Properly fitting appropriate bushwalking footwear is the difference between enjoying a hike and vowing never to step out again. Uneven trails and pack-carrying can hammer ankles and good boot support is important on some walks (walking poles help too).
Boots also protect against jutting rocks and sticks and MAY deflect a snake bite; they can, however, be hot in warm conditions. Walking shoes with non-slip tread are often all that you need on a flat-ish day walk. Hiking sandals are suited to many situations, coming into their own on walks with water-crossings, because they give secure footing while allowing water to drain.
But what boot/shoe/sandal? Leather or fabric? Waterproof or not? Big name or budget brand? Every foot is different so unfortunately there’s no one-size-fits-all answer or one-brand-fits all. There are though a few tips for doing right by your feet:
• Try new boots on when you have been on your feet for a while rather than first thing in the morning before your feet swell.
• Test toe room by standing on a ramp (good outdoor shops have these) or tapping your boot toe on the ground behind you (or both): your toes should not touch the front of the boot. Slightly big is better than too small, because you can always wear thicker socks.
• Never wear box-new footwear on a hike. (Horror blister stories far outnumber first-time success stories – WARNING grisly photo below.)
• Treat hot spots promptly; don’t keep going to the next planned stop. Blisters can be dangerously debilitating.