Choosing a Good Hiking Boot

11:57 a.m. on April 29, 2011 (EDT)
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I'm trying to get back to hiking again after about a year's hiatus and need a good light hiking boot to get started.  I previously had a pair of Lowa Renegades and loved them.  But it appear that my foot has changed and I'm having trouble finding a good fit.  What happened to the helpful and knowlegable saled people at REI and other outdoor gear stores?  They'll drop off a pair of boots and then disappear.  If I happen to catch them to ask a question about other boot, I get a blank stare.  Any suggestions? 

2:18 p.m. on April 29, 2011 (EDT)
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on the service question, i think you either have to get lucky at a chain store like REI with someone knowledgeable, or you need to go to a smaller, specialty store where you're more likely to pay full retail.  you could always try things on at a smaller place, not buy there, then hunt for a better deal on the internet....but that's what puts the specialty stores out of business. 

on the shoes, i just did a search for a shoe for day hiking, doing hill work-outs, and using on shorter trips where i expect to carry a pretty small backpack.  i had been using a Vasque trail runner with a fairly sturdy midsole and tread pattern for that purpose.  most places seem to distinguish between trail running shoes and light hiking shoes.  as near as i can tell, a trail running shoe covers the spectrum from slightly more robust than a running shoe to something moderately supportive, but will usually have a softer midsole, a less aggressive tread, and will be mostly nylon with some leather for support.  a light hiking shoe will tend to be a little stiffer, more supportive (may have a polyurethane midsole that is stiffer), more leather, more aggressive tread that isn't as grippy but tends to wear a little better.  often mid-high as opposed to a full ankle high boot, though not always, and light hikers tend to weigh a little more.  there is no hard and fast dividing line, though. 

it's worth deciding what works for you, depending on how you plan to use them.  the more rugged the terrain, the more weight you may carry, then you might want a more robust shoe.  for a lot of all-day hiking, though, something the stores call a trail runner might work nicely, and they're lighter weight and tend to cost less.   

there really is no better process than going to a store with a pair of the socks you plan to use and trying on a bunch of different boots to see how they fit - not just lacing them up, but walking up and down some stairs, putting one foot then the other on the little in-store incline to see if your foot slides forward, if your toes bang, if your heel seems to lift up too easily.  (i use a pair of custom orthotics that i wear all the time, so i definitely put them into every shoe i try on, in addition to bringing my own socks).   i had my feet measured for length/width and tried on several pair of shoes locally before determining that i wasn't going to be happy with the options i could try on, or that for one shoe (Salomon), i would need a wide size that the store doesn't carry, but that is available online or by special order.

you can derive a good amount of info from the web and by email and phone, if you can't find what you want locally.  i just ordered a pair of Treksta Evolution trail runners.  no stores carry them around here, but a number of reviews and calls to different stores confirmed whether they run true to size, whether they run narrow or wide in certain parts of the shoe, and so on.  as part of the same process, i figured out that some other shoes i thought were interesting (scarpa, salewa, oboz) run too narrow for my foot. 

 

hope this helps. 

10:13 a.m. on April 30, 2011 (EDT)
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Wow, thanks so much for the reply.  I too wear custom orthotics and have been taking them and my socks to different stores to try on boots (I thought one guy was going to throw me out of the store because I was there so long).  My frustration is they bring out one pair of boots and then just seem to disappear.  The information about trail runners vs light hiking boots was particulary helpful, as no one at any of the stores was really able to give me a good answer.  I guess I'll just have to do some more research and try on   more boots (ask for several boots in a few different sizes right off the bat).  I guess I was hoping to get a good pair of boots and hit the trail on the way home.  It's spring time in the Rockies! 

8:14 a.m. on May 2, 2011 (EDT)
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maybe try to go when the stores aren't as busy - weekends, these places are packed around here.  not so much on weekdays after work.  

9:13 a.m. on May 3, 2011 (EDT)
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I havent had good luck at REI. They sized me up with a pair of Asolo 520 GV, which were way too small for my foot and I had to return them. I think I bought them because they pulled a Houdini like you said, they dropped them off then bailed.

I actually heard Cabelas Meindl hikers were good, so I ordered a whole range of sizes, tried them out at my leisure, and picked the best one. They may not be right for you, but that experience was a lot nicer than buying boots in-store. Zappos seems to carry a lot of good hikers, and have free shipping both ways. Good luck!

9:07 a.m. on May 4, 2011 (EDT)
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I did think of that tactic. So I took the opportunity of a few days off to get to REI on a weekday in the morning when it wasn't busy.  I was the only customer in shoe section with two employees in that department and they both were scarce and seemed unwilling (or unable) to answer questions.

1:29 p.m. on May 4, 2011 (EDT)
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try a different REI or ask for the manager so that once there you manage your time not to be wasted.

8:38 a.m. on May 5, 2011 (EDT)
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ColoMtnGirl said:

I did think of that tactic. So I took the opportunity of a few days off to get to REI on a weekday in the morning when it wasn't busy.  I was the only customer in shoe section with two employees in that department and they both were scarce and seemed unwilling (or unable) to answer questions.

 sounds like every time i go to best buy....

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