Depressed over sock choices....

7:10 p.m. on June 5, 2010 (EDT)
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Hey everyone, I've been lurking the forums for a little while now and have found the answer to 90% of my questions by just searching the forums but I may start posting a bit to get that 10% taken care of ; ).

My background is as a tree planter in British Columbia, Canada. Lived in my tent for 3 months in the mountains. A pretty surreal experience. (Although I hope I am never that desperate for money every again as it was a brutal summer).

Annyway, these are the boots I bought:

They are very heavy, incredibly stiff/tough leather. I used them everyday on extremely rough terrain (a destroyed forest basically) and they worked great. The problem is that they are very hard on my feet. I need some very durable socks and I can't decide between SmartWool, Thorlo, and Patagonia. I need two pairs of ultra-heavtweight socks for when it's cold outside and then maybe 5 or 6 pairs of mid-weight for any other time. (I never wear lightweight because my feet will be destroyed if I do that. I wore cheap $5 wool socks from Walmart but had to also use about 12 bandaids on each foot to prevent blistering. Expensive and inconvenient...although very effective.)

So basically I need a padded, durable sock for my ultra tough leather boot. What should I do? I'm afraid to spend 20-30 bucks on socks just to wear a hole in them! Rather just stick with destroying cheap socks and using band aids!

8:38 p.m. on June 5, 2010 (EDT)
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"Life is too short for uncomfortable boots!"

9:02 p.m. on June 5, 2010 (EDT)
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I know I'm wondering............*sigh*.....

9:07 p.m. on June 5, 2010 (EDT)
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I wear smartwool's every day of the week and have about 10 pair that get rotated. I have owned them for at least ten years. The only thing I have found to wear them out is snaggletooth toenails. (But then I am not much into pedicures.)

You might try a light crew sock under a heavier wool sock. That is what I do with a heavy pair of Asolos that I hike in in really rough terrain.

9:25 p.m. on June 5, 2010 (EDT)
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I always buy heavy duty boots because I often carry heavy loads. Just because a boot is heavy duty does not mean it will also be uncomfortable. In fact I own a pair of heavy duty telemark touring leather double boots, made by Asolo, that feel more like slippers than anything else. Alas, your problems are probably the fit, and not the boot design. I once bought a pair of boots similar in design and price to the model you currently own, and suffered through what I thought was just a protracted break-in period. As it ended up, they remained uncomfortable, and no combination of sock systems provided much relief. After about 100 miles of miserable feet, I gave those dogs the boot. I regretted the waste of money but the investment in proper fitting and comfortable footwear is worth every penny.

9:40 p.m. on June 5, 2010 (EDT)
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Since you bought them (apparently) from MEC, did you actually go to one of the shops and have an experienced bootfitter work with you? MEC does have experienced bootfitters at many of their shops. As Ed indicates, properly fitted boots are comfortable. Improperly fitted boots will always be miserable.

That said, you may be able to find a good bootfitter who can rework the boots to make them fit comfortably (for a price). I do not have any recommendations, since I am not familiar with the BC area these days. Maybe Dewey can chime in here, since he is in BC and has worked the woods for many decades there. I have a couple friends in Alberta who tell me there are several good bootfitters in the Calgary, Edmonton, and Banff areas, though I don't have the names.

A good bootfitter will know how to extend certain parts of the boot to more properly conform to your foot shape. A proper footbed will make a big difference, if the last and volume shape are somewhere near correct. If you make note of where the bandaids were (a photo would help), that will help tell the bootfitter where the problem areas are.

Good socks and a good footbed will help ONLY IF the boot is close to a good fit in the first place. If not, then the best socks and footbeds in the world will be of no help at all.

9:43 p.m. on June 5, 2010 (EDT)
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My band aids were one on every single toe, two on the big toe, three on each heel, two on inside of arch for a grand total of about 11 on each foot. I would have used more but band aids come in 24 so that's split between feet.

I got them online so I'm not really sure if they got fitted right. They are pretty much entirely made out of leather so I just started wearing them around to let them mold to my feet and as each day went by I was able to tighten them more and more until it was comfortable and well fitted.

They are really comfortable. I like them....they just give me blisters. I don't know why.


I'm tempted to get new boots now that you are saying this. I don't see these becoming friendly to my feet anytime soon.

Are Lowa and Asolo the best leather backpacking boots?

10:01 p.m. on June 5, 2010 (EDT)
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Wear a light weight under sock and a heavier over sock and your problem may be solved.

10:06 p.m. on June 5, 2010 (EDT)
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As already said, fit is extremely important. I almost gave up on boots some years ago due to ill fitting boots. The boots I currently have fit very well and I love them, however I can still get blisters (and athletes foot) if I do not keep my socks changed frequently. I have found out by trial and error that changing my socks a couple times a day keeps my feet from staying moist. Just taking them off during a break and letting the boots & socks air out helps me.

Just something to consider, I hope you get things worked out!

