Choosing the right garden footwear for the right job
If you're an avid gardener, you probably spend so much time in your garden you don't even think about what you're wearing on your feet all the time. It is, after all, an integral part of your living space.
Maybe you have a pair of flipflops for pottering around, some old trainers for when you're venturing into those shrub-filled borders, and a pair of wellies for those occasions when the heavens open. Still, with such a vast array of gardening footwear now on offer on the high street and online, it's worth making sure you've got the right kit for the right job - ensuring that you'll stay warm, dry, safe and comfortable when tending to your beloved outdoor space.
It's little wonder that most gardeners keep a trusty pair of rubber boots or wellingtons in their garden shed or hallway. Ideal for when it's rainy or muddy, and easy to clean, a pair of rubber or PVC wellies ensures that your feet stay dry and provides extra ankle support for when you're carrying out those strenuous outdoor tasks.
Though you can pick up a basic pair of wellington boots for less than £10 in the big DIY stores, the adage "you get what you pay for" applies as much to wellies as to any other product. At the least, make sure you choose a pair of boots that claims to be 100% waterproof, and look out for other features that will make your life easier - cushioned soles for extra comfort, for instance, or reinforced seams for added strength. If you invest in a really comfortable pair you'll also be able to make use of them outside the garden, such as for muddy walks out with your dog.
At the more premium end of the market, you can easily spend upwards of £40 on a pair of wellingtons. More expensive boots will typically offer a more ergonomic design, with features such as expandable side gussets and cushioned insoles made from a light, flexible copolymer called EVA.
In addition, more expensive boots are sometimes made of what is known as vulcanised rubber, offering extra durability over natural rubber. You may also see boots with 'steel shanks' being advertised - these are lightweight pieces of steel that provide extra support to the arch area of the boot, and also help to avoid injury by ensuring that nothing can penetrate the shoe from below. Similarly, if your gardening typically involves a lot of digging with a fork or spade, choosing a pair of steel-toed boots will also help prevent your toes from getting accidentally spiked.
Many styles of wellington boot are unisex, though where that's not the case the availability of sizes is usually a giveaway. Women's wellington boots often come in bold colours, such as pink and purple, and there are lots of fun and funky print designs available if you're looking to make a fashion statement even in the garden.
If you're keen to find some boots that will be just as comfortable in the winter as in the summer, consider teaming up a pair of lightweight wellies with some cosy boot or welly socks. Often made of 100% polyester, boot socks are fleecy linings or stockings that are especially designed for wellington boots, keeping your feet comfortable, warm and snug on even the chilliest of days.
If your garden has a pond - and you expect to spend time wading in the middle of it, removing litter and debris - then it's unlikely your everyday wellies will be up to the challenge.
Undertaking general maintenance of your pond is important for a variety of reasons - such as promoting the wellbeing of the fish and other wildlife, maintaining water quality, and just ensuring a generally attractive appearance. Happily, waders of the type worn by fishing enthusiasts are perfect for the task of getting stuck into your pond.
Typical waders provide full body coverage, are made from flexible but hardwearing PVC, include integral wellington boots and adjustable braces, and - crucially - are completely waterproof, keeping you warm and dry even when you're up to your neck in water cleaning your pond.
So, you've got yourself a decent pair of wellies, some boot socks for the winter, and maybe some pond waders - what about for when you're just pottering about the garden, maybe taking the recycling out or grabbing a bunch of herbs before dinner?
Well, it's for all these everyday tasks that gardening clogs have become so popular. Comfortable, affordable, lightweight and stylish, gardeners' clogs are designed to be easy to slip on and off, yet fitted enough to stay on while you're busying with your garden tasks. Available in many different colours, there are even patterned versions if you're keen on sporting a fun and different look.
Typically made with rubber soles and uppers, clogs are also durable, waterproof and easy to wipe clean. Keep a pair by the back door and you'll never have to worry about finding your old shoes or doing up fiddly laces before you pop into the garden.
And when your rubber clogs finally wear out, you can give them a second lease of life by transforming them into a pair of funky and eyecatching mini-planters - footwear that is both practical and recyclable!
Photo credit: Graham Soult