More dynamic and versatile than hiking or trekking, Nordic walking requires the right equipment, especially for your feet. Nordic walking takes place on various types of ground at a sustained pace; it's therefore essential that Nordic walkers wear walking shoes appropriate to their activities to avoid any risk of accident or discomfort.
Like hiking and trekking boots, a good pair of Nordic walking shoes should be chosen carefully. Although similar in characteristics, Nordic walking shoes can be distinguished by some specific qualities. In particular, this activity takes place on all terrains and therefore requires a good level of versatility. Moving from tarmac to muddy, loose dirt, then stoney ground requires a special shoe where flexibility, protection and comfort form a perfect compromise. Moreover, this terrain variation requires choosing flexible shoes which grip on multiple surfaces to avoid slipping and to keep a brisk walking pace.
It's important that the sole of the shoe flexes at the forefoot and has a low-top upper. This will, however, make it harder to correctly recoil your foot after ground contact, and your stride will be shortened. Flexibility is even more crucial as your ability improves, as your pace and stride length increase.
Stable feet mean stable legs. An athlete without properly-supported legs risks injury and joint pain. On one hand, the sole of the shoe must be wide enough with a heel support to provide stability and prevent sideways movement, and on the other hand, the upper must support the foot by conforming perfectly to its shape, especially on top of the foot.
The grip of a shoe depends on the sculpture of its sole or its crampons. On a Nordic walking shoe, well-sculpted crampons guarantee good grip on all types of terrain encountered during use.
The cushioning of a shoe has multiple roles since it absorbs shocks, amplifies comfort when walking, and delays the onset of fatigue during long-distance walks. Nordic walking is a repeated effort where the shocks of the foot against the ground can cause trauma to the joints of the knee, ankle and even the heel bones. Therefore, it's important to choose a shoe with ample cushioning to protect your body. Be aware, however, that too much cushioning will desensitise your perception of the terrain under your feet —— fundamental in Nordic walking.
The composition of a shoe plays a big part of this attribute. On long walks, shoes should be breathable, as well as waterproof and insulating. It's uncomfortable having to walk with wet and cold feet —— even worse when they're soaked in sweat. You should therefore pay articular attention to the materials of the shoe, including the outer upper and the inner shoe. To amplify the ventilation from inside the shoe, opt for a low and ventilated (with perforations) upper. For those who walk in all types of weather, a model with a Gore-Tex membrane will keep your feet dry.
Once you've found your dream shoes, don't forget about their care and maintenance. Nordic walking shoes that has been abused during exercise must be well maintained to maximise life span. Cleaning and then drying them naturally after each outing will allow you to enjoy them for as long as possible.