Boots on the Ground

"Come on, Dad..."

“Come on, Dad…”

I’ve gone through my whole life without being remotely interested in footwear with brand names like ‘Mountain Goat’ or ‘Crag Climber.’  

But this walking lark has changed everything.

With the Pennine Way now just an ominous seven weeks away my thoughts have turned to my feet. And the simple fact that I’ll need something more than my trainers to march up Pen-y-Ghent and pals.

The same goes for Ben. He finished his Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition with his feet inside plastic bags. His boots took a week to dry out. So they’ll shortly be on first name terms with a skip.

He needs new boots. I need new boots. But ‘this walking lark’ is not cheap…

My original train of thought – ‘This sounds like fun. Fresh air. Testing myself. Stunning views. Agreeable lunch in the pub. Yep, I’ll just lace my trainers up and pop outside’ ­– has given way to grim reality. The list of what I need is long and growing longer. We’re not quite at the Jessica-goes-to-university level, but we’re getting there.

And top of that list is boots.

Fortunately, help is at hand. Hi-Tec has ridden – or marched – to the rescue. Our boots are to be sponsored. And here we are trying them on. Eat your heart out, Mountain Goats. I’m now in love with a pair of Altitude PRO RGS boots.

My seven league boots

My seven league boots

How cool is that? Three months ago I was an overweight middle aged bloke that drank too much red wine and ate too much cheese. Now I have boots with more go-faster initials than my car.

Let’s see how they feel…

There’s something remarkably stupid about testing a pair of walking boots by strolling round the shop. Carpets have an irritating habit of being level. And three steps up a wooden plank doesn’t quite equal climbing remorselessly for two hours. But what else can you do? ‘Look, mate, I just need to go and walk five miles in these if that’s OK. I’ll leave my son as security.’

‘I’ll ask the manager, sir, but I think it’s against company policy to take hostages.’

But maybe I don’t need to. Because the boots are propelling me forwards. Wowzer. Suddenly I’m Jack the Giant Killer striding around in his seven league boots. Two hours remorseless climbing? Bring it on.

“Right, boots sorted,” I said to Ben. “We just a need a few other things…”

See above. ‘A few other things’ is a remarkable understatement.

Some of those sexy trousers that unzip and turn into shorts; a hat (I look ridiculous in a hat, but I’ll look even more ridiculous with a bright red neck), a lifetime’s supply of blister plasters – plus the assorted requirements for battling mother nature and her smaller flying creatures.

“Anything else, Dad? Padded jacket? Rope? Gaiters?”


“Gaiters. They go over your ankles and stop everything getting muddy.”

“I’m planning to do this walk in style, Ben. Not look like that bloke wandering round Africa trying to find Dr. Livingstone.”

“Extra fleece, Dad? Thermal vest?”

“Ben we’re going in the first week of August. We’ll be walking through the sun-kissed Yorkshire Dales. The only decision will be factor 8 or factor 10.”

“Inflatable canoe?”

Teenage sarcasm, ladies and gentlemen. Once your son has caught this dreadful disease there’s no known cure. Then I saw him staring fixedly into a cabinet.

He was looking at a machete. Next to it was a knife that must have been on Freddie Kruger’s wish list. So becoming a mass murderer was quite easy. All you had to do was wander in for some mozzy repellent and murmur, “Oh, yes. I almost forgot…”

“I don’t think we’ll be needing one of those, Ben.”

“Can’t be too sure, Dad. Remember you’ll be leaving Yorkshire. Crossing the border into County Durham…”

Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and “very, very funny” to read – you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 99p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here



  1. Tim Atkinson says:

    Good luck with the walk Mark… I think I could do with something like those Hi-Tec boots. Wonder if they do walking sandals? Without the socks though, Dee, if you’re reading!

    • Thanks for that, Tim. I’m planning to write a book about it as well – although whether I’ll have the energy to make notes after walking 16 miles is open to doubt! And good man re the socks: ancient folklore has it there’s a woman somewhere in the world turned on by the socks/sandals look, but then folklore has it that the Yeti exists as well…

  2. Great blog Mark! Really glad you like your boots too. Hopefully you won’t be needing those blister plasters at all!

    But we do have yet another one to add to that long list of yours… a good pair of merino walking socks for that extra cushioning and moisture wicking to avoid sweaty feet. Trust us, normal socks just won’t cut it for this challenge 😉

    • Stop it, Dee. This walking thing has changed my life. I’m already sexually aroused by an Ordnance Survey map: now I’m getting excited about socks… I did 8 miles yesterday in my ordinary sports socks (wife had hidden my only pair of walking socks). Not a mistake I’ll be making again…

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