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Advice needed on good hiking shoes/boots and gaiters

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Offline Daryl

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Advice needed on good hiking shoes/boots and gaiters
« on: February 15, 2007, 09:42:44 AM »
Time to gear up for spring :D

The first item on my must have list is a good pair of hiking shoes or boots.

My main considerations:
    Price:  My budget is limited but I'd rather pay a little more for better quality if it means better comfort, support and durability.
    Breathability:  I do VERY little cold weather hiking (hate the cold!).  I need shoes/boots that will not cause my feet to over-heat in the desert.
    Weight:  I've got enough extra weight around my waist.  I don't need extra weight strapped to my feet.
    Protection:  I'd prefer to keep cactus spine and rattlesnake fang injuries to a minimum.  This is hard to balance against my desire for breathability and light weight, but that's why I'm asking for your advice.
    Durability:  The rocks out here are brutal on soles.  I thrown out lots of shoes with new looking uppers and totally destroyed soles.  Any good boots/shoes out there that can be re-soled for a reasonable costs?
    Shoes vs Boots:  I'd prefer low boots but boots are typically heavier and hotter.[/list]
    And of course, good shoes need accessories.  So, got any advices on gaiters?  My considerations on gaiters are the same as for the boots.  I'd prefer full length (above the calf) but might consider shorter if they promise not to fall down!
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    Offline presidio

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    Re: Advice needed on good hiking shoes/boots and gaiters
    « Reply #1 on: February 15, 2007, 10:14:59 AM »
    Quote from: "Daryl"
    Price:  I'd rather pay a little more for better quality if it means better comfort, support and durability.
    Breathability:  I do VERY little cold weather hiking (hate the cold!).  I need shoes/boots that will not cause my feet to over-heat in the desert.
    Weight:  I've got enough extra weight around my waist.  I don't need extra weight strapped to my feet.
    Protection:  I'd prefer to keep cactus spine and rattlesnake fang injuries to a minimum.  This is hard to balance against my desire for breathability and light weight, but that's why I'm asking for your advice.
    Durability:  The rocks out here are brutal on soles.  I thrown out lots of shoes with new looking uppers and totally destroyed soles.  Any good boots/shoes out there that can be re-soled for a reasonable costs?
    Shoes vs Boots:  I'd prefer low boots but boots are typically heavier and hotter.[/list]


    You are listing some mutually exclusive features, but then that's the nature of decision-making. While there is a huge market in lightweight 'hiking' footwear, much of it is suitable only for maintained trails. If you are planning on hard hiking, and in particular off trail treks, quality boots are the only way to go.

    Most boots are not waterproof absent topical treatments, but of the ones that are, the quality brands use GoreTex liners. I doubt you would notice any heat penalty. My Asolos have such a liner. It wasn't something I was looking for, it just came with the boot I found best for me. To protect against cactus and the like, you need a leather upper. Mesh and suede and other variations will prove disappointing.

    Rattlesnake protection is best done by avoidance. If you desire a boot that will give some modicum of protection then you are looking at high top, very high top, boots like a lineman model with 14" or 16" uppers. While high top boots will provide better ankle support, excessively high tops will affect your calf muscles if you high in them very far. I use both low and high top boots depending on where I'm going. My high tops are 8"; more than enough to provide foot and ankle protection without being excessively heavy.

    Rocks are not only brutal on soles, but also on your feet. Lightweight shoes/boots have correspondingly light innersoles. Higher end boots will have stouter and stiffer innersoles and that translates into more foot comfort in rugged terrain.

    Few boots have a welted sole any more. Most are molded. Some (all?) of the better brands claim they can be resoled. I have no experience with that yet. While they are heavier, welted boots are superior in durability. If you go with a welted boot, get the Norweigian welt and avoid the Goodyear welt like the plague. The Norweigian is very high quality. The Goodyear uses the same stitch to join the uppers to the sole and is used as it is an inexpensive manufacturing method. If that stitch fails the whole boot disintegrates. I know, I had that happen years ago to a pair of Vasques that used the Goodyear welt. Once that happens, the failure typically is not repairable. My welted boots are Norweigian.

