Need New Hiking Boots

Discussion in 'Camping, Hiking, Cooking' started by dryflylarry, Mar 17, 2012.

  1. dryflylarry "Chasing Riseforms"

    Posts: 4,102
    Near the Fjord
    Ratings: +568 / 0
    Any recommendations on some reasonable priced (under $200?) decent boots? It's been a while since I bought some. I hiked and put a million miles on some old heavy leather boots some years back, then bought some cheapo Columbia goretex that actually haven't been too bad for several years. Since I'm getting up in age, I don't anticipate more than 3-5 mile hikes. My old back is starting to wear. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I think I like the goretex one's tho. I have wimpy ankles, so I do like some support there. Twisted an ankle some years ago with cheap no ankle support boots. Not fun walking out 7 miles! I'd be thrilled if anyone knew of a sale on some good boots around $150 if there is such a thing.
  2. Dan Nelson Hiker, Fisher, Writer, Bum

    Posts: 820
    Puyallup, WA
    Ratings: +347 / 5
    I do have some advice. The following suggests evolved after having worn and reviewed literally hundreds of hiking boots. As a guide book author, magazine writer, gear reviewer and former trail association employee, I've hiked approximately 22,000 miles in the last 24 years -- some years I spent as many as 160 nights out in the backcountry.

    When selecting new boots:
    1. First and foremost, find a pair that FITS. The best made boots in the world will be worst than going barefoot if they don't fit well.
    2. Regarding fit, make sure the heel is fairly snug, but the forefoot is a little loose -- your feet will swell throughout the day as you hike.
    3. Today's fabric-uppers can be as supportive as all-leather, and they'll typically breathe much better than leather. For dayhikes (and to keep costs down) look for some fabric/leather uppers -- they'll be lighter, cheaper, and still supportive if you get a decent pair.
    4. Gore-Tex is great, but most of the other waterproof-breathable liners in boot use these days are equally good (breathability is less vital in the boot application since the upper material tends to retard breathability anyway)
    5. I REALLY like the construction and quality of Vasque these days. They tend to have moderately narrow heel cups and slightly wide toe-boxes. Most models of mid-height or higher will provide excellent ankle support IN short, Vasque (the hiking brand of RedWing boots) is KILLING it in boot making these days. They have a great designer.
    6. Portland-based Danner makes incredibly tough, durable leather boots that will last you years (I put over 1000 miles into one pair and could have kept going if I had simply resoled them -- which Danner will do for you for a very modest price). They also make the boots in Portland -- one of the few boot makers that still manufacturer in the US (many RedWing boots are still made in Minnesota but not their Vasque branded boots; Keen is mostly US-manufactured).
    7. Kayland is another great brand that has a narrower fit. Unfortunately, this is their last season of selling in the US -- still a huge brand in Europe, but they can't get a stronghold going here.
    8. Keen boots are very well made and they tend to have a wider fit throughout their line, but you have to be careful about their boots because they somethings use a harder rubber in the outsole that can be slippery on some surfaces (especially wet granite).
    9. Some Hi-Tec boots are VERY nice and very affordable.
    10. If you want a boot that will last for years
    Hope that helps. Feel free to PM me if you ahve any questions about specific boots (brands or models -- I have used every brand at one time or another and have used (or had testers use) many current models.
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  3. Jim Ficklin Genuine Montana Fossil

    Posts: 2,413
    Columbia Basin
    Ratings: +692 / 0
    I like Merrells . . . they're light, comfortable, and wear well & I too have a "paper ankle" pursuant to my gym-rat years.
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  4. Patrick Gould Active Member

    Posts: 2,356
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +688 / 1
    At one point you would see most serious hikers wearing Vasque, and you still can't go wrong with them.

    I'm wearing Asolo 520s, another classic that's been popular for a couple of decades. This pair has lasted since '96
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  5. dryflylarry "Chasing Riseforms"

    Posts: 4,102
    Near the Fjord
    Ratings: +568 / 0
    Thank you Dan, Jim, Patrick!!! Awesome! Time to go shopping!
  6. Jim Wallace Smells like low tide

    Posts: 5,663
    Somewhere on the Coast
    Ratings: +544 / 0
    Yes, thanks! Great info.
    I have some Merrell "Reflex" that I've been wearing for about 2 years now. I picked them up cheap ($90), as cosmetic blems, and I have been wearing them for all my landscape work and hiking. They are waterproof enough to keep my feet dry in the rain and if my foot slips in the water crossing a creek. I read a review that one should order these 1/2 size larger than one's normal boot size, and I did. They fit me perfectly. They seem about average width, with adequate room in the toe and a snug-but-comfortable fit in the heel.
    They have sort of a rounded foot bed in the toe area, front-to-back (like bottom rocker on a drift boat), which took some getting used to at first, as my old ones were flatter there. But I have no complaints, now.
  7. Patrick Gould Active Member

