Boot Selection for Thru Hike of the A.T.?

4:47 p.m. on February 22, 2011 (EST)
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I am about to begin a thru hike of the appalachian trail mid-march. All my gear is ready go except my boots. I need to purchase a pair soon so that i may break them in and my search is going slowly and im left wondering how to settle on a pair of boots. How do i know a pair of boots is going to work 200 miles in? The outdoor stores in my area consist of Dicks and Gander mountain.  The only two that i felt partial to were Timberland Chocorua GTX mids and Patagonias Nomad GTX. Neither i feel have the ankle support thats going to be necessary and im pretty sure the timberlands are going to wear out after 100 miles. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated

8:24 p.m. on February 23, 2011 (EST)
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Hi mattrb17    Welcome to Trailspace!

Matt the link I put in is about Gortex VS Trailrunners for an AT thru-hike this may give you some information about Gortex. Do You have weak ankles and need the extra support? I am asking cause some hikers don't buy Mid cut boots. Have you looked at any reviews on the two pairs you have listed? What materials are the two boots made of? Also what is the sole made of and doe's it have a shank plate inbetween the sole and the upper? My Danners have a steel plate as described.On average a boot or shoe last's about 200-300mile's on the AT because of trail conditions.. I checked with my local Outfitter here in Virginia on the trail at Mile 720..

It come's down to the material of the boot and the soles and if their stitched or just molded to the body of the boot. Some boots are molded and have a three dimensional look to them. After constant penetration and saturation of materials the glue's doesn"t hold anymore and they break away from the upper. I am not saying buy a pair stitched I am just explaining things that can happen..

These are some things I would look at.The material of the boot a review on each shoe and the sole of the shoe. I hope this help's you...

10:55 a.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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Consider the weight you"ll be carying in your decisions for boots. Weak ankles should be protected, always. As far as suggestions goes, Lowa and Zamberlan make pretty good boots. Search the forum archives and you'll find much more info. If you want more detail on those two brand ask away!


12:37 p.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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Let me preface this by saying I have never hiked more than 35 miles in a single trip. However, I will offer my perspective from experience hiking in all seasons in the middle and southern Appalachians, .

 I have been wearing the same Timberland boots for about 3 years, and have put maybe 150-200 miles on them, which isn't too bad. However, I have needed to repair them twice due to the soles begining to seperate at the toe. They are mostly leather, but GTX lined with a small mesh panel in the side. They breathed well and kept water out....initially.  But after a year or so they lost their complete waterproofness, and no longer breath much at all. It is unsurprising that 50 miles of tough mountain hiking is going to abuse that mebrane to the point that it isn't impermiable anymore. All that dirt, sweat, and oil is going to clog the pores pretty quickly as well, leaving you with something that is neither very waterproof or very breathable. I have tried washing them, but that hasn't helped much.

I do not own a pair, but I know several people who have put many hundreds of miles on their Asolos. All of them recommend full leather rather than GTX lined.

Good luck with your through hike, I am determined to work it into my life someday to do the same. We hope you'll be able post some updates and trail reports from the trail, lots of people would like to see them I am sure. 

8:01 p.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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Apply a bit of logic and the choice narrows itself quickly. For example, which is more durable:

  • a boot upper made of a single piece of leather with one stitched seam, or 
  • A boot upper made of scraps of fabric with plenty of stitching exposed to rocks.


  • a leather boot which is water-proofed on the outside, or
  • a fabric boot which is intended to leak and soak up water, with a water-proof liner that keeps the foot dry (and hot)


  • a midsole glued and stitched to the leather upper and glued and screwed to the outsole
  • a midsole glued to the fabric upper and glued to the outsole

As to comfort, which would be more comfortable when carrying a pack:

  • a mid-high, stiff-sided, leather-lined, and well-padded boot, with decent scree collar, or
  • a mid-high, cloth and Goretex-lined, flexible boot.


  • a boot with three-quarter or full-length steel shank that protects the arch well but takes some getting used to, or
  • a boot that feels like a house slipper right out-of-the-box, but gives no protection on rocks

I'll leave the rest for others. Perhaps the biggest question is: "Do I want a pair of boots that I can trust will see me through this hike and others in the years ahead?"

5:13 p.m. on February 26, 2011 (EST)
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normally, i would recommend the limmer lightweight or ultralight.  you would have to size them and order remote, though, and i don't think a mid-march start leaves you enough time to get the right size and break them in.  

under the circumstances, i would find a gore tex shoe or boot that fits you well.  vasque, merrell, oboz, asolo or the like.  

6:27 p.m. on February 26, 2011 (EST)
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Here is a boot worthy of examination. One can often determine approximate fit by the outer dimensions. The Italian lasts generally run narrow compared to US lasts.

4:11 p.m. on March 3, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks for all the help guys, much appreciated. After much deliberation i purchased a pair of Salomon xa pro GTX ultra. I went back and forth between GTX or leather, glued or stitched, and so on. In the end i settled on this light GTX mid and it hasnt disapointed yet. I like to carry a lightweight pack and move fast so this shoe just made sense. Ive put about 40 miles on them in the past week on Old Rag and surrounding mountains in Virginia. The shoe felt great out of the box and even better on the mountain. Hiking all day in the rain and no wet feet.

So Im headed to Springer Mt. in less then 10 days and I think im ready to go. Just got to settle on clothing.  so far im planning on bringing: light weight wicking shirt, fleece, light long underwear, convertible pants, shell pants and jacket to hike in. Camp cloths: long underwear pant and shirt, and fleece. I figure at camp if im cold i will just hop in my bag. Hope thats enough not to freeze.

Thanks for any and all suggestions. love this site.

4:25 p.m. on March 3, 2011 (EST)
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Matt Glad you got the shoe that was right for you. Good luck on your thru..I leave in a month...

4:14 p.m. on March 28, 2011 (EDT)
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Obviously too late ... but, here's my '2-cents':

A shocker !!

Many years ago, when BackPacker magazine first came out, there were a few articles on low-cost, low-tech camping and hiking gear from places like "Wally-World" (Wal-Mart).

Also, there was an article about an older guy that Thru-Hiked the AT in primitive (non-technical) gear.

Following the ideas from these articles, I implemented some of these into my own use.

For boots, I bought two pairs of military hi-cut boots.   A pair of "jungle boots" for warm / hot weather, and a pair of heavy-duty "paratroper's" (full-leather) boots for cool / cold weather.   I went 1/2 size larger with the HD full-leather boots, and got a pair of thick felt insoles from an outdoor / hunting / fishing store, to take-up the extra volume inside the boots, and keep perspiration moisture at-bay.

Gear like this can be bought at the old "Army-Navy Surplus" stores, if you can still find one.   My brother was in the Army Reserves, and he allowed me onto a military base with him to shop at the base PX.   Great gear ... great bargains abound !

I broke-in the boots doing outside work, work in my shop (concrete floor), and every-day 'around-town' use.

There's probably in excess of 500-miles on each pair, and they show modest wear.  


 I love the high lace-up.   One can loosen or tighten pressure points easily.

Heck, I still use 'em for working indoors or outdoors.   They are very comfortable.

That was one of the criteria the Pentagon specified, when awarding the contracts for these boots.   Great comfort.



May 27, 2018
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