Selecting new Hiking Boots

2:47 p.m. on September 13, 2007 (EDT)
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Well, my next quest is to find a new pair of hiking boots. Unfortunately, though they are nice sturdy boots, my Asolo Fugitive GTX's are just too uncomfortable. I've just dealt with the discomfort for my day hikes over the past couple years. They make my feet tired after just 5 or 6 miles, and intermittently hurt various points on my feet and ankles - in particular the part of the ankle where the bone sticks out.

But for backpacking, where I carried a lot of weight, the boots were downright painful.

So, my challenge, if possible, is to find a boot that's heavy/sturdy enough to support heavy backpacking loads, yet also comfortable enough for day hikes. I like the Goretex in the Asolo boots, since my feet seem to sweat less than with traditional full leather uppers without Goretex.

Maybe, if I can decide quickly, I can take advantage of the current REI 20% off coupon :).

2:54 p.m. on September 14, 2007 (EDT)
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I have Fabiano, Vasque and Raichle boots. I carry one of these pairs for really tough terrain where I need some protection. But my primary footwear are SANDALS. I have several different pair of name brands, and they all work fine. I carry a 50# pack up and down trails with 1500 to 3000+ -foot elevation gain and the sandals are BY FAR the most comfortable footwear on the trail. I hike alone, so I have to be careful not to turn (or more seriously injure) an ankle, but so far, so good. I have even tried barefootin' on smooth trails--did about a mile up the Annette Lk trail near Seattle with no problem, but only 30# on my back. I wore my Vasques starting up a rocky trail to Ingalls Lk in WA (>3 mi. in with > 2000 ft of elevation gain), and within a mile was back in sandals. Feet get dirty, but my toes are free and nuthin' rubs. By the way, my ankles are 62 years old and still holdin' up.

8:47 p.m. on September 14, 2007 (EDT)
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For me, choosing footwear is about as much fun as a root canal (and I've had two of those, so I know what I'm talking about).

I have Asolos because they fit my feet. That is all that matters. We all can talk about our favorite brands, but if they don't fit you,they aren't for you.

Again, head for the boot store, find someone who actually knows what they are talking about (which may in and of itself be a challenge) and figure on spending a good part of your day, trying on boots and marching around the store. REI even has a little fake boulder to climb on so you can get the feel of going uphill and downhill.

If you just have unusually shaped feet, there are custom bootfitters out there who can take a good boot and fiddle with it, like they do with ski boots.

8:58 p.m. on September 14, 2007 (EDT)
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Yah, I really dislike boot shopping too. It's so hard to tell in the store whether or not I'll really like the boots long term. REI does have a good return policy - supposedly you can return them even if you've hiked on the trail - but I'd feel a little uncomfortable doing that unless they were actually defective (they probably bank on people having that attitude when they offer that return policy:).

I've read some good things about the Lowa Banff, but my local REI didn't have them. I'll look some more - hopefully finding the right one while that 20% off sale is still on.

3:48 p.m. on September 15, 2007 (EDT)
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bheiser if your local store carries them I wholeheartedly suggest Limmer Boots.
The Lightweight & UltraLightweight (names can be deceiving) are prefect for just about any backpacking/light trekking situations one may encounter.

7:07 p.m. on September 15, 2007 (EDT)
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Side note on REI's return policy and hiking boots - I'd think getting boots that work is more important than feeling uncomfortable about taking back a pair that you'd tried on a trail and don't work for you. A couple of my hiking friends have done that with boots that weren't working for them and were able to find a good fit. If it helps, the REI in my neck of the woods does a garage sale and sells off returns (even items with some wear) - which is great for people on a budget...so...why not take advantage of it - sounds like you're not likely to abuse the policy!

10:50 a.m. on September 16, 2007 (EDT)
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I went shopping at three different REIs over the past couple days. The first one only had a few "backpacking" boots, and none that really struck my fancy. The second was so busy that I couldn't get more than a few seconds at a time of a salesperson - and I got impatient and left. The third had an attentive and well-intentioned, but young and inexperienced guy, who helped me out.

I tried on a number of different pairs but haven't settled on one yet.

- Lowa Banff: VERY comfortable in the uppers, where I have my biggest problem with the Asolo Fugitive, but the step seemed very hard, and the sole seemed to push up too hard in the ball of my foot (not comfortable long term).

- Vasque Sundowner Summit: felt comfortable in the foot, but even in the store I started to feel hotspots in the uppers

- Asolo Powermatic 200: felt quite good - though I've read numerous reviews complaining of heel blisters, even though they felt comfortable at first. I did feel a little movement there, so this seems likely.

- Montrail Torre GTX: these fit the best of all of them. My two concerns are (1) they seem a little "weak" in the uppers (not as supportive as I'd like to help minimize ankle twists), especially with a heavy pack, and (2) they strike me as a "discount" brand and I'm unsure how the boots will stand up over time (a couple reviews complained of issues with construction quality).

[sigh] I don't recall having this much trouble finding boots in the past. Maybe I'm just being pickier now... if I'm going to spend $200 on a pair of boots, they need to be "just right".

12:58 p.m. on September 16, 2007 (EDT)
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Quote:

if your local store carries them I wholeheartedly suggest Limmer Boots.

ofelas, thanks for the suggestion. I'm familiar with Limmer from years ago, living in the Conway area in New Hampshire. As I recall, these boots are made in Bartlett (Intervale). I wasn't aware they were available in retail shops - at least in the past, you had to go in to their shop in person for a personalized fitting, and then they were made to order.

Anyway I'll look into this, thanks!

9:52 p.m. on September 16, 2007 (EDT)
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bheiser1 they used to be custom fitted & made but I was as surprised as you when I saw them available retail as well; my Lightweights are as well made as my old fitted Standards, so I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the off the shelf Limmers as I was!

