Walks in The Lake District
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Hiking Sandals offer a lightweight summer footwear choice
Written by Steve Alders - Fitness Footwear

Getting out into the great outdoors is one of life's great pleasures and not only offers one of the healthiest exercise options available, but gives the chance to appreciate the British countryside in its full splendour and take in some of the stunning scenery. There are few better places in Britain to appreciate walking at its best than in the Lake District, which offers a wide range of ecosystems to explore, diverse scenery, and one of the most pleasurable summer walks.

Whilst getting out in into the open air for exercise has suffered in popularity little over the years, it is becoming an increasingly popular choice. Many people opt for a more convenient gym session for their weekly stint of exercise but more and more people now appreciate the true value that a walk in the wild provides. For any city dweller, getting away from the smoke and low air quality for a few hours really invigorates the body and gives a new lease of life as much needed fresh air is taken into the lungs. It is something that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated and the crisp clean air comes as a stark reminder of how bad city air can be. Get out and about and you will never under appreciate the value of the great outdoors again.

The gymnasium is such a stuffy environment which takes a great deal of the pleasure out of exercise. It offers exercise for exercise. Walking on the other hand offers a far more comprehensive exercise regime and is a much more natural way of working out, just as nature designed. There are naturally the obvious benefits over a mirror and a room full of sweaty people.

The benefits to the health are second to none and the muscle toning and body conditioning. Evolution has honed the body to walking perfection so why not go with the flow and exercise as nature intended with all the sights, sounds and smells of the great British countryside for extra measure. The benefits are extensive, from building up stamina, increasing flexibility in a wide range of muscles, releasing tension from being hunched over a computer day in day out. Walking helps to prevent back, knee and joint problems, it offers an excellent cardiovascular workout, and the wide variety of terrain and gradients work the widest possible range of muscles from the feet upwards.

As the summer approaches it is the best time for novice hikers to get out and about and for newcomers to countryside walking to make a start. There is no need to take large amounts of kit when the weather is good, and it offers a gentler introduction to walking which will see stamina build up and prepare the body for more arduous excursions including winter hikes in cold and dreary weather.

At this time of year the greatest benefits can be gained, as nature comes to life once again after a dormant winter spell. Spring signals the start of the mating season for wildlife with birds singing their mating chorus and there is a frenzy of foraging as food becomes bountiful. For animals too it is the perfect antidote after being cooped up all winter. Flowers start to bloom; at first with snowdrops, moving onto bluebells and daffodils and the trees blossom filling the air with a wonderful scent and adding beautiful colours to the landscape.

The great news is that for the spring and summer is that kit can be kept superlight, which not only makes the walking a lot easier, but keeps the starting cost down to a minimum. One of the best options for spring through to early autumn is a pair of hiking sandals. The modern lightweight construction offers durability to cope with off-road hiking, together with a super lightweight design so that the legs do not get overly tired and provide simplistic summer coolness.

As with the purchase of good quality winter walking boots, it pays to go for a pair which is of a high build quality and is well worth spending a little extra. Summer can be tough on the feet too, and as the landscape dries out it becomes harder underfoot. On a long hike this can make all the difference between pleasure and pain from blisters. When scrambling over rocks and moving over punishing terrain, cheap becomes expensive as cheap models shred after minimal use. Of course in the unlikely event that you and walking don't quite gel, they are equally good for summer in the city and the beach.

Outdoor sandals are a good choice and are as good for base camp as they are atop the moors. Specialist walking and hiking brands such as this offer the heard wearing, durable and supportive sandals that will see you less tired and in better shape at the end of the day. Modern designs and technology taken from their beefier walking boot cousins offers perfect lightweight protection for the spring, summer and autumn.

Sandals are a lot cheaper than standard walking boots, with the North Face starting at around £40 a pair, and Merrell sandals from around £50, compared to their respective walking boot alternatives which start at around £75.

When choosing a model, there are important featured to consider. Go for a sandal with good all round grip and able to cope with a wide variety of surfaces to maximise usage. The summer can still be muddy, so select a pair which will be easy to keep clean. It's a chore after a long walk to clean, but a necessity for long life of your sandals. Choose a model which gives the right level of protection, comfort and support, as it makes all the difference after a few miles. For added protection a curved sole at the front helps prevent loose gravel from getting under the toes and slowing you down and will protect against an occasional stubbing.

Once you have suitable footwear and clothing you will be ready to head out and get the maximum benefit from the great outdoors. After just one walking trip out you will feel the benefits throughout the body, and will start to build up endurance, and resolve for the more challenging winter conditions. Get hooked on walking in the summer and you will appreciate why so many walkers and hikers still go out in the cold winter months and why the adventure doesn't end as the temperatures drop off.


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