Boots... why?

2:37 a.m. on September 30, 2011 (EDT)
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Seems like 99% of all backpackers do research before hitting the trails here in Southeast Alaska, and 99% of our trails are either graded rock, planked, or flat surfaces.

We do have some areas (ok, a lot) of muskeg that can get messy...*which is why most of us wear extra tuffs*

so why is it that I always see backpackers arrive in Juneau in huge, uncomfortable hiking boots?

Most of us locals (ok, ALL of us.. ha) wear trail shoes when backpacking, and one of my friends uses them even when going off trail on the ridges above Juneau and up to Mt McGinnis/Bullard, etc.

So did I miss a memo from my boy scout days, or are these "tourist" backpackers??

3:22 a.m. on September 30, 2011 (EDT)
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Hehe...I think the idea is that, for some, it is good to have a boot that can "handle all conditions," which can often lead to overkill...I think also there is this notion that ones own deficiencies in strength or endurance can be compensated for through the selection of fancier, "techier" boots.

My first "real" boots, that I was sooooooooo excited about, was a pair of Lowa Tibets, with a honkin', full rubber rand; they were a half size too big, and so stout they would have taken years to break in. I was lucky to be able to sell them on ebay while they were still in good shape...I wouldn't say it's "tourist" backpackers, but certainly this "overkill" mindset applies.

I traded over to the Lowa Banffs, and then had a foray into vintage boots, but wasn't able to find a pair that fit me well. These days, my go-to boot is a pair of 5.10 Exum Guides. I couldn't be happier, though I'm always on the lookout for a model of Pivettas or Fabianos that I haven't tried...I just value that durability and simplicity a non-Goretex, single-piece full-grain leather boot provides.

It takes a while for some people to find a shoe that truly works well, but anyone can be enticed by the top-shelf offerings at REI and MEC.

8:49 a.m. on September 30, 2011 (EDT)
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Three reasons strike me. 

  1. Conditioning.  You folks up North are more outdoor oriented than most cultures.  City folks are not properly conditioned for backpacking loads with light supporting shoes.  Thus they feel more secure with foot wear providing positive arch support, and all that stuff 
  2. True the conditions you describe are not likely to bruise ones souls, or twist and ankle, but why risk an injury at all, having spent a bundle to get there?
  3. Ah come on! I feel like Joe Trekker when when I lace up those boots!  (Don't even dare comment on my Hawaiian shirt!)

I must say I am guilty of wearing super boots, but I am also guilty of hauling super loads that would break an ankle if twisted wrong.

Ed

1:21 p.m. on September 30, 2011 (EDT)
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Well, to sum it up quickly it all is dependent on the load I am carrying and terrain. I have trail runners that I use for trail running; day hikers that I use for day hiking with a light daypack; and backpacking boots that I use for multi-day trips in which I will be toting loads in excess of 30lbs.

For me it has alot to do with the ankle busters I encounter on trail regularly. Last thing I want to do is pop an ankle in the middle of nowhere on day 3 of a 100+ miles. 

Toting a pair of bricks on my feet is alot better for me than the alternative.

4:17 p.m. on September 30, 2011 (EDT)
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I know for me heavy real hiking/backpacking boots are a very important part of hiking and back packing.  In the good old days I wore the heavy, big style Herman Munster style of boot's as daily foot wear.  They feel good, wraping my feet in soft leather (the interior of the boot of cource) that feel like butter. They make me walk straight making me lift my legs and not draging my feet while causing me to pronat as much and they condition my legs.  Instead of wearing 2 1/2 lb weights on my ankles my 2 1/2lb (per boot) kept my legs in shape.  And the feeling when they came  off, uhhhh yes, the feeling when they came off  at the end of the day was amazing.  It was like walking on the clouds.  I'm in the process now of getting back into old school boots.  The day before yesterday  I went on a 3 mile hike in a pair of Zamerlians and it was wonderful.  These boots are around two lbs each.  The nice thing about a really good set of boots is that they don't feel like they weight as much as they really do if they fit right. I can walk way farther and carry way more weight than if I'm in running, tennies, light wieght hiking shoes/boots.