12:29 p.m. on September 17, 2007 (EDT)
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Limmer added the "production" boots some years back, about the time the son took over from the original Peter Limmer. Look at their on-line site. Years ago when I got mine, they had developed the "mail-order" fitting technique (bunch of measurements, following detailed instructions, plus tracings, etc), so even by the 1960s it wasn't necessary to actually go into their shop. They still do the custom ones, as mentioned in another thread a few weeks back.

12:51 p.m. on September 17, 2007 (EDT)
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I did check their online site, but they say the online thing is "coming soon". For now it's "mail oder" (meaning the old fashioned, send in, or call in, a request).

I think for now I'll get something I can buy locally. From what I've seen, I really need to try on boots before buying them.

Maybe sometime when I'm back in New England I can stop in and check out Limmer's custom fitting service.

4:27 p.m. on September 17, 2007 (EDT)
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When I needed a good pair of hiking boots I went to REI, I tried on every (yes, every) pair they had. The staff was very nice and helpful, I got to walk anywhere in the store I wanted with them, they had a nice little uneven ground thing in the shoe dept I felt helped.

REI works on the concept of 100% satisfaction. They charge a premium because of this, they have a ton of happy repeat customers because of this. When you buy from REI, if it doesn't work out go ahead and bring them back. By all means make sure you're happy with your purchase when you walk out of the store, but if on the trail you realize your purchase was a mistake, bring em back. Call it a fault of the shoe manufacturer that your feet hurt (after the shoes had been broken in), that you got blisters, that they felt hot as hell, whatever the reason.

If you're unhappy with them, the manufacturer could have done better. REI is happy to account for this and either get your money back for you, or sell the boots at their garage sale. Beautiful concept, and it works out wonderfully.

5:01 p.m. on September 19, 2007 (EDT)
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I tried on several (the most likely candidate) pairs at REI (the ones I listed above). I also checked out a local store here in SF. But I haven't found just what I'm looking for.

I hiked again the other day in my old boots. I must just be hyper sensitive now, because my feet really hurt afterwards.

I'll keep looking for a replacement. In the meantime, lacing the old ones less tightly helps some, though that introduces other problems (chafing, lack of ankle support, etc).

6:44 p.m. on September 19, 2007 (EDT)
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BH, simply lacing the boots tighter or looser doesn't really solve problems. You should consider your lacing pattern - loose toe box/tight instep/moderate ankle (this pattern works for a lot of people, with the tight instep keeping the foot from sliding fore and aft and keeping the heel in place), or tighter toe box (keeping the foot from sliding forward on downhills with tighter upper (to provide a little more support to the ankle) and moderate instep section (for people with a high instep. Try several variations until you find the most comfortable pattern. Doing this effectively requires having lacing "holes" that allow locking the various sections (for example, hooks rather than holes or loops allows half-hitches around the hooks at the section dividing points). "Speed laces" allow any tightening or loosening in one area to quickly distribute itself through the whole foot, so any attempt to lace in sections disappears in a couple hundred meters of hiking. Several of the foot care books describe how to do different lacing patterns.

8:02 p.m. on September 19, 2007 (EDT)
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It's possible a different lacing pattern would help, though it won't completely solve the problem with my current boots. The biggest problem is that a part of my ankle pretty consistently gets badly bruised. It has to do with the way that protrusion of the ankle rubs the side of the boot. It's in such a spot that lacing differently wouldn't change it.

Lacing differently might help with one of the other problems, though, which is that the top of my foot really hurts after hiking a few miles.

One of the other problems, a hard step, which really causes my feet to feel tired, might be helped with different insoles. I did try one set, though, and they caused my feet to sweat. Something designed to work with Goretex boots might do the trick there.

I'll see what I can do... :)

12:00 a.m. on September 20, 2007 (EDT)
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a.k.a. Jeff Chandler, Jeffrey C.

No boots. Cut your weight. Think about it like this. Every step you take you have to lift that foot. lifting those 3 pound boots everytime adds up to tons of weight you have lifted. Now if you have some trailrunners or something along those lines you are only lifting 1 pound so you cut your weight.

If you pack weighs more than say 25lbs then you prolly need more support so boots could be better. Also if you have weak ankles boots might be necessary.

Thats just my thoughts on the matter but that does make sense.

1:05 a.m. on September 22, 2007 (EDT)
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My ankles tend to be prone to twisting. I've sprained each of them at different times in the past. So I like to have the added support, especially carrying a heavy pack.

11:14 p.m. on September 22, 2007 (EDT)
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That is a smart decision. I am lucky and have a light pack and strong ankles which affords me the chance to use trail running shoes to hike in.

7:27 p.m. on September 23, 2007 (EDT)
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Actually, a different lacing pattern would go a long way to solving the ankle rubbing problem, as would going to a good boot fitter who can enlarge the area of the boot at the ankle protrusion. Another solution is that you can use trail shoes along with the kind of ankle support (don't overtighten the straps) that you can get at many runner's shops. Several climbing buddies use approach shoes or trail runners with these and say they work very well even over loose talus.

Goretex boots? Someday people will learn that Gtx just doesn't breathe well enough to be used in boots. eVent works somewhat better, but full leather actually causes less problems for the feet. Mesh that breathes well enough lets dust and sometimes sand through, as well as soaking the socks when you wade streams or hike in the rain. VBL socks help (when used properly), and some find neoprene socks work well.

2:14 p.m. on September 24, 2007 (EDT)
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I resisted goretex for years; however, two years ago I bought a pair of goretex boots made by Raichle and have been very pleased with their three-season performance. I have yet to try them in weather colder tan 10 degrees F, so I don't know whether they breathe well enough to keep my feet warm under those conditions.

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