Footwear & Equipment


What to wear on your feet

You’ll be spending quite a bit of time on your feet, so choosing the right footwear is vital to ensure that you can enjoy your holiday to the full, remain comfortable on your holiday activities and avoid accidents whilst walking.

We recognise that footwear can be a personal matter and individuals vary greatly in their anatomy and habits.

As our holidays range from city sightseeing on foot to high alpine hiking we give guidance below as to appropriate footwear for our range of holidays. On our easier holiday grades, the guidance is largely a recommendation. For our higher grade holidays, the guidance provides minimum standards and indicates the sort of footwear we consider essential.

We feel that appropriate footwear is one of the best insurance policies you can take on holiday


The right Footwear for the right Grade

With such a range of holidays, it’s essential you make the right choice of footwear:

Grade 1 (Leisurely)

For our easiest holidays, within reason, you should wear whatever is comfortable for a day out on your feet.

Grades 2 & 3 (Leisurely)

Good quality waterproof walking shoes or trail shoes with a thick moulded sole with a good tread and a low heel are all that is likely to be required for these holidays.

Grades 4, 5 & 6 (Moderate)

Lightweight waterproof walking boots with a good sole (such as Vibram or similar) and a deep tread and which provide ankle support are recommended and may be essential for some walks. If you are an experienced walker with strong ankles, a good quality pair of trail shoes may well be suitable for some Grade 4 walks.

Grades 7 & 8 (Challenging)

Good quality waterproof walking boots with a moulded sole with a deep tread and good ankle support are essential.

Grade 9 (Challenging)

A proper four-season mountain boot which can take a crampon is essential for these holidays


Hiking Boots, Trail Shoes or Walking Sandals

Walking Sandals

Proper walking sandals are suitable for our low-grade holidays (Grades 1 – 3) in warmer places, for example on Greek Islands. They should have an instep and a sole with a good tread. Some sandals have toe protection at the front to stop you stubbing your toe. These and similar good quality walking sandals are available from Cotswold Outdoor.

Walking Shoes / Trail Shoes

Lightweight walking boots (see below) or proper walking shoes, also known as Approach Shoes or Trail Shoes, are suitable for our Grade 4 walking holidays (and perhaps some walks on Grade 6 holidays) providing you have strong ankles.

We would recommend a Gore-tex lined upper as this will stop your feet getting wet. We would also recommend a Vibram style sole which both grips uneven ground well and protects your foot against sharp stones.

These and similar good quality walking/approach shoes are available from Cotswold Outdoor.

Lightweight Walking Boots

Alternatively, a pair of lightweight walking boots providing ankle support and a good grip on the path is suitable for Grade 4 to Grade 6 walking. We would again recommend investing in a quality product with a Gore-tex upper and Vibram sole.

These and similar good quality lightweight walking boots are available from Cotswold Outdoor.

Walking Boots

Proper walking boots are essential for our higher level holidays (Grades 7 & 8). These should have a Vibram (or similar) sole, some shock absorbing cushioning, a Gore-tex (or similar) waterproof upper and good ankle support.

High performance soles such as 'Vibram' soles provide a durable, non-slip and abrasion resistant sole to improve grip and safety on the hill. It is not necessary for the sole to be able to fit a crampon.

These and similar good quality walking boots are available from Cotswold Outdoor.

Mountain Boots

Four–season mountain boots which can take a crampon are essential for these holidays.

These and similar good quality mountain boots are available from Cotswold Outdoor.


Choosing the right Footwear

Is your footwear comfortable?

Whether you are walking around a museum or scrambling to the top of a mountain what you have on your feet needs to feel good.

Is your footwear waterproof?

If you are going to be outside and there is a chance of rain, knowing you will always have dry feet is very reassuring.

What will happen if you are on steep and loose ground?

Clearly you need something with a good firm sole and a good tread. If your ankles are not particularly strong, even on our easier holidays, you would be well advised to have good ankle support

What happens if a rock falls on your foot?

Painful… unless you have a firm upper on your boot and a strong toe cap.

Being responsible for the wellbeing and safety of our groups as a whole whilst on holiday, our tour leaders may adopt a more prudent approach than may be considered reasonable by an individual traveller. Should your tour leader reasonably feel that your footwear is unsuitable for the nature of a particular walk or holiday as a whole and presents a risk to you or your travelling companions, they have the authority to refuse your participation in the day’s activity.

Need more advice?

