On our training days we are often asked about the various Tracking Shoes we use, what the differences are and what are the best ones to use. As you may know there are a few different designs out there, from traditional wooden ones to the most state of the art, and they all have their own traits and preferences. This article is going to focus on what is probably the most expensive out there, but first I want take a brief look at some of the others.
Firstly there are the half shoes metal ones. Some of theses are made from alloy and others from steel. Basically they fit under the the back half the foot and and are secured by two straps, one around the ankle and the other over the bridge of the foot. They secure a cleave by either a hose clip, a clamp with wing nuts or and exhaust clamp with either nuts or wing nuts. These shoes are a really robust entry level shoe and come in at the bottom end of the market at anything between £40.00 - £90.00.
Secondly we have a thick rubber shoe with the same cleave clamping system as above. Again one strap secures around the ankle and the second lower down the foot. They often have threaded holes in the bottom to secure football boot studs for better grip, and if you are going to use studs I suggest you fit them from new so the holes don't fill up with mud! They are fairly flexible, comfortable to wear but the straps, as with the half metal ones can be fiddly to fasten at times. Prices for these range from £100.00 - £140.00
Lastly the ones I am going to talk about are a full shoe aluminium variety designed in Switzerland called 'Suchenheil', available from: http://www.nach-suche.de
They are designed to 'fit' your own boot by adjusting the sole of the tracking shoes. Just slacken the bolts in the base, adjust and re-tighten. That said if they are set for a size 11 it is possible for a size 5 to use them in the same position. The fastening system for both the cleaves and to your foot is very quick and easy by means of something similar looking to a large cable tie ratcheting system, which is actually taken from the winter sports industry from equipment such as ski boots etc.
As well as the strap the cleaves are firmly held in place by an upper an lower 'serrated' section, this together with the ratchet strap ensures that the cleave will be held securely. At first glance you think there is no way this system is going to be both secure and stand the test of time, but have no fear, their strength and longevity will surprise you. Apart from being full foot in size they are jointed at the ball of the foot, which gives you complete flexibility when walking and in addition to this the sole has gentle serrations for grip on slippery surfaces and slopes. All the fittings, straps, rivets, bolts etc., are available as spares should you need them. Currently the price for a pair is around £210.00. Although this is a lot of money, if you are intending to do a lot of training, have more than one dog or just prefer a tracking shoe that is easy to take on and off, walk in and secure your cleaves then these are the ones to have.
This just gives you a broad outline of what is available, but please remember tracking work is for everyone that wants to become involved, whatever the budget and whatever the dog. There is still nothing wrong with attaching cleaves to long sticks or poles with cable ties or hose clips. Just get out there, enjoy yourself and train your dog, they won't care what tracking shoes your using.