Another reason that I wear the old school heavy boots is that by the time most people go thru two, three, four pairs of the cheaper new school boots I'll still only be half way thru the soles on my boots with many more resolings in front of them.   My boots will last a life time where as most (notice I say most) of the newer style and types boots will not, and are in fact, are made and designed to accommodate a throw away society.

 

whomeworry said:
"True the conditions you describe are not likely to bruise ones souls, or twist and ankle, but why risk an injury at all, having spent a bundle to get there?"

My soul(s?) has been bruised so much and  is now so hardended that no pair of silly boots can harm my soul.

4:36 p.m. on September 30, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks for some of the explanations. 

Here is what I wear (and I've seen a LOT of people with these:

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/merrell/moab-gore-tex-xcr/

4:43 p.m. on September 30, 2011 (EDT)
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As mentioned above by others, I wear a range of footgear, depending on the conditions - trail running shoes on most of the good trails around here, cleated orienteering shoes when orienteering competitively, light-weight boots on rough terrain off trail, approach shoes for approaches to rock climbs and descents, heavy boots for big loads on rough terrain, and for a lot of my Alaska climbing, double boots (and for Antarctica, triple boots with built-in gaiters - I don't want frostbite!). On the mountains I climbed in Alaska, double boots were a necessity - trail runners would have meant instant frostbite.

In other words, match the footgear to the conditions.

6:06 p.m. on September 30, 2011 (EDT)
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I think Nate is alluding the walking conditions in his woods are gentle on feet, while we tend to assume terrain typical of our own stomping grounds or perhaps don't have gear we consider a more appropriate match.  He is kind of saying, hey dudes you are missing an opportunity to lighten your load when visiting my woods.  Point well taken.

Ed

6:21 p.m. on September 30, 2011 (EDT)
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I tend to be more okay with my legs hurting than my feet.  I really, really do not like when my feet show any signs of fatigue.  With me, when my feet are happy, everything else seems to be happy, too.  Feet warm = body warm.  etc.  Maybe it is from my sports days, and legs being sore or tired is something I'm used to experiencing.

That isn't to say I invite a sore set of legs or tired body.  Of course, I do not.  If I'm going to get in fewer miles because my boots are a bit heavier, I'm fine with that.  I want to slow down.  I want to find a peace that is avoiding me in my everyday life.  More miles doesn't mean anything to me.  But all the while, like Apeman said, I do enjoy the workout that comes from backpacking and hiking.  I guess I prefer it to come from more weight than more miles.

Lightweight boots or trail shoes feel better than boots at first, but after a few hours, I feel I'm sacrificing longterm comfort for fewer ounces.  I feel the same way about backpacks.  It doesn't jive with me.  It doesn't make sense to me.  It's not a good trade-off.  Lightweight trail shoes and a frameless pack that save ounces on the frontend, but cost me comfort and general health on the back end, aren't serving me any good purpose.

6:39 p.m. on September 30, 2011 (EDT)
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Bill S :
"In other words, match the footgear to the conditions."

Bingo.  Just as many of use have a tent for every conditon, a sleeping bag for every conditon, a backpack for every conditon, etc.  There is also a boot for every conditon.  So many boots so little time!!!!!

 

Zeno Marx said:
"I tend to be more okay with my legs hurting than my feet.  I really, really do not like when my feet show any signs of fatigue.  With me, when my feet are happy, everything else seems to be happy, too.  Feet warm = body warm.  etc.  Maybe it is from my sports days, and legs being sore or tired is something I'm used to experiencing.

That isn't to say I invite a sore set of legs or tired body.  Of course, I do not.  If I'm going to get in fewer miles because my boots are a bit heavier, I'm fine with that.  I want to slow down.  I want to find a peace that is avoiding me in my everyday life.  More miles doesn't mean anything to me.  But all the while, like Apeman said, I do enjoy the workout that comes from backpacking and hiking.  I guess I prefer it to come from more weight than more miles.

