After almost three months of researching and trying on many different boots, and after purchasing then returning three pairs of boots that I thought were "the ones" only to discover they weren’t, my boot hunt has finally come to an end.
I have spent hours online searching for boots, reading reviews by experts and recommendations by pilgrims and hikers in various forums. Some people swear that leather boots are the only ones to buy. Some say forget boots and wear runners. Others suggest sports sandals are just fine. One person claims that boot X is "the best" while another says boot Y is.
I have spent many hours in different shops trying on boots, stomping down ramps and steps to see if my toes touch the ends; walking around with a weighted pack on my back to test the sole's thickness and shock absorption. At first boot X seems like the perfect boot until its heaviness and rigidity makes my feet ache and throb so I move on to boot Y but it is too thickly padded around the top and rubs and irritates my ankles. I’ve also spent hours at home wearing newly purchased boots as I cook dinner or do washing or walk laps of the dining room to see how they feel on my feet for an extended period of time.
When I have been unsure, I have gone back to the online forums and reviews to read, again, the advice and opinions of others.
It's been a long process of trial and error that, surprisingly, hasn't been tedious or frustrating. The boots are the most important piece of equipment that will help me reach my destination.
Whilst walking Via Francigena, the pain in my feet, hips and legs was often crippling. I hoped that if I found the perfect boots this time my walk would be pain-free. I haven't found perfect. Instead I found the best choice for me. Perfect is just an illusion as is avoiding pain.
Even with training, my body and feet just aren't accustomed to walking on average 25 kilometres per day carrying weight on my back day after day after day and so some level of pain is unavoidable. However, I know from last time that the pain doesn't control me and it won't kill me. I can move gently through it until it eases. I know when to rest and when to push on. And I don't have to be scared of it.
I have also been reminded through this boot buying process that whilst everyone may have an opinion, ideas about what is best or a formula for success, only I can decide what is right for me and works for me.
Everything must be tried on to see how it feels in your skin and bones. What is perfect and right for one person is not necessarily right for you. You must try it on and tune into your own inner voice of wisdom. What does it tell you? Does it feel right to you? Sift through the words, ideas and opinions of other and keep only what feels true to you.
Sometimes your personal experience is the best teacher.
With love and courage,
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