descending?

Does the shoe allow my foot to move side-to-side inside?

Does my heel lift inside the shoe when I walk on flat or ascend?

Are they excessively heavy?

Do they pinch my foot at the top or sides?

Hopefully these tips will help you choose some great walking shoes that fit properly and help you enjoy hours of comfortable trekking!

If you have any tips to add, please feel free to chip in.

Kitty

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Ethical Sports Fashion | Sundried Activewear

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Recently I learned about a sportswear brand that I really wanted to talk about today – Sundried – I haven’t tried their product yet but, on reading about their business ethos and mission statement, I decided it was definitely something I want to share.

Before I get cracking, I want to point out that I haven’t been paid to write this post. I haven’t been sent product, vouchers, money or anything else. I just really like the brand message.

The brand was founded by a guy named Daniel Puddick – a PT, Triathlete and Dad who wanted to create a brand that his kids would be proud to associate with in future. His thoughts were that the next generation would be focused on ethical production and carbon footprint, so set about creating a product that supports both.

Premium ethical activewear was the goal. Encouraging healthy lifestyles, responsibly – that’s the motto.

Sundried product is made in Portugal with European fabrics – and each product comes with a unique code which, when entered on the website, shows you the journey of your garment. It also includes a donation to Water for Kids, and you will be given information on specifically what your donation will achieve. You can read more about Water for Kids here, but rest assured it’s a good thing – they work hard to deliver safe drinking water to communities (mainly in Uganda and Zambia).

The range is limited right now – but new collections are in the pipeline. Happily, the products are pretty safe – simple shapes and shades mean the brand can work for literally anyone. Sure, it’s a little expensive but it is specifically designed to need less garment care, contributing to the eco-friendly factor. Sundried’s range is designed to be washed cool and sun-dried – saving the planet by eliminating hot washes and tumble dryers (plus the garments pay for themselves in what you’ll save on your electricity bills!)

Something I really love  about Sundried’s values is their “EHOH” concept – every hour on the hour – where they suggest doing 5 minutes of exercise every hour, to reduce the negative effects of sitting down for long stretches. Read more about their values here.

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Right now their collections are available exclusively at http://www.sundried.com. If you’re on the market for some new sportswear, or are interested in investing in ethical fashion choices, you should definitely check them out!

Kitty

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Ethical Everest : Is It Possible? 

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the spirit of adventure burning in me – whether that be the desire to dive coral reefs, wander slowly around ancient ruins or lose myself among the wilderness. I have a deep respect for this planet, so adventure is sometimes a conundrum for me – how do you visit places without damaging them or putting them at risk? How do you really leave only footprints, take only photographs?

Carbon footprints, destruction of animal and plant-life, exploitation of local people and cultures… all of these things are real concerns for me when travelling.

Lately Mr K and I have been taken with the idea of trekking to Everest Basecamp. The subject of much news coverage in recent years, there has been a real, important discussion about the ethics (and safety) of climbing Everest and I wonder whether it’s even possible to tackle this peak (entirely, or to basecamp) in a responsible, respectful way. If you need to frame the issue, the 2015 documentary Sherpa (Jennifer Peedom) is very insightful.

The Sherpa community are crucial support lines for anyone climbing Everest – they have the skill and experience (and the acclimatisation) to deal with sticky situations at tricky altitudes. This expertise is sometimes used for setting up camp and sometimes for hauling non-essential luggage and luxuries for the tired mountaineers. You might say they are responsible for the survival of visitors, which to me indicates they should be treated with utmost respect (and paid accordingly). There’s no denying that a Sherpa’s income is, in comparison with the local average, life-changing. But so is the risk. Nobody should have to face death for the sake of carrying someone’s television up a mountain.

Aside from being used as a glorified donkey, Sherpa are also entrusted with leading groups of climbers to the summit of Everest – and often nipping back-and-forth from camp to camp, fetching Oxygen and assisting poorly mountaineers. All the while putting themselves at immense risk, spending much time away from their families.

The Nepalese government have vowed in past years to tighten up restrictions on climbers with insufficient physical skill or experience to safely scale Everest – and rightly so – however a popular Western attitude that Money = Ability means that many aspiring climbers can prove they’ve tackled some other monstrous peaks, thus gaining access to Everest. It doesn’t mean they didn’t get excessive physical support at those times though. Climbing Kilimanjaro is not to be compared with climbing K2. Although it’s a step in the right direction, it still somehow seems irresponsible to expect a Sherpa to risk their lives for a potentially incapable, unprepared climber.

My solution? If you’re not fit enough to carry your own kit & oxygen… you’re not fit enough to climb Everest. Or walk to Basecamp.
If you’re not honest or responsible enough to acknowledge that you’re suffering altitude sickness, or any other conditions (like toothache, or a cough), you’re not ready to tackle the climb.

On the flipside, for experienced and genuinely capable climbers, the Sherpa community benefits greatly from the tourism factor of Everest – where respectfully conducted. Where the other main income sources are tourist tea-houses and farming, being a mountain guide is an attractive prospect in Nepal. The guides earn good money, and the streams of tourists coming in to view the mountain or enjoy less physical treks in the lower Himalayas spend welcome money in the community.

But, as we all know, with tourism comes trash – and Westerners often forget that to the locals, Everest is a sacred place. Reports in past years have shown huge amounts of rubbish and human waste left at Everest camps, forcing the Indian army to execute a cleanup mission. How terribly disrespectful to litter in a place of worship – imagine the outrage – food packets, water bottles and faeces left in a Church, or at Lourdes. Diabolical!

Much of the time, you’re partly reliant on tour operators to be up-front and honest about their approach to employee wellbeing and their clean-up policy… and basically their overall goodness and dedication to preserving the integrity of such a beautiful place.

Recently I spoke with a Nepali “ex-Sherpa” and Himalayan Mountain Rescue team member who had spent several years on Everest, he spoke positively about the impact of responsible and respectful tourists on Everest. He was of the opinion that there are some Nepali trek operators who plan ethical, local-friendly trips in the area – and the key is to book locally, through a guide who will be taking you (or at least through a company who can tell you the name of your dedicated guide). Tip well, mentally prepare as you physically prepare, do your share of the slog, and be honest about your condition and ability.

My conclusion? I’m inclined to believe what the locals tell me, and hope they say what they think.
I don’t see throwing money at a feat as a true accomplishment – did you really climb Everest if you were carried there? If you’re clued up, physically able and genuinely have a lust to visit, then you can do the trip successfully without harming anyone. If you look for shortcuts (be it money, time or effort driven) someone/something is going to get hurt.
I suppose in an entirely different way, I will find out  the coming months as we plan our own ethically-driven trip to Nepal.
Stay tuned for that, and please share any opinions, insights or experience on this type of trip – everything helps!

Kitty

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