10:25 p.m. on June 5, 2010 (EDT)
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Good advise from noodlehead.

Personally, I hate spending $$ on socks, too. I fell your pain! Try a pair of REI wool hiking socks. I've used them for years. They are a good value for the money (as far as socks go) and, with REI's no questions asked return policy, if you don't like them or wear a hole in them, you can get your money back.

Not sure if REI is available in Canadia, though.

10:49 p.m. on June 5, 2010 (EDT)
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I'm actually in the States but was in Canada for tree planting. Thanks for help.

12:32 a.m. on June 6, 2010 (EDT)
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Asolo and Lowe are both good brands. There are comparable boots as well. It is worth your time, money and frustration to follow-up on BillS's good advice. Get a competent boot fitter to measure you, point out where they think it is going to be uncomfortable, suggest another size/make or use a boot anvil and work that chunk of hide a bit to reduce the time it takes to break them in.

I walked into REI with the confidence of having worn boots for more than a handful of decades - asked the young lady to get me two sizes of that one and two or three sizes of the other one. This random method had worked for me before - it was just a time consuming job to go through their inventory until something fit. I usually always end up in 13s but it is nice to shop too.

She looked at me and flat out stuck it in my face when she said, "Now, why should I work that hard for you?". Then she asked when I was last measured. After a stupid looking shrug from me, she slid two Brannock Devices under me, took measurements with me sitting, standing and leaning and storking it on one foot. She looked over the wear on my shoes (she wanted my old boots) and then went in and grabbed a pair of boots (not what I had picked out). She only asked if I wanted to be comfortable in the type of hiking I expected to do. She didn't ask what my budget was!!

She told me to walk around in the store for 20 minutes. I thought for sure that was a simple marketing trick...spend more money. I returned after touring ALL of the store. She poked me in the foot in several places and said "It hurts here, here and there, right?". Before I could respond (she knew she was right), she replaced those boots with another set and mentioned that she noticed I had had several injuries (stepped on by a horse and later in college a long drop to my feet) and wondered about the scars (from frostbite) and asked if I was still bothered by my feet. I was really starting to enjoy the foot massage. I replied not since the neuromas were removed. Shaking her head in my stupidity (she went off on a discourse of wrong foot wear and neuroma) she slipped the newer boots on with an insole (to fill in the volume some) and a heel lift and a pair of socks she said I should use with this boot. And off I went touring the store again.

When I returned she marked several places with scotch tape after poking and prodding - including tapping a few places with a small hammer. Looking around for her 10 minutes later, I saw her hard at work on a shoe anvil moving the boot into conformance with my foot. A shoe anvil is a large 'S' shaped piece of steel that is attached at the base to a heavy block of concrete or wood with the business end able to get to the darkest recesses of any boot. Upon these locations she worked the inside of the boot like she was trying to punch a hole in the leather upper, a few times she put some liquid on it before continuing and a few times gently coaxed it into order with a small hammer that looked like it came as a kit with the anvil.

I slipped them on and immediately knew they were the slippers my wife had thrown away because they had become comfortable reprobates that even a dog would not present to its owner.

They were a pair of Asolo's TPS 520 GV (Wide) and I have several hundred wonderful miles on them. Besides the cash, it cost me about an hour well spent.

On my own I would probably not have bought that make, style or size. I asked if it would be smart to buy two pair. She thought that in the time that it would take to replace the ones I now had, my feet would have changed enough to look at alternatives. Feet, ears and noses continue to grow for as long as you live.

Heck, now I have good trivia stuff for the bar too.

PS Blisters were a subject of a comprehensive study by the US Army. The short end of the story was the suggestion to use Arid XTRA as a spray when needed to keep the feet from perspiring. And, of course to change to dry socks when needed.


4:05 a.m. on June 6, 2010 (EDT)
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I had REI and smartwools. Rei's are ok, but they pill some. the smartwools are very tough. I really recommend that you don't skimp on your socks. You have a problem with your feet, and it's like having a flat tire without a spare. You can limp out on a rim, but that's a bad thing any way you slice it.

So, try different variations on liner socks, thickness of socks, and even how you tie your boots.

And if the leather is still really stiff, Danner sells a silicon watherproofer. I also have heard about people running over their boots with a car to soften the leather...not sure if I would go that far...

1:50 p.m. on June 6, 2010 (EDT)
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Sunday is my laundry day so thought I would shoot a photo of my oldest smart wool socks. I have worn them every week for the past 15 + years.

3:30 p.m. on June 6, 2010 (EDT)
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speacock -

That is one of the best stories I have seen and thoroughly proves the worth of a good bootfitter. An hour or two spent with a knowledgable and experienced bootfitter such as you got pays off hugely.

jjwagner -

Just to reiterate what speacock and I posted. before you spent another penny on socks, get thee to an experienced boot fitter. Your boots may be salvagable, though with bandaids on every toe, I suspect you need to toss the boots and get new ones.

