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How to Winterproof Your Walks

Walking in the winter months does present a few extra challenges, but nothing that can’t be overcome with the right equipment. From keeping warm to keeping your feet dry, here we explore the iFootpath’s guide to winter-proofing your walks…

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud

The inevitable fact of the wetter and colder months is that many of the footpaths (and particularly bridleways) become muddy. Wet clay can be slippery whilst some field paths can hold water meaning you might need to wade through some surface water. There’s nothing worse than trying to pick your way around the edges of deep puddles in your summer trainers, so having the right footwear is the key here. The right pair of boots will mean you can enjoy the views rather than constantly staring at the ground for the next water hazard!

The obvious (but not necessarily best) solution is wellington boots, but make sure you choose appropriate ones if this is your boot of choice. You ideally need wellies with good sole grips, good foot support and that are breathable if you will be walking for any distance. Farmers that wear wellies for hours every day do suffer with their feet and one livestock auction has even introduced a dedicated chiropodist to help reverse some of the problems caused – from fungal infections and joint pain to nail issues and bunions.

If you are willing to invest a little more cash to save your feet, there are some excellent alternatives to wellies. Knee-high waterproof boots come in many guises. One of the most famous brands is Dubarry Boots (a company based in Ireland), leather knee-high boots with Gore-Tex meaning they are both waterproof and breathable. They are also a snugger fit than wellies with a sturdier sole, meaning they provide more support for your feet. Richard has enjoyed his pair for many years, but they are quite an investment. I prefer another similar boot called Dublin River Boots, a slightly more affordable option with the same features as Dubarry Boots and, in my opinion, more comfortable on female feet! If you prefer a vegan-friendly option that avoids leather, another brand that receives good reviews is Muck Boots. These are made of rubber and neoprene, giving warmth, comfort and waterproofing.

claire winter wardrobe small

Bracing Winds and Heavy Showers

Colder weather is an almost certainty when it comes to walking in winter. Walking in cold conditions is not to be taken lightly and we would always advise following slightly shorter walks, carrying warm drinks and wearing extra layers to keep you safe.

As well as warm boots (see above), it is important to wear warm trousers. Jeans are a popular hard-working material, but are not ideal for winter walking. One particular problem is that they take too long to dry if you are unlucky and get caught out in the rain. There are several purpose-made walking trousers that provide thermal and waterproof properties. Like the boots, they are a bit of an investment but well worth it in our opinion. Our winter walking trouser of choice is Rohan Dry Roamers. These clever trousers include a waterproof membrane within the trouser, but are worn alone (not as over-trousers) and are washable in your washing machine with non-bio detergent. Genius! Not only do they keep us warm and dry (even in the pouring rain) but they also mean we can sit on any wet bench without suffering from a wet bum!

A good coat is also essential in the winter months. Remember to wear several layers of clothing underneath so that you can adjust your comfort levels as you walk. For the coldest weather we tend to wear coats designed for skiing. We pick these up in discount stores or high street sales where ‘last season’ kit is usually half-price or better. Late winter is a great time to pick up a bargain. Look out for coats with built-in thumb-cuffs which will stop the wind whistling up your sleeves.

Keeping your extremities warm is really important in the winter. Make sure you use a good pair of warm socks in your boots. In addition, keeping your head warm is paramount. We both use Thinsulate Fleece Hats to stop body heat escaping from our heads. Gloves are a good addition; look out for Gloves That Work With Touch-screens, meaning you can operate your phone screen (and the iFootpath App!) without taking off gloves and exposing your hands. Finally, it is worth investing in a good Snood. These are easier to carry than a traditional scarf but work just as well to stop cold winds getting down your neck.  

Tackling Snow and Ice

Walking in snow and ice is a risky business and not something we would necessarily recommend. If you are worried about coming across small patches of ice or snow on your rambles, there are some bits of equipment that can make life easier.

As dog-owners, we head out for a walk every day regardless of the weather. Some of the scariest conditions are when compacted snow or meltwater has transformed into sheets of ice or black ice. I was never keen on ice-skating and I certainly don’t enjoy it when out for a walk. We discovered a traction device a few years ago that fits over your walking boots, called Yaktrax. These brilliant little gadgets are easy to carry and act like snow chains for your shoes. Only last week, they were a life-saver when our local pavements stayed as ice sheets for a couple of days. We were nice and steady on our feet, even when our dog (who naturally has four-wheel drive!) was skidding.

You might also want to invest in some Walking Poles to use when conditions are slippery. We carry a foldable pole at all times, ready for any tricky conditions or in case of injury. Poles will help convert your motion from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive and give you extra stability.

If you are intending to walk in snow or ice conditions, then check out these tips from our friends at Mountain Warehouse…

walk on ice

Helping Your Hound

IMG 0105Walking with a dog presents its own challenges in the winter months too. The on-going battle is around getting dogs clean after a muddy walk. Last year we invested in a Portable Shower, a bit like a pump-action garden sprayer, but specifically for showering. We now carry this in the car (filled with warm water) and can give Bobbie Poodle a quick shower in the car park before she gets back in the car.

Keeping dogs warm after a shower is also key. There are plenty of fleeces and jumpers available, but our preference is a purpose-made Dog Bath Robe. Bobbie gets wrapped up nice and snug after her shower, which keeps her nice and warm and also protects the car and sofas from any damp patches.

The cold weather can be a menace for the sensitive pads of your dog’s paws. In particular, the salt and grit used to defrost icy pavements can cause dryness and irritation and if your dog licks their paws to clean them, the residue of salt and grit will cause tummy upsets; so be sure to wash off their paws after each walk. Check your dog’s paws regularly for any chapped areas and cracks and speak to your vet about ways to treat this.

There are Benefits Too…

Remember, there are also several advantages to walking in the winter months. You are less likely to come across cattle in the fields (a fear for many walkers) and you are less-likely to get bitten by insects. Popular tourist spots are normally much quieter and, with no leaves on the trees, you are also able to enjoy a greater number of far-reaching views.

So, make the most of the winter months by setting yourself up with the right kit and getting out to enjoy a winter ramble with iFootpath.

Please check our list of suggested gadgets and equipment for walkers, our doggy friends, guest authors and photographers.

8 February 2019

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