Lightweight boots or trail shoes feel better than boots at first, but after a few hours, I feel I'm sacrificing longterm comfort for fewer ounces.  I feel the same way about backpacks.  It doesn't jive with me.  It doesn't make sense to me.  It's not a good trade-off.  Lightweight trail shoes and a frameless pack that save ounces on the frontend, but cost me comfort and general health on the back end, aren't serving me any good purpose."

I agree 100%.  And ver well said.

7:34 a.m. on October 1, 2011 (EDT)
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I agree with many of the above comments. For example, good FGL "old school" boots promote better posture, which means a better distribution of weight to the spine; they also force a different set of muscles to work than sneakers do, resulting in a more upright stride. As well, FGL boots can go anywhere - rough country won't fray stitching as there is so little of it exposed. And, a fashion note, I have worn FGL boots into boardrooms around the world without anyone detecting, or at least remarking upon them... the same could not be said for sneakers. :)

10:21 a.m. on October 1, 2011 (EDT)
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omw- +1 on the FGLs(no membrane). Only type of boot I wear anymore for multi-day trips where I am in rocky terrain which is always. 

7:08 p.m. on October 1, 2011 (EDT)
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In all my years of selling boots, I would have to say that 80% of the men I sold boots to selected the heaviest leather pair of boots on the wall, regardless of the conditions they could expect to encounter.  I agree with the earlier statement "match the boots to the terrain." Long ago, I gave on the magic slippers that work on PA rocks as well as Maine moss.  The question of "What are the right boots for the job?" isn't as interesting to me as the question of "Why do we instinctively gravitate to the heaviest boots first?"  Is it because or marketing? The natural instinct that a more expensive product has to be a better one? If I won a MacArthur Foundation Genius Fellowship, I would spend it on a focus group to figure this out!

8:17 p.m. on October 1, 2011 (EDT)
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Seth said:

"Why do we instinctively gravitate to the heaviest boots first?"

 Seth, I think alot of people go with better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it logic. 

I wrecked a pair of Keen Oregons on my last trip(Keen made it right though.) My feet paid a price. The blisters took about a month to heal. I did develop some nice callouses out of that ordeal though. ;) 

Won't be going that route again. 

8:43 p.m. on October 1, 2011 (EDT)
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People are constantly gulled by marketing, 'tis true. However, the marketing today is directed toward selling flashy fabric "boots" made with vast amounts of superfluous stitching. And these seem to be the boots that people buy - colorful, lightweight, and short-lived. Thus, through-hikers on the AT expect to go through two or three pairs of these disposable shoes. The logic of this escapes me. I would want a boot that didn't delaminate, leaving me hobbling in the wilderness.

There are few makers of sturdy single-piece-leather upper hiking boots in the US; and not many dealers of imported FGL leather-lined European boots.

My question would be "Why would anyone be interested in wearing a soggy fabric boot over a hot Goretex liner, when they could be wearing a waterproof leather boot over a leather lining?" Doesn't it make more sense to keep both the boot and the foot dry, rather than just the foot (which soon is not dry because of sweating in the Goretex)?

Aye, people are strange creatures, Seth, but for thee and me. ... and I'm sometimes nay so certain about thee. : )

8:48 p.m. on October 1, 2011 (EDT)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said:

Seth said:

"Why do we instinctively gravitate to the heaviest boots first?"

 Seth, I think alot of people go with better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it logic.

I'd agree with that.  I'd rather overkill than wish I'd not skimped.  Buying "lesser" and then wishing I'd not screwed around at the entry level.  Maybe not the same context, but can be similar situations.

And we really can't forget the "bigger is better" mentality we Americans cling to like it is a beloved woobie.  I see it all the time.  To divert a bit here, I just helped a guy install a new window.  One window.  He goes out to buy glaze, and he comes back with a quart.  I asked him why he bought such a huge container.  His response was, "It was only $2 more than the little cup one."  He'll never, ever use that glaze before it becomes useless.  Sure, he got this great deal on "more", but in fact, he threw away $2.

