The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Shoes for LEJOG (Part 3)

Well, socks actually, and I’m going to start with a minor rant.

When I go into a shop and ask to try a shoe in a size 5 it’s quite a common occurrence for the assistant to come back to me with the news ‘we’ve only got a four or a seven’ as if expecting me to say ‘Oh, well I’ll chop off my toes and try the four then please’. In reality, of course I will not buy a shoe that is a different size to my foot.

When it comes to socks, I’m almost as fussy. I like them to fit. I don’t like them to be so small as to make my toes curl, nor do I like them baggy and bunching. That seems to be a difficult ask.

From the non-outdoor point of view, if you wander into Asda and look at their women’s trouser socks, you’ll find that the size range is 3-8. I ask you! One sock covering five sizes! For my size five feet that means a sock that constantly migrates off the foot, so that after fifty paces the cuff is half way along the instep and the toe is dangling eight inches beyond the toes. Not a satisfactory situation at all.

From the outdoor point of view a better fit is definitely required for blister avoidance. For the last few years I’ve been wearing a women-specific offerings from Bridgedale, which fits me just fine (in the relatively small sizing range of 5-6.5) – but after rave reviews from Husband I fancied trying Smartwool.

I started off getting some the size range of 5-7.5 but found that they were so big that when I put my shoe on the heel ended up half way up the calf (but they fit Husband’s size 8 feet nicely, so even a bit of a hot wash was unlikely to make them small enough to grip my feet nicely).

I’ve since bought another pair a size too small (2-4.5). They seemed promising when I tried them on in the shop and perhaps they’d still fit me nicely now if they hadn’t mysteriously disappeared between purchase and first wearing. I’m sure they’re in the house somewhere … maybe the sock monster has them?

I’ve not had better luck with the sizing of Sealskinz. The size range is reasonably small (3-5) but my initial conclusion is that given the lack of stretch this really means ‘fits a size 4, a bit big for a 3 and a bit small for a 5’. They’re certainly a bit neat in length on me. However, a size up is too big, so I’m just hoping that they’ll give a little when I finally give them their long overdue test.

This sock experimentation is all very well, but with our LEJOG rapidly approaching I needed to decide on which socks to use. I finally came to the sensible decision: I’ve Bridgedale for years without a problem (moreover, they fit me perfectly). So, I thought that I would adopt the approach of ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ and buy a pile of the same make and model to see me through our 1252 miles.

Alas, I was to be thwarted. With my decision made, I visited a sock emporium only to find that those socks I’ve been using for years have now been discontinued. Bridgedale has introduced a different sock in its place, but from a look and feel it looks worrying like other socks that I’ve tried and didn’t like.

All is not lost, however. Bridgedale still does another model that I’ve used before and although it’s thicker than I would have chosen it is a good fit and comfortable in use. I bought a couple of pairs and have been trying them with all of my footwear with a positive outcome.

So, it’s Scarpa ZG65 boots, Inov8 Roclite (or maybe Salomon XA Pro...) shoes and Bridgedale Endurance Trekker socks. Only time will tell whether those are choices with which I will be happy.


  1. Hi Gayle,
    Thousand Mile socks are keeping me blister-free - have you tried them? I've worn a pair of Smartwool socks twice this winter and got a blister both times!

  2. I have tried Thousand Mile socks, and now that I think about it they did stop me getting blisters in some foot-eating boots that I had a few years ago. Since I abandonned that pair of boots the Thousand Mile socks haven't seen the light of day. Perhaps I should drag them back out of the drawer and give them the use that they probably deserve - particularly if I can get anywhere near the miles-per-pair that Judy Armstrong got on her Alpine Challenge (2300 miles out of her first pair!).