    Posts: 2,356
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +688 / 1
    Dan, do you have any recommendations for lightweight models? I've been thinking about getting something that would be good for hiking in to a stream or lake and then dry fast after wet wading.
  8. rory Go Outside

    Posts: 409
    Maple Leaf, WA
    Ratings: +191 / 0
    I recommend the Vasque Breeze. I love mine. Fully waterproof for that New Zealand rain. It can handle the Northwest easily.
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  9. Dan Nelson Hiker, Fisher, Writer, Bum

    Posts: 820
    Puyallup, WA
    Ratings: +347 / 5
    If you are wet wading in them, avoid Gore-Tex or any other waterproof/breathable membrane. Go for fabric (especially mesh) uppers. Knowing they are going to get wet frequently, I would suggest you look at some trail runners and fast approach-type shoes. They tend to be more breathable and fast drying since runners tend to get more foot-sweat than hikers. Vasque has some great 'runners' that are built on their hiking shoe last, so you get a good, comfortable fit and support. They also have 'sticky' outsoles to reduce slippage on rock and wet surfaces -- that softer rubber will wear faster but provide much better grip.

    I love this model:

    For something a little more substantial, check out Oboz brand -- they make some incredible light-hikers at the Bozeman facility. I like this model for its breathability/fast drying.

    Add some Patagonia river crampons and you will be great shape for hike-in fishing!
  10. Rick Todd Active Member

    Posts: 1,861
    Ratings: +237 / 0
    Danner boots always fit my feet. As Dan said-go with a boot that fits. Some of Cabela's boots are made by Danner. I currently have some Danner Pronghorns which I have hunted in for 3 years now. I put anywhere from 5-10 miles per day on them in some pretty rough country with lots of rocks and scree. They have held up great and I think they are about $150. Rick
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  11. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    Posts: 7,136
    Not sure
    Ratings: +1,226 / 0
    +1 on Dan's comment about fit. If your new boots don't fit properly, you'll regret it with every step you take.

    I have fairly wide feet which makes a good fit problematic as not many boots come in widths these days. Several years ago (and after 3 or 4 different trips to various stores) I ended up buying a pair of Vasque Wasatch GTX boots from REI. My diligence in getting the fit just right paid off and after 3 seasons, I literally walked the soles right off them. I loved them so much I had them resoled (by the guy in Fremont who's name I forget), but the new soles delaminated within the first month. Thankfully, REI not only took them back, but gave me the full original purchase price.

    Their replacements are Zamberlain Civetta Gore-Tex (which are now up to $280 a pair). Although not available in widths, they do fit snug enabling me to buy a half size larger which I shim up with bulky socks. I've got perhaps a hundred miles on them and am quite happy with the way they fit. They're a bit heavier and stiffer than the Wasatch GTXs, making them better for backpacking than day hikes.

    For short hikes, I found a pair of Keen Alamosa low tops being closed out due to a new color scheme. I paid $59.00 for them at REI about this time last year and they've been bulletproof. Keen shoes in general have wider toe boxes, and the moisture barrier construction in the Alamosas has kept my tootsies dry on even the muddiest rambles.

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  12. dryflylarry "Chasing Riseforms"

    Posts: 4,102
    Near the Fjord
    Ratings: +568 / 0
    Ah. Interesting Ken, and thank you all so far. I just got back from the local Wholesale Sports and tried on the Vasque Wasatch GTX. I was impressed. I just read your post Ken, after coming home and trying them on. They felt pretty comfortable. They had them in Wide sizes which I need. They are selling them there for $175. I believe they had the "Breeze" model also. Nice to know you liked them! I might have to "pop" for a pair. As I said before, I have hiked a million miles also, and after having a well well used pair of old boots, everything has changed for me. I tried on some Danners the other day, but after trying on the Vasque's, they are more comfortable and seemed to have a better fit. I think the Danners are good boots tho.
  13. Joe Smolt Member

    Posts: 532
    Bothell, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +9 / 0
    Dr Larry

    At 3-5 miles and worries about your ankles, do you have hiking poles? In my experience, there are two schools of thought for foot wear. I still have the dream of hiking the whole PCT (perhaps only a dream). Some who have wrote about doing it suggest sneakers for light weight mobility over traditional boots. I have found that plain sneakers can handle a hell of a lot of conditions, but don't think of traversing snow. On the other end of the spectrum, I've hiked some big trips and in my early naive days was convinced I needed some stiff ass boots to supposedly support me carrying a lot of weight in a backpack. Those boots are still in a box after giving up on them. Damn too stiff for me. Somethings got to give, and for me it was my skin, not the boots. I've got a pair of Vasques that I love. Heck I wear them all the time, even running around on the weekend and they are 10 yrs old. Good quality boots that fit well should last a long time. If you touch snow, you want boots with steel toe box and some kind of heel shank to allow you to kick step into snow. Hybred boots without shank will fail to dig in. If I get the gist of your question, you are looking for recreational walks and pretty well anything that fits well will do you fine. If you are worried about ankles, maybe your investment is in hiking poles more than boots. Poles are great going down hill to give you support to easy and confident stepping.

  14. dryflylarry "Chasing Riseforms"

    Posts: 4,102
    Near the Fjord
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    Thanks for reminding me about hiking poles. I am now at the age where I need them. My son has gone off to Korea, so I think I will steal his while he's away! They will really help an old man! I wish I could remember the name of my old hiking boots. They were the old heavy leathers. I put many many miles on those babies. I'll have to see if I can dig those out. They should be hung on my wall anyway! There are so many nicer lightweight boots out there since those days. I have no idea how they would compare on a couple solo 50 mile trips I took those on, but did me well. But, I won't go back to those heavy glodhoppers! I am now 64 and I still have some hiking left in my blood. I'm out of shape and want to see if I can get back. I love the high country. I got to love it so much at one point, I started leaving my fly rod at home!!!!!!! Unbelievable I know!
    Anyway, thanks for reminding me about hiking poles. As long as I find a boot with decent ankle support, no problems will occur. When I twisted my ankle years ago with a pair of cheapo boots, I was on the top of Mt. Jupiter in the Olympics.
  15. ImperialStoutRunsThruMe Member

    Posts: 79
    Central Oregon / Maupin, OR
    Ratings: +12 / 0
    DryFlyLarry: I am 57, so I know what you mean by "getting old" and feeling it in the legs, feet, and back. I hunt pheasant and quail every year over on the Palouse near the Snake River. The terrain requires a LOT of hard hiking up and down hills and steep draws, and side-hilling (which is the worst hiking of all on the feet), in all kinds of nasty weather. It is terrific testing ground for boots. My advice is:

    1. Try on a lot of boots and find a boot maker whose boot fits your feet. Take some of the socks AND FOOTBED INSERTS you will hike in, and walk around in the store with the boots on, and up and down and sidehill on the incline boot ramp, if the store has one.

    2. You might discover that some boots from a bootmaker are good for your feet and other of their models don't fit you well at all. Some Danners fit me perfectly. Other Danner boot models don't fit my feet well at all. Ditto for Cabela's. Last time I was at Cabela's, I tried on 15 different pairs of boots. Found one pair I really liked. Then I waited for them to go on sale, and bought them later.

    3. No need to spend $300+, but going too cheap will end up in owning a bad boot. There are good quality boots in the $150 to $250 range. Find the exact boots you want, and then wait for them to go on sale, or look for them on the internet. Every year I am able to buy $200 boots for $120 this way.

    4. If the boots are leather, treat them annually with sno-seal or one of the other waterproofing products. They'll last longer, imo.

    5. Vasque, Salomon, Danner, and Cabela's make some very good boots.

    6. Buy some footbed inserts. I buy several kinds; some have built in arches, some are flat. The best off-the-rack ones (Superfeet, I think, is the brand name) cost about $25. Worth every penny. Sometimes I use one brand of insert for the left foot and a different brand for the right foot. Feet are usually not identical, once they get to be our age. Mix and match till you get a good fit for each foot.
  16. dryflylarry "Chasing Riseforms"

    Posts: 4,102
    Near the Fjord
    Ratings: +568 / 0
    Thank you ImperialStoutRun. And, thank you everyone. I ended up purchasing the Vasque Wasatch GTX! They feel really great! I hope I can say that on the trail again. All of the input was valuable to me. Once I put a few miles on these I'll see if I can remember to report back with how I like them.
  17. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    Posts: 7,136
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    Glad to hear you found boots that fit. I hope you'll be as happy with yours as I was with mine.

    Several thoughts: First, although they have vapor permeable GTX liners, it's still not a bad idea to treat the leather outers with a leather preservative like mink oil to keep them supple and prevent cracking.

    Second, the earlier point about footbed inserts is a good one. Plantar fasciitis is not fun and is often caused by walking in shoes that don't provide enough footbed support. A pair of good off the shelf orthotics like Superfeet will go a long ways towards keeping your feet happier than the flimsy, flat inserts that come with most boots.

    Finally, keep an eye on the seam where the molded soles are bonded to the body of the boot. Small hairline separations are the first sign that the sole is getting ready to let go and your warning that it's time for either some corrective action or to start shopping for replacements. By the time took a hard look at my Wasatch GTX's, the front 3-4" on one boot was flapping in the breeze with every step. Unfortunately, boot technology these days means that replacing soles is usually a one and done operation. I miss the old Goodyear welts that could be resoled an almost infinite number of times. Sigh.

  18. MT_Flyfisher Member

    Posts: 109
