this thing's incredible

Author Stacey Halls Walks From Hebden Bridge to Hardcastle Crags in These Blister-Proof Hiking Boots

Photo: Courtesy Stacey Halls

The Foundling by Stacey Halls is out now (Manilla Press).

Up until recently, I had managed to go 30 years without a pair of walking boots, despite growing up in rural Lancashire, and despite the fact that walking is my favourite (and only) form of exercise.

Then, in January, I left my flat in South-East London to rent a house in Hebden Bridge, to focus on writing my third book. To break up my days I began taking walks at lunchtime, spending anything from half an hour to three hours outdoors, and very quickly it became obvious my Flyknits were not going to cut it in the Yorkshire mud and mire. My dad is a sales rep who sells shoes, so I asked him for his recommendations. Without hesitation, within a few days he’d bought me a pair of Merrell Outmost Mid Ventilators from a client — a garden centre in Lancashire that specialises in walking and hiking equipment.

Two months later, I’ve walked hundreds of thousands of steps in them, from Hebden Bridge to Hardcastle Crags. They’re true to size; I feel like they are the first pair of shoes I’ve ever had that actually fit, plus there’s room for thick socks (I steal my husband’s Uniqlo ones). They are lightweight and waterproof, and the soles have traction that grips when and where you need it. You can stomp through puddles and not feel so much as a droplet. An air cushion in the heel means you can walk for miles with no blisters.

I sit on the bottom of the stairs, lace them up, and off I go: up to the moors, or down to the river. I climb up slimy cobbled slopes and down grassy banks. Like a child in new galoshes, I try and get them messy; the more muddy they are, the larger my sense of accomplishment. Every day I write 1,000 words, then I put my shoes on, walk between three and six miles, come home and work some more.

Once the mud has dried, I clean them with a shoe brush and set them on newspaper in the hallway, ready for the next day. The pride I take in cleaning them is tender and specific; I perch on the doorstep and chip at the caked mud, dusting and buffing and watching the world go by.

Some other Strategist-approved Merrells

Designer Sandy Liang loves her fleece-lined Merrell clogs so much, she wrote a haiku about them. She writes: “I found the Merrells last winter. I don’t remember why or exactly how, but I do remember falling in love with them online. I could just tell they were going to work. And I was right: They are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. So comfortable, I bought two pairs, in black and ‘stone,’ a soft, cold brown.”

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I Tramp Through West Yorkshire, Blister-Free, in These Boots