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I go through phases of trying to keep fit and lose a little bit of weight, doesn't everyone? I have tried many different diets and exercise plans, but I don't have much money to spend on equipment or a gym membership, so ultimately I end up giving up after a month or so. This time around I thought I would try walking, all I would need was a good pair of shoes and off I go. I definitely wanted to buy a pair of walking boots/shoes as walking for long distances in my normal trainers would give me blisters and sore feet, as I have learned from experience! But the most important factor was that I could get a decent pair that wasn't going to cost me a fourtune. I did some reasearch and found this pair of walking shoes for £25 on amazon. Where could I go wrong? The look of the shoes is really good. They look well made and as good as some of the boots that cost hundreds of pounds! I particularly like the colour, you could wear them out and about everyday and they would look fine. They have a covering on the toes which stops them from scuffing, which is also good as it keeps them looking newer for longer. When I first got them they were a little stiff, but that is to be expected for a new pair of shoes, and I did get a small blister on the side of one of my ankles. They also made the bottom of my leg slightly painful where the tongue of the shoe was digging in. All these problems have faded now and I can wear them all day long and have absolutely no problems at all. I have walked a total of 50km in them now, so it doesn't take too long to break them in. I have walked mainly along the roads in a city centre, but have done a little walking on a gravel towpath along a river and the support and grip the shoe gives is perfect. I have even walked in the rain, the shoes were waterproof on this occasion, but I haven't used them in puddles or anything like that. All in all I would say that these shoes are just as good as some of the really expensive ones. They do exactly what I want them to do, they support my feel and keep them warm and dry. Just remember to break them in, don't go on any 20 mile hikes before this or your feet will never forgive you!!
My much loved walking shoes that came with me round the Black Sea in 2006 (a fourteen week trip during which the shoes took quite a battering) gave up the ghost a few weeks before I was due to go on holiday in September and my other decent pair of walking shoes were over in my flat in Slovenia. As we were going to be traveling for a week before reaching Slovenia I was going to have to buy some new walking shoes for the first part of the holiday (once I got to Maribor I could transfer to my worn in shoes). You would think that someone who loves to walk and spends a great deal of her holiday walking would hit the shops in search of the perfect pair of shoes but, due to a combination of hating shopping, being time poor and Amazon voucher wealthy, I prefer to buy as much as I can online. To be honest I planned to buy the same type of shoe as the ones that had just bitten the dust but I couldn't get that style so I made a panic purchase and went for the Hi-Tec Auckland Ladies walking/Hiking Shoe. I must have been stressed out when I bought the shoes because I wouldn't normally consider buying shoes by Hi-Tec; call me a snob but I just don't rate them. I really wanted some Merrell shoes but I couldn't get the style and size I wanted for a price I was willing to pay for something that was really going to be a stand in until we got to Maribor and I could wear my tried and tested shoes. (Besides, I was hoping to be mostly wearing my walking sandals if the weather permitted). The product notes made all the right noises - waterproof outside but moisture wicking inside; contour fit; good sole for tough terrain. Not having worn Hi-Tec shoes for many years, I crossed my fingers and hoped that the size 6 would be a fairly standard size and I wouldn't have to return the shoes. Visually the shoe looks pretty good; it certainly doesn't look cheap or shoddy. There are two colour ways: plum/taupe or mid grey, and I opted for the plum/taupe which look quite good with jeans. What I like about the design is that they look like a decent hard wearing shoe but they don't look too much like a hiking boot, more of a tough sports shoe. This is good when wearing the shoes about town as they don't look as out of place as a serious hiking boot and don't give the impression that I'm about to break into a rousing chorus of "The Happy Wanderer" or ask people to kiss Prudence (check out Mike Leigh's classic drama "Nuts in May"). My only concern with the appearance was that the shoe looked very wide and I have quite narrow feet, however this might not be a concern if the shoes were fastened tightly so I tried them on. The length was OK, though I would have preferred just a tiny bit more space as your feet do swell once they get warmer. When I tried to tighten the shoes as I fastened the laces, I found that I could only effect a slight tightening because of the way the tongue is stitched into the uppers to make the entire upper waterproof. Once properly fastened the shoes felt secure enough on my feet but I didn't like the way that they made my feet look so wide, and I couldn't shake off the persistent feeling that I needed to tighten up the laces, even though I didn't need to at all. One really irritating thing about the shoes is that, like most sports shoes these days, the laces seemed to be coated with some kind of waterproofing product which makes them smooth and difficult to keep knotted. The structure of the shoe looks pretty good; the Hi-Tec blurb claims they're anatomically designed for women's feet but with everyone having different feet, it's hard to believe that means much. I wore the shoes for a few days before going on holiday in the hope that I could wear them in a bit; then they were worn pretty much all day long for the week of my trip. Although my feet felt supported, the ankle supports were too stiff and still haven't really become any softer. After just a day's hard walking my ankles were sore and starting to blister; the following day they were really tender and I had to put cotton wool inside my socks at the point wear the shoes were rubbing most. I've tried "breaking" the heels myself in an attempt to make the shoes more wearable but I can't see them ever being really comfortable; at the moment I find that wearing two pairs of socks helps but when I take the shoes off my ankles are still a bit tender. On a positive note, the width is good and the toes aren't crammed in. If the heels weren't so stiff, I'd be really happy. What of the other aspects of these shoes? Well, they are certainly waterproof. On the last full day of our holiday I wore when during a day of torrential rain and when I got back in the evening my feet were just about the only part of me that was still dry. Earlier that week they got quite muddy while we were out walking and they cleaned up beautifully. The special anti-scuff patches on the toes and heels are really good and have kept the shoes looking good. One thing I do find odd is that the information on the box says these shoes have a removable sockliner, but I've not yet been able to work that out. I paid £35.99 for these shoes through an Amazon retailer but some stores charge much more. I think this is a fair price for a shoe of this standard. It's not a really technical shoe and I don't think it'll last as long as more expensive brands might, but so far it's been well tested and come through pretty well. I'd recommend them to any ladies looking for a good value walking shoe for occasional use, rather than a professional shoe that needs to be technically very good. I have found them quite painful but everyone's feet are different and what suits me, may not suit everyone else. Regardless of how they fitted my feet, I found them to be a robust shoe and I would certainly recommend that anyone in the market for this kind of shoe and wishing to keep the cost down give them a try.