“These boots are made for walking.”

Kim Jackson, guest blogger and regular supporter of Back 2 Balance chiropractic clinic, writes about boots for the winter and all the different types/styles out there. Kim and her husband Mark, run Klodhoppers, a local independent children’s shoe outlet in Hove and Haywards Heath.

Once the colder weather begins to set in most parents start to think about not only a more sturdy shoe for the autumn (compared to the canvas summer shoes their children are just growing out of), but also a boot of some description in preparation for the harsher winter weather.

Boots have featured throughout the centuries with the earliest recorded being about 1000 BC. Roman soldiers wore boots with specific designs to denote rank, while the lower ranks wore sandals. Boots have featured in every century in some way, some as bootees, mostly made from hide and fastened with a simple lace up the side. They have been a consistent part of army uniform throughout the world. For centuries, boots were worn more by men than women, often as a class distinction denoting wealth and property. As men travelled mainly on horseback until the mid nineteenth century, the heels on their boots were essential in order to keep their feet in the stirrups. Women adopted the boot as a valuable part of their wardrobe from the 1800s onwards, and in turn, boots became an important item of footwear for children too.

There is a wide range of different boots available now, depending on what job you want them to do.

Boots come in a huge variety of styles: lace, gusset, zip and slip-on. All of these have some limitation, although a laced boot or a boot with a zip offers the best sort of fastening for a child’s foot as the fit will be better. But it does depend on the type of boot you want your child to wear and for what purpose.

Wellington boots are a must for the British climate for all children if you want them to have dry feet when playing outside or walking to school. Probably the most famous Wellington boot is the Hunter with its good flexibility and recognisable look. Of course there are plenty more cheaply-made versions on the market, but it is unlikely that they will last as long or be as comfortable as the authentic Hunter boot. They are made out of rubber as opposed to plastic, which gives this boot greater flexibility and durability (there are 28 parts to a Hunter Wellington boot, most of which are still produced by hand).

Fashion boots, such as cowboy boots, ankle boots, knee length boots etc are usually made from leather or synthetic materials. However, leather boots are more breathable for a child’s foot, and they will mould to the child’s foot better. Leather is also more durable for children, and can be polished and cared for more easily to prolong its ‘wearability’, whereas a synthetic material will encourage the foot to sweat, and once scuffed or badly scratched, may not readily return to looking as good as it did when it was new. Leather or suede boots can be treated with a special protector spray to aid the water resistance of the boots but this spray does not make them waterproof, only water resistant.

Moreover you may choose a boot for your child that has ‘Goretex’, ‘Richtex’ or ‘Sympatex’ on the label. Technology can now provide very lightweight micro-porous filmic materials which can be used in shoe and boot linings to add water resistance to conventional constructions such as trainers and winter boots. ‘Goretex’, ‘Sympatex’ etc are the brand names for man-made fabrics using high technology and laboratory chemical processes. These brand names have a copyright as they took a long time and a large amount of investment to produce. Their constituent content is therefore a secret. Footwear with this type of waterproof construction tends to be more expensive, but if you are looking for a good waterproof product that also allows perspiration or moisture to wick away from the skin, and keeps the child’s foot warm and dry, then it is often a very good investment. ‘Goretex’ products do not require protector spray treatment.

Walking boots for camping or hiking are usually found in specialist camping/clothing shops. Where walking over rough terrain is involved, these boots are preferred to shoes. So if your child is a scout or a guide, the boot will give better stability to the ankle joint. The heel counter in this type of boot will not only be strengthened but will also be extended, in order to give firm control and minimise the likelihood of ankle damage (especially a twisted ankle). The outer soles usually provide a ridged pattern in order to give a better grip, and reduce slips and falls.

Snow boots have become increasingly popular over the last few years, especially since our winter weather has become a lot more severe.

Fleece-lined snow boots or wellies are great for keeping children’s feet warm AND dry, or you can simply add a pair of fleece-lined socks to an ordinary pair of wellies.

Some snow boots are treated with ‘Goretex’ too, some are not. Please bear in mind that if you put extra socks or thermal socks on your child’s feet in a fleece-lined boot, they may become really hot and perspire more than usual. We have had the occasional parent return a snow boot to us worried that the boots might be ‘leaking’, with the fleece lining soaking wet each time their child takes off their boots. We have steeped these snow boots in bowls of water to test them, but the boots remain dry inside, contradicting the parent’s story. However, once we have established that the child is already prone to hot feet, and he has been wearing thermal socks while running around playing in the boots, then it becomes apparent what the problem is – sweaty feet, not a leak!!

Zipped boots can be a problem for children if they don’t know the correct way to get in and out of a zipped boot. At Klodhoppers each member of staff is trained to show the child (in front of the parent) how to unzip the boot all the way down to the bottom in order to get the foot in and out of the boot. If the child ignores this advice then it could become a costly trip to the shoe repairer for the parent, as while a replacement zip doesn’t cost much, the actual unstitching and re-stitching of a boot is very expensive. The tell-tale sign of the incorrect use of a zip is when the ‘teeth’ of the zip break one to two inches from the bottom. This is usually as the zip slightly turns the corner at the ankle, and the child hasn’t bothered to allow sufficient room for the foot to go in or come out of the boot. Any retailer would be obliged to tell you that he or she is not responsible for this type of incorrect wear and tear.

If the zip is a bit stiff (when the boots are new), a good squirt with the protector spray along the teeth of the zip should do the trick, moving the zip up and down slowly, before putting them on your child’s feet.

All boots will look and perform better if they are cleaned and polished regularly. There is nothing better for ‘feeding’ the leather than plain old-fashioned polish – NOT SCUFF CREAM – the acid in this will break down the leather. The boots will also turn out to be better value for money and more durable if your child is not allowed to use their new boots as brakes for their scooter or bike (an old pair of trainers or wellies are more suitable) !

Hunter Wellingtons should be washed in warm soapy water only and then allowed to dry off before putting away or storing. Do not keep them in a place which can expose them to extremes of temperature as this can affect the rubber. Strong chemicals can also affect the quality of the rubber and damage them. If you see a white ‘bloom’ on your Hunters, it means that the natural oils are leaching from the rubber. This is perfectly normal – you can take a soft damp cloth and buff the boots gently to remove the bloom, or you can use the special boot buffer liquid provided by Hunter to return the boots to their original look.

Please remember that most of the winter boots/snow boots start arriving in September and October – you can always size them a little on the big side if you buy them early. But don’t leave it too late – don’t wait until the snow arrives – or there may not be a lot left to choose from!

Kim Jackson MSSF

Director

Klodhoppers Ltd, Hove and Haywards Heath