Should you wish further advice on the footwear necessary for a particular holiday, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Clothing & Equipment

For your safety and comfort, it’s vital that you bring proper outdoor clothing and footwear appropriate to the nature of your holiday and well as choosing a holiday appropriate to your fitness levels and capability.

Our holidays include everything from sightseeing the cultural cities of Europe to high altitude trekking and mountain hutting, on all continents and in all seasons.

If appropriate, we provide more additional detailed information on clothing specific to your chosen holiday in our Holiday Information Sheets, downloadable from the individual holiday pages.

A basic kit list for most walking holidays is likely to include:

  • Footwear (walking boots or walking shoes) appropriate to your holiday grade.
  • Waterproof jacket (Goretex or similar) and trousers
  • Walking trousers
  • Several polo shirts, T-shirts or specialist walking shirts
  • Fleece jacket
  • Comfortable walking socks
  • Warm hat and gloves
  • Sun hat, sunglasses, lip salve and high SPF sun block
  • Day sack to comfortably carry the kit you'll take out on the walk
  • Polythene bags to keep the contents of your daypack dry
  • Water bottle(s) - at least 1-litre capacity (see Water-to-Go filter bottles)
  • Basic first aid kit (plasters, blister treatment, antiseptic etc)
  • Insect repellent
  • Waterproof bag or container and knife for your lunch
  • Walking/trekking poles

Any sharp equipment such as a lunch knife or trekking pole cannot be carried as cabin baggage when travelling by air.


Trekking Poles

There are many varied opinions on the use of trekking poles (walking poles) – including amongst those travelling and walking with us and even amongst our tour leaders! We take the view that the use of poles is discretionary and recognise that they can often be a useful tool to aid you when out on a walk. We do find that many who join our holidays find trekking poles hugely beneficial.

By using poles, as much as 20% of your bodyweight is taken by your arms and off your legs during each step down, which over a long walk can make quite a significant reduction in accumulated stress on your knee joints – even more important if you're also carrying a heavy daypack.

If you’re new to walking with poles, it’s a good idea to get used to walking with them before you go on holiday, ideally on a variety of terrains. Until you get used to walking with them, you’re likely to find them difficult to co-ordinate and may even trip over them. Although using a single pole has benefits, two poles are usually better as they allow you to walk in a more rhythmic and balanced manner. Place one pole and the opposite foot down at the same time and try to get used to a comfortable rhythmic walking style.

Using the straps on walking poles can be a great boon as they can take a lot of the weight you’re putting on the poles without gripping the handles too hard. On the flip side, if you’re on challenging terrain and are likely to need to reach for a handhold, take your hands out of the tape loops so  that the poles can be discarded in the event of a slip or fall.

If you do choose to use trekking poles please make sure that you have the rubber tips covering the sharp metal points. There is increasing evidence that the bare metal tips are damaging footpaths both in the UK and abroad. Be aware however that rubber pole tips can come off in use on the trail, and that they can slip on steep ground and on wet rocky terrain.

There are a wide variety of poles available. Adjustable poles are ideal, both to collapse them for easy storage in your daypack when you don’t need them and to adjust the length when going up or downhill. Some poles also have a shock absorbing facility.

Top Tips when using Trekking Pole

  • Holding your poles
    When holding your poles vertically, your elbow should be a right angle. On softer ground, you may need to lengthen your pole as the tip of the pole is likely to sink into the ground. To get the best benefit from your poles, you'll also want to shorten your pole when walking uphill and lengthen the pole when descending.
  • Wrist Straps
    The wrist tapes can be a great boon, but to avoid injury, it's best to take the loops from your wrists so that you can quickly discard your poles in a fall.
  • Practice using your poles before your holiday
    To get the most out of your poles before your holiday or a big walk, it's worthwhile taking the time to get used to the feel of walking with your poles, finding the right length for various terrains, and how to place them accurately without breaking your step.
  • Using the pole-tip baskets
    As the baskets can get caught in undergrowth and bushes, it's best to take them off unless you're crossing particularly soft ground or snow.
  • Don't forget how to balance when not using your poles
    If you get used to relying on your poles, your legs can forget how to balance without them!
  • Rivers and Rock-hopping
    Use your poles to give yourself additional points of contact with the ground when crossing rivers, gullies and rocky terrain.

You can take a look at the sort of trekking poles available at Cotswold Outdoor

Trekking poles cannot be carried as cabin baggage when travelling by air.

There's an excellent article on the British Mountaineering Council's website with some good advice on the advantages and techniques of using trekking poles.

Here's another good article on the use of trekking poles and other ways to reduce knee pain when out on a walk.