Dawn Smith takes a stroll in the woods in her new shoes from Waldläufer – which translates as “Forest Walker” – and finds that they do exactly what it says on the box.

The Waldläufer brand was founded 54 years ago by Gunter Bauer, inspired by his passion for the outdoors and nature. So when a pair of Waldläufer shoes turned up on my doorstep, ready for a road test, it seemed appropriate that I should take them out for a footpath test, before trying anything else.

The company had sent me their Gelja model, a Nubuk-Soft leather comfort shoe with textile lining, billed as a sporty lace-up, in beige with a studded sliver trim: quite a fancy pair of footwear for a walk round the local lake, but I wasn’t complaining. They say that if you look good, you feel good, and I don’t see why that shouldn’t work for your feet as well as the rest of you.
The first thing I noticed about my pair of Geljas, as I lifted them out of their tissue-paper wrapping, was how light they were. They looked almost like a trainer, but felt as light as a pair of flip flops. In fact Only sandals are normally this light and airy. It is a misnomer, though. These are definitely shoes. And after giving them a spin around the lake at my local Country Park, I can say that they are definitely shoes made for walking.

A couple of minutes after tying up the laces and setting off on my stroll, I simply forgot they were on my feet. It’s not that Gelja shoes are insubstantial or flimsy in any way, it’s just that when I was wearing them, it felt as if I was walking on air. When I read up about the shoe, I found that the Gelja sporty lace-up has the super light air cushioned sole which is a feature of all Waldläufer footwear. So that explains the bouncy feeling under my feet.

The narrow wedge heel on the Gelja made walking effortless as I did a circuit of the lake, and the leather outers were so light and comfortable that it was difficult to believe they were really leather. The manufacturers say that Waldläufer only use the best quality leather in their shoes, chosen to match the particular shoe style, and the leather is left as natural as possible so that it remains soft and breathable. So that explains the lighter than leather sensation around my feet.

Comfort often goes hand-in-hand with foot health, and that’s certainly the case with Waldläufer, who make their shoes with removable footbeds so that orthopaedic inlays can be used. The air cushion soles in the sporty series are designed to give support for the joints. And, the shoes come in a range of widths to suit different feet. The Gelja is a G width, which was perfect for me.

It’s quite difficult to describe the experience of walking in a shoe when the main sensation is a lack of any noticeable sensation. As I mentioned earlier, I just forgot about them while I was walking. Sorry Geljas, but when you were on my feet, I found you utterly ignorable. What I actually noticed during the walk that day were other things, like the way the sunshine felt on my face in the clearings, the scent of pine needles and moss as I walked under the trees, the chirping of toads in the ponds and the soft warmth of the air as I breathed it in. The sort of things, in fact, that you are supposed to notice when you get out of your suburban jungle and into the natural world.

I think the nature-loving Gunter Bauer would have been proud to know that I wore his shoes for three hours and had very little to say about them, because I didn’t notice they were there. I think it would also please his son, Wilhehad Bauer, who took over the management of the company in 1986 and extended the comfort shoe concept.

During my road test, it was only when I happened to look down, every now and then, and saw the modestly pretty, demurely shining things on the end of my legs, that I remembered I was supposed to be testing a pair of shoes. “OK, I’d better take a bit more notice from now on,” I would say, each time it happened. One minute later, they would be forgotten again, as I peered through the bushes at a woodland bird, or noticed that the bull rushes were seeding, or stood gazing out across the lake.

In case you’re thinking that these are just country walking shoes, however, let me put you right. These shoes are smart enough to wear with pride in town too. They’re ideal, in fact, for a shopping trip or any other urban occasion when you’re going to spend a long time on your feet, and want a shoe that’s so comfortable you can forget you’re wearing it. Now that the weather’s turned warmer I can’t imagine many occasions when I won’t be looking at my shoe options and thinking: my Waldläufers are going to be perfect today.

Their heart may be in the forest, but the modern Waldläufer is built for all environments.


Model: Waldläufer Gelja
Variety: Nubuk-Soft corda Perlato platin Marakesch silber
Style number: 214001/538890
Colour: Beige
Outer Material: Leather
Inner Material: Textile
Wholesale price: £29.50
Contact: Rosemary or David Bailey Tel: 01706 828799