    Regardless of what you buy, be sure you get footwear that has a REAL heel. A lot of 'hiking' boots have thin soles that wedge or ramp to the heel area. A clearly defined heel is essential to prevent skating or sliding on loose material as the heel bites into the surface. If it doesn't have a real heel you are primarily looking at something suitable only for urban pavement.

    Quote
    So, got any advices on gaiters?  My considerations on gaiters are the same as for the boots.  I'd prefer full length (above the calf) but might consider shorter if they promise not to fall down!


    While I'm sure some would agree with using gaiters, I've found no compelling need for such an item in a desert environment (well, maybe if you were hiking only in blow sand). Forego this item and put the money in the boot. You won't regret it.

    As in most things, you get what you pay for. When your feet are killing you in cheap boots 10 miles from your vehicle, what you saved won't be what you're thinking about.
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    --No Country for Old Men (2007)

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    Offline Al

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    Advice needed on good hiking shoes/boots and gaiters
    « Reply #2 on: February 15, 2007, 10:48:33 AM »
    I almost always wear gaiters when hiking, but then I like to hike in shorts. I recommend Outdoor Research although cheaper and lighter gaiters, such as gaiters designed for snow will work.  Campmor tends to have a good selection. Boots, make sure they are rated at least medium duty and that they fit with two pairs of socks.  Do not waste your money on lightweight boots.  You'll just have buy another pair before you know it.

    Al

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    Offline Daryl

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    Re: Advice needed on good hiking shoes/boots and gaiters
    « Reply #3 on: February 15, 2007, 11:07:48 AM »
    Quote from: "presidio"
    To protect against cactus and the like, you need a leather upper. Mesh and suede and other variations will prove disappointing.
    What about the heat penalty?  What about a hybrid (leather toe and heal areas with mesh panels along the side?  I know I'll take some cactus hits but if the mesh lets out enough heat, it may be worth it.  On short day hikes I currently wear Brahma Geoff steel toe work/hiking shoes http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=4429886#Features+%26+Specifications (got them for construction work), hard leather toe and heal, suede and mesh sides & top.  I take a few hits but find them comfortable and light enough.  However, they don't give enough support for long, hard hikes.  Also, they have the ramp type heal you warned against so I don't trust them on steep slides.
    Quote from: "presidio"
    Rattlesnake protection is best done by avoidance. If you desire a boot that will give some modicum of protection then you are looking at high top, very high top, boots like a lineman model with 14" or 16" uppers.
    Agree on the avoidance issue.  I'm really more concerned with cactus (hard to avoid) than snakes (relatively easy to avoid) and don't consider the extra weight to be worth the extra protection.  I've had high boots before but RARELY wore them do to the weight.  They don't give much protection while in the closet.
    Quote from: "presidio"
    If you go with a welted boot, get the Norweigian welt
    I'm not familiar with Norweigian vs Goodyear welt.  Any brand recommendations?
    Quote from: "presidio"
    Regardless of what you buy, be sure you get footwear that has a REAL heel. A lot of 'hiking' boots have thin soles that wedge or ramp to the heel area. A clearly defined heel is essential to prevent skating or sliding on loose material as the heel bites into the surface.
    Great advice.  I've experienced the skating and sliding you describe.  No fun!
    Quote from: "presidio"
    While I'm sure some would agree with using gaiters, I've found no compelling need for such an item in a desert environment.
    I've never used them.  I'm considering them to avoid cuts and scratches on my calves since I usually hike in shorts.  But, I've survived without them so far and the blood loss has been fairly minimal.
    Don't worry about getting lost.  You're biodegradable

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    Offline Daryl

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    Advice needed on good hiking shoes/boots and gaiters
    « Reply #4 on: February 15, 2007, 11:14:15 AM »
    Quote from: "Al"
    I almost always wear gaiters when hiking, but then I like to hike in shorts.
    Do they get very hot?  Sweaty calves sound almost as unpleasant (and perhaps more dangerous) as bloody calves.
    Quote from: "Al"
    Boots, make sure they are rated at least medium duty and that they fit with two pairs of socks.
    Do you find the added comfort and support of two socks to be worth the heat gain in the hot desert?  Or, is there some other consideration for this?
    Don't worry about getting lost.  You're biodegradable

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    Offline Al

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    Advice needed on good hiking shoes/boots and gaiters
    « Reply #5 on: February 15, 2007, 11:35:35 AM »
    Daryl, I usually hike in the winter and the gaiters are much cooler than long pants.  I've not had a heat problem with them.  With regard to socks, I don't think two pairs of socks make a difference on the heat factor.  A good leather boot, I do not recommend any mesh/leather boots because of the lack of protection, they are typically rated lightweight and they tend to get torn up by the desert, will make your feet sweat even in the winter.  It's just a fact of life.  I've had good luck with Cabelas boots over the years but many other brands can be good.  The most important thing is that they are sturdy and that they are comfortable.  

    The two pairs of socks are to mitigate blisters and such if you go for an extended hike.  Bring some moleskin to cover any areas of the foot in case there is a problem with blisters.  I'll wear one pair if the hike is short without much elevation change but on extended hikes two pairs of socks is, in my experience, the best way to go.  You may want to research it.  I've done nylon socks with a second pair of cotton socks on the outside and two pair of cotton "crew" socks.  I'm sure there is much discussion of this on the web or perhaps even here soon.

    Al

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    Offline presidio

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    Re: Advice needed on good hiking shoes/boots and gaiters
    « Reply #6 on: February 15, 2007, 12:14:26 PM »
    Quote from: "Daryl"
    Quote from: "presidio"
    To protect against cactus and the like, you need a leather upper.
    What about the heat penalty?  What about a hybrid (leather toe and heal areas with mesh panels along the side?  I know I'll take some cactus hits but if the mesh lets out enough heat, it may be worth it.


    Anytime you start mixing materials you have seams that will catch, abrade and ultimately wear faster than if the boot is one material with minimal seams. Mesh in particular is very subject to snagging around prickly plants. I don't know how to answer your question about heat. It's not something I've ever paid attention to. I want protection, durability and reliability first. Everything else is secondary to me. There is no denying that such footwear is heavy...noticeably so when compared to the light hikers I wear around town, but this is a penalty I'm willing to put up with.


    Quote
    I'm not familiar with Norweigian vs Goodyear welt.  Any brand recommendations?


    Not surprising since most hiking boots, even the really expensive ones, now have molded soles. Before boots went this route, the various makes usually touted what kind of construction they used. If you find a stitched sole you like I would suggest calling the company to find out. Again, though, I would not buy a boot with a Goodyear welt under any circumstance.

    Actually, to clarify, the Goodyear welt was/is a chain-stitched seam, so that when a thread breaks the whole thing begins to unravel. This is what happened to the pair that came apart on me. The Norwegian welt uses a lock stitch which is inherently stronger. The other difference is that a Goodyear welt joined all layers of the boot with a single stitch, also a weak point if something broke. The Norwegian welt used multiple lines of stitching to join the upper to the midsole and the outer sole to the midsole.

    It's been many years since I bought a pair of boots and I haven't kept up with the molded developments. I imagine it is getting pretty rare to find stitched soles anymore, unless you go the custom build route.

    Quote
    I'm considering them to avoid cuts and scratches on my calves since I usually hike in shorts.


    I always marvel at folks who hike the desert in shorts. Too much skin to abrade and burn for my liking. However, by wearing gaiters with shorts it seems you are nearly back to wearing pants, plus you have two more things to keep up with.

    As to Al's comment about 2 pair of socks...I concur fully. They shouldn't both be the same weight. You want a pair of good wool socks for shock absorption and the wicking benefits with a lighter pair (they can be very thin) underneath. This does 2 things...it keeps the itchy-scratchy wool off your skin but more importantly it provides slippage between the 2 pairs rather than your skin slipping on the rougher sock. Result? No blisters.

