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Be a trail blazer (and look spectacular in the process)

Presented by
Find Your Forecast
    Joanne Richard
    Special to The Weather Network

    Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 2:11 PM - Head for the hills and escape from your desk job! Fall is a perfect time to hit the trails – the heat is off, the bugs are gone and the autumn colours are beckoning.

    The changing seasons don’t mean you have to stop exploring and enjoying nature. No matter the weather, there are a variety of trails and fabulously functional footwear to get you out outside, indulging in a much-needed dose of Vitamin N – the soul-quenching sounds, sights and smells of nature that are essential to well-being.

    Hiking is healing. It makes you healthier and happier. There are a whole bunch of perks besides beautiful scenery. Going for a hike is an excellent low impact workout and studies show it works out your brain too. It boosts creative problem solving skills and focus by up to 50%. It releases endorphins which lift our spirits. Tramping though the trails reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, lowers blood pressure and much more.

    Unplugging from technology and taking in the trees, trails and fresh air will bring you peace of mind but only if your feet aren’t aching. Cramped tootsies and blisters can ruin an outing. Hikes are a lot more fun and comfortable when you invest in quality hiking shoes and socks. There are a multitude of light hikers out there that will take you through the ups and downs of exploring.

    Don’t underestimate the importance of good hikers and breaking them in, stresses David Marshall, MEC footwear expert. “It’s what carries you. Your weight is there, your transference, it’s what gets you from A to B. Footwear is not something you can easily fix once you’re on the trail or halfway through. If it’s not fitting properly, it can lead to a lot of problems very, very quickly.”

    And then it’s all downhill from there, even the uphills. Proper-fitting hikers makes for happy trails year round, whether meandering along quiet city paths and gorgeous greenways to taking on the big and mighty renowned tramps and treks, including Grouse Grind, Cabot Trail, the Galloping Goose, and the ever stretching Bruce Trail. From the crunching leaves beneath your feet to the squeaking snow on a cold winter day, have hikers will travel.

    “The difference of the Canadian wilderness needs to be reflected in the footwear because it is so diverse,” says Marshall. “If you look at something like the Bruce Trail, which is like the El Camino, there are some smooth spots and there are some rough spots. You go somewhere like the West Coast Trail and you’re dealing with a lot of different terrains, altitudes and descents. You have to tailor your footwear towards where you are going.”

    The time of year also plays a role in footwear choices. For hiking success, look for footwear that is waterproof and breathable and offers mega support and stability in the heel too. To go the distance in comfort, look for a compression molded midsole. In addition, features like a metatomical footbed design are engineered to provide excellent arch support, and further add to going the distance in comfort and safety.

    Long gone are the days when you could only buy leather hiking boots. Now there’s a colour and style for every taste and foot shape, but essentially it’s the function that’ll get you where you need to go. “Say for example, if you were going somewhere muddy, you would want something with a more aggressive tread, whereas, if you were going for a casual walk on the street, you would want something a little more smooth,” says Marshall.

    Get a grip because tread is king. For nastier winter conditions, you want something that is going to bite a bit deeper into the ground, sort of like a winter tire. Marshall adds that when hikers are fitted, the amount and weight someone is carrying also needs to be taken into account. “Is it a day trip to Algonquin? Or are they doing a trip around Killarney for a week and a half? If you don’t have the proper footwear and are carrying a 60-pound pack, that can become dangerous” – stepping over tree roots and maneuvering around rocks can take you down.

    Hiking is not a race and you don’t have to be a seasoned athlete to hit the trails. With the cooler fall weather prevailing and the humidity long gone, start off small and gradually build up to longer treks. “Time spent outdoors will not be deducted from your life,” according to Jack Christie, author of 52 Best Day Trips from Vancouver.

    Commit to shaking off nature-deficit disorder this season. Restore your sanity and inner harmony! Here’s your prescription to hiker happiness:

    Prescribed treatment: Quality hikers

    Directions: Slip on. Lace up. Use daily, outdoors in nature

    Refill: Unlimited

    Expiration: Never

    Side effects: Health and happiness

    Weather 101: Why do leaves change colour in the fall? It's easy

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