8:59 p.m. on October 1, 2011 (EDT)
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overmywaders said:

Thus, through-hikers on the AT expect to go through two or three pairs of these disposable shoes.

 I absolutely loath disposable culture.  Almost nothing angers and depresses me more about our Western habits than this, and to think it has infected outdoor recreation takes it to another level.  Counter-intuitive.  Counter-everything to do with respecting the outdoors and stewarding our environment.  "Eh, what's the big deal?  They were only $40."  Because the materials were made in China and shipped to Sri Lanka to be sewn and then shipped to Mexico to be packaged and then shipped to retail outlets.  Guess what picked up the bill for that inexpensive, throw-away item?  Our environment.  Fossil fuels devoured just so we could buy a cheap sneaker-like trail shoe that we could thoughtlessly toss in the garbage after a short life.  The entire cycle is sickening.  And that isn't to mention planned obsolescence.  More grossness about our tolerances because it means we can just go by another one.

9:08 p.m. on October 1, 2011 (EDT)
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What a fantastic rant! Ha ha ha, well said.

9:16 p.m. on October 1, 2011 (EDT)
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Check out Yvon Chouinard's Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman for a lot of rants about "global economy" nonsense.  He's all over business and the industry for propagating something so limited in sustainability and with such great expense to our natural world.  Buy local, not global.

3:04 a.m. on October 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Like Ed said conditioning has a lot to do with it.

I remember a couple of guys I hired to help lug gear with horses for a decent hike in Pakistan. One had on these old leather slip on business type shoes and his brother wore odd shoes as he had a foot problem and mixing the shoes up helped, he told me later.

I'd spent some time up there already and was in fair shape, not that it was that high at all but the loose rock terrain we hit first up was just brutal and those guys absolutely nailed it, with horses too, no problems at all. They were a lot more nimble than my mechanical, methodical method and seemed to glide up hills. 

So annoying.

4:41 p.m. on October 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Zeno Marx said:

overmywaders said:

Thus, through-hikers on the AT expect to go through two or three pairs of these disposable shoes.

 I absolutely loath disposable culture.  Almost nothing angers and depresses me more about our Western habits than this, and to think it has infected outdoor recreation takes it to another level.  Counter-intuitive.  Counter-everything to do with respecting the outdoors and stewarding our environment.  "Eh, what's the big deal?  They were only $40."  Because the materials were made in China and shipped to Sri Lanka to be sewn and then shipped to Mexico to be packaged and then shipped to retail outlets.  Guess what picked up the bill for that inexpensive, throw-away item?  Our environment.  Fossil fuels devoured just so we could buy a cheap sneaker-like trail shoe that we could thoughtlessly toss in the garbage after a short life.  The entire cycle is sickening.  And that isn't to mention planned obsolescence.  More grossness about our tolerances because it means we can just go by another one.

 I couldn't agree more.  I think of this often when it comes to the ultra lite types who toss out perfectly good gear because something lighter comes along.

10:38 p.m. on October 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Apeman,

"So many boots, so little time." Huh! And here I thought it was "So many women, so little time." :O)

Anyway, like Nate I wear Merrill Moab lo cut ahoes and I also wear their mid cut boots. Great footwear and light enough. Not as light as some British fairy shoes with paper thin soles, but light enough.

10:49 p.m. on October 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Maybe I'm weird but I just like the feeling(reassurance) that when you know what hits the fan my wheels are good to go.

The ability to handle a few resoles is definitely a plus in my book as well. I have had many disposable boots over the years(latest are Keen Oregons... They need to stick to sandals imho.) Won't be going that route anymore... I don't like taco meat for feet.

I will take a bomber boot over the latest and greatest LW trail footwear. Then again it(as Bill has stated)has alot to do with my mileage, pack weight, terrain, etc.

I do like the Chameleon Stretch. Kinda like slippers for me.

1:54 a.m. on October 5, 2011 (EDT)
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300winmagsaid:

Apeman,

"So many boots, so little time." Huh! And here I thought it was "So many women, so little time." :O)"

 

I've found that the boot version of that saying is much, much cheaper in the end.

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