    I think you'll find that such an arrangement also negates the heat to the extent possible. While folks shake their heads at the wool uniforms the cavalry wore in the 1880s in the desert, they were quite protective and insulative from much of the desert heat. Of course, there weren't many alternatives but the same principle applies now at least to socks.

    Needless to say, you want to shop boots with the socks you will wear while hiking. Places like REI usually have a sock bin so you can put woolies on over your regular socks for fittting.
    _____________
    <  presidio  >
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    Wendell (Garret Dillahunt): It's a mess, ain't it, sheriff?
    Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones): If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here.
    --No Country for Old Men (2007)

    Advice needed on good hiking shoes/boots and gaiters
    « Reply #7 on: February 15, 2007, 04:29:10 PM »
    Daryl,

    I wear some old Norwegian welt Montrail Manzamas.  They are Nubuck, weigh a bit over 5 lbs for a size 14 pair, and are just about ready to be resoled after 6 1/2 years.  If not bullet proof, they are quite close.  I got them for $199 at Campmor.

    I also have a pair of Asolo Goretex.  They are also great boots, although I found them to be hotter than the Manzamas--even though they are 1/3 lighter.  I must add that my feet swear a lot.

    My preference for terrain like Big Bend and other wilderness areas is the Norwegian welt type boot that Presidio also prefers.  And it seems like I end up wearing them for all other needs, too, just out of habit.

    The problem is that they are getting harder and harder to find Norwegian welt boots.

    Limmerstill  makes them--but they are pricey. Their web site is:

    www.limmerboot.com/

    Here is a link to more info on Limmer boots, and Norwegian welts in general:

    www.thebackpacker.c om/gear/boots/limmer_boots.php

    Also, I believe that L.L. Bean sells a Limmer boot.

    Bottom line, Norwegian welt boots are much more expensive.  I think that is problably why just about every bootmaker no longer makes them.  But, if a pair of Manzamas (or Limmers) last 5 years before needing a resole (and the rest of the boot can realistically outlive a person), then a Norwegian welt boot can also be seen as the best deal around.

    The trade off is the significantly greater weight.

    For me, the benefits of a "bombproof" boot exceed the "cost" of the additional weight.
    "No, that did not happen to me.  You have me confused with someone else."

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    Offline okiehiker

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    « Reply #8 on: February 15, 2007, 07:17:47 PM »
    Quote from: "Boot Canyon 1 Cougar"
    I must add that my feet swear a lot.

    I can't say that I blame them!
    Funny... I have a story about that...

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    Offline Doc Savage

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    Advice needed on good hiking shoes/boots and gaiters
    « Reply #9 on: February 15, 2007, 07:46:11 PM »
    I've worn Hi-Tec hiking boots for years and love them. However I just recently found some boots that blow them out of the water. Best Boot I've ever had and can't believe I hadn't thought of looking to the pros on this subject before.

    They are Bellview Army ACU approved Temorate weather boots with Gore-Tex liners. One of the active duty Marines in my jeep club saw me wearing them and said they were the best boots he's worn, like wearing a pair of confortable socks he said. I had to get them as I have to be in uniform when we support the 5th army on their deployments (yes even civilian contractors are in uniform), but find myself wearing them out and all over as they are extremely comfortable. Not bad price either, $140-$150 mail order (they run about 1/2 to 1 size bigger than typical boots).

    I'd highly recommend them.

    Robert
    Enjoying the Texas life!

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    Offline Undertaker

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    Advice needed on good hiking shoes/boots and gaiters
    « Reply #10 on: February 15, 2007, 07:50:54 PM »
    Pick and buy the best boot you can afford, make sure you break them in  or they will break you down on trail, Personal preference by name is Montrail, but pick boots that fit, happy feet are healthy feet. :lol:  :lol:
    Visiting BB since 1966, nothing like being lost and finding heaven.

    Advice needed on good hiking shoes/boots and gaiters
    « Reply #11 on: February 16, 2007, 11:28:38 AM »
    Okiehiker, and believe it or not, those "swearing"  feet also sweat a lot, too!   :lol:
    "No, that did not happen to me.  You have me confused with someone else."

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    Offline PyramidBlaster

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    Advice needed on good hiking shoes/boots and gaiters
    « Reply #12 on: February 16, 2007, 03:04:13 PM »
    One more thing to keep in mind is that each footwear company uses a different 'last', or basic foot shape, for their boots. Thus, you need to pay special attention when you're going on a fitting as to where your foot falls in the interior of the boot. It's not as simple as, 'my friend has worn these boots for years, and he swears by them' if the shape of your friend's foot is different.

    Me personally, I like higher-end Timberlands for all but the worst hiking conditions--after that I have an old pair of Carolina hikers that have served me well over the years. I've also had a good experience with Danner and Vasque.

    And yes, I'm of the two-sock persuasion---polypropylene liners with thicker Thor-Lo or similar over them. It's worked well for 15-odd years now.
    "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents."-H.P. Lovecraft

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    Offline okiehiker

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    Boots, socks, etc...
    « Reply #13 on: February 16, 2007, 04:08:29 PM »
    They are YOUR feet, take good care of them, but find out what works for you.

    I have ridiculously tough feet.  I don't get blisters and I have hiked in everything from Teva's to house shoes to heavy mountaineering boots.  I actually gave my boots to my son who was having problems on a hike and climbed Tortuga Mountain, Elephant Tusk and Backbone Ridge in a pair of moccasins that were my camp shoes.  No laces, no uppers, no sole, and no problems.

    The most important factor in whatever shoes you wear is that they FIT YOU.  Do your feet sweat (or swear?) Do you have a high arch?  Try them on and walk in them A LOT before you get out in the backcountry. I used to always buy my boots on a Saturday morning and walk thirty miles in them the day I bought them.  It is much better to identify problems before you are out in the boondocks.

    Do you blister easily?  You may have to try various sock combinations before you find what is comfortable for you.  the most common is a liner with a heavier outer sock, preferably a decent quality one.  

    Do you plan to do three mile dayhikes on trail, or thirty mile cross-country treks with a heavy pack.  When ultra-light boots first came out Hi-Tec got far and away the very best product reviews.  Twice I succumbed to buying a pair and actually wore holes in the uppers in ONE DAY of hiking.  On the second pair the whole side ripped out, and I did a thirty mile descent of Chaol Canyon with my right foot rotating out of my boot.

    Depending upon what you want to do your best bet might be a good pair of sneaker, cross-trainers or "trail running" shoes, unltra-light boots, medium weight boots, or the heavier backpacking boots.  Everyone will tell you what is just right for them, but you have to determine what is just right for you.  

    Start early in case you don't like what you buy, so you will have time to break in something else!
    Funny... I have a story about that...

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    Offline PyramidBlaster

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    Advice needed on good hiking shoes/boots and gaiters
    « Reply #14 on: February 16, 2007, 05:25:00 PM »
    Exactly, Okie---Thank you. That's what I was trying to get at. We can make recommendations all day (and that has value, don't get me wrong)...But the most important thing is to do your research and make sure you identify the features you need first, then identify a general type of boot. Then it's a trip to  the outfitter to try some on with the sock combination you'll be using. Identifying problems early will help in the long run--if the shoe has a rub, pinch, or hot spot in the store, don't expect it to magically smooth itself out--try another pair.

    And lastly, after all that is said and done, the break-in is crucial!! I, too was guilty (well in the past) of breaking in a new pair of boots by doing a killer hike on their first outing--and the subsequent pain I experienced cured me of that habit right quick..... Break-in will vary, but I used to suggest wearing them every day(around the house or at work) for a couple of weeks for lightweight hikers, and a month or more for heavy backpacking boots.....

    So yes...do the work, find a boot that seems right..talk to lots of people, and break them in early!!!
    "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents."-H.P. Lovecraft

     


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