Hiking Boots – Out With the Old, In With the New
Each year it seems like I push myself more and more to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Mary and I have definitely found ourselves doing more outdoor activities in 2009 than any other year. The rise in our participation of such activities has justified an upgrade in gear. For Christmas this season we decided that we would each get to upgrade our hiking boots. That will get us ready for some serious hiking in 2010. Of course, the only downside to this was that I already knew what I was getting for Christmas.
The Old - My old hiking boots are roughly 7-8 years old. I bought them at a Lands’ End store when I was in college. The main reason I chose this particular pair of boots was because at the time, I was a poor college student and they were on a super sale for about $15. These boots have served their purpose well. However, I will admit that they didn’t get near as much usage the first half of their life versus the second half. As Mary and I became more interested in hiking and geocaching, a good pair of boots became increasingly necessary. And the more I used my hiking boots, the more I started to realize what they were good for and what improvements I would look for in a new pair. The old pair has a tough sole and an all leather top. The leather made these boots very tough. When I decided to go cross-country through a forest or climb on bluffs, the boots withstood the ruggedness. I only had a few problems with them. The first was that some of the stitching came unraveled. This was not a huge problem though. A local shoe repair guy fixed that for about $1. Another problem was that they were not as waterproof as I wanted them to be. I water-proofed them a couple of times, but they still soaked my socks after medium exposure to water. Comfort was another issue with these boots. Over the years, it seemed like the shoe stretched. I actually have several in-soles in the boots for comfort and to keep them snug on my feet. And finally, weight was a big factor with my old boots. I never thought this would really be an issue, but recently I hiked 7 miles in them and by the end my feet and legs were so sore I could barely walk. I learned that heavy works just fine for short distances, but not long ones.
The New – It did not take me long to find a pair of boots that would suit me well. I had already been keeping an eye on a pair at REI. As soon as they went on sale, we bought them… I mean, my wife bought them (seeing as they were a gift for me). My new hiking boots are a pair of Keen Targhee II Mid. The first noticeable difference is the material. It is not as durable as leather, but at the same time I do not foresee anything tearing after I walk through my first thorn bush. While the construction is durable, it is also much lighter than my old boots. I did a weight comparison and the Keens are half the weight of the Lands’ End boots. The in-sole is a lot more comfortable as well. It seems to cradle my foot rather than just cushion it. They feel like a better fit overall. The new boots are also waterproof and breathable. Breathability has never been much of an issue for me, but it is nice to know my feet won’t get too overheated. The waterproof is a big factor for me. As soon as the snow melts and spring sets in, everything is very wet. It will be nice not to have to worry too much about large puddles on the trail (and no you can’t always walk around them).
One of the things I never really considered before I got these new boots was matching a pair with my activity level. While browsing for a new pair, an employee at REI asked what kind of hiking I did. After explaining to her what we like to do outdoors she suggested a smaller lighter boot than the ones I was looking at. She explained that the boots I was looking at were more for rockier terrain. Since we mostly do trail hiking, it made sense to go with the lighter boot. Something to consider when you get your next pair.
Mary also upgraded. She loved the fit of her Columbia boots, but they weren’t waterproof. Her socks would get wet at the slightest puddle. Her new ones are a pair of Vasque Briza GTX boots. These are breathable and waterproof like mine, but the most important thing for Mary was how well they fit. She was looking for extra support around the ankles and most of what we found was mid level or lower, until we found this pair.
As time goes on, we will see if the new hiking boots meet our expectations. I am interested to know if anyone else has a pair of hiking boots that they have been very impressed with. If you do, let us know what kind and what you like about them.