AFTER you get properly fitted boots (which may include top quality footbeds), then get the socks. I have used many brands of socks over the years, a lot given to me as samples at the Outdoor Retailer Shows. The comment about using a thin wicking liner plus an insulating sock is very important. The comment about changing socks daily is vital (if you are on a long trip, at least dry the socks overnight, or have 2 or 3 sets and rotate them daily).

Avoid cotton socks for backpacking and other outdoor activities.

Merino wool is far superior to the old Ragg wool socks we had a few decades ago.

In my experience, SmartWool is the best of the currently and easily available socks, with Thorlo a somewhat distant second (I do a lot of volunteer work with Boy Scouts, and Thorlo is contracted to supply the official BSA "hiking" sock - adequate).

But to repeat again, the world's best socks will not compensate for an improperly fitted boot. Mail order boot purchases generally do not work out well, unless, like me, you find a boot manufacturer whose standard last is fairly close to your foot shape (there are two companies that are pretty close to my foot, requiring only minor adjustments except for their plastic double climbing and telemark boots, in which I use thermofit liners that end up being custom molded).

There is a saying among boot fitters - the boot does not get broken in to your feet; your feet get broken in to your boots.

Nothing worse that hiking in 5 miles and finding your feet so trashed by an illfitting boot that you have to crawl back to the trailhead.

3:50 p.m. on June 6, 2010 (EDT)
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I fully endorse the wools socks. I wear them all the time outdoors. They keep my feet warm especially after wading creeks a lot on trails that go up canyons.

5:23 p.m. on June 6, 2010 (EDT)
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I too am quite tough on the toes of my socks. I keep my nails trimmed, but tend to bend my toes up when I walk, causing the tops of cheaper socks to fail prematurely. I'll add my endorsements here: Smartwool socks. I've had a few pair for quite a few years now, w/ no sign of wear. I also have had 3 pair of Wigwam Ultimax light hiking socks that have lasted a LONG, LONG time. Probably 10 years or more.

1:28 p.m. on June 8, 2010 (EDT)
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I really like my Wigwam Ultimax and Coolmax socks. Very comfortable. Long-lasting too.

6:52 p.m. on June 13, 2010 (EDT)
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Okay so sorry for the delay I've been doing some thinking. I really appreciate everyone's advise about socks and boots but tragically I have come to the conclusion I was just kidding myself about socks. I just didn't want to believe my $300 dollar boots were murder on my feet. I wanted to think good socks could fix it. The truth is I need new boots. I went out and walked around in them and sorta figured out why they were hurting and there are several problems, the main one being at the very beginning of the tongue there is a lump of leather that pushes down on my toes when I tie my boots tight. That's why my toes are brutalized after a walk. I tried to fix it but it is hopeless. I simply need new boots...

This time however I am determined to succeed. So here is my first question: I live in Kansas city but where would I go to get boots fitted by a professional? Is there a certain store I should look out for? What is my first step basically? I want to make sure I go to the right place.

P.S. The closest REI is 300 miles away in St. Louis.

7:44 p.m. on June 13, 2010 (EDT)
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Look at some of the Outdoor Store Recommendations here.

I think there are some Kansas/Kansas City-area stores in the list.

Good luck!

8:38 p.m. on June 13, 2010 (EDT)
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Here is my 2 cents since you already bought pour fitting boots and you are trying to make due with them.

A) Try a look for and try some light weight liner socks and double sock. (I used some silk liner socks that worked very good but there is a durability issue with them IMO)

B) Along the same line of idea try 2 pair of light weight socks. I bought some Goodhew South Hampton socks recently and have found them to be awesome they are comfortable, snug fitting, they don't fall down your leg and super comfortable when waring 2 pair of them. Here is a link.

5:19 a.m. on June 14, 2010 (EDT)
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With maybe a caveat about durability, stiff/supportive boots don't have to be heavy. Last year I bought a pair of summer mountaineering boots (Scarpa Charmoz) and I am amazed at how light they are. I'll only take them out for occasional summer excursions, mostly on snow and ice when I need crampons, so I expect them to last a long time, but I can't comment on how they'll hold up to a daily beating in forest work. While I was always glad to get them off after a day's climb and especially a long descent into a hot valley, I didn't have any problems with blisters, but then I rarely do as long as the basic fit is OK -- I guess I must have more or less average feet. (Having said that, I'm having a hell of a time getting comfortable in my new randonee ski boots, I think because a tried a home fitting job on the moldable liners. I may have to go to a pro to get them right).

BTW, in my trail crew days and for a lot of backpacking I actually favored relatively light "disposable" boots -- get them cheap, wear them until they fall apart, then get some more. The main thing is that they are light, and a lot of composite fabric/leather boots are made more like running shoes, really molded to the foot, compared to old leather klunkers. Also, a stiff sole is great on snow and ice, but I find a more flexible sole more comfortable for hiking, even with at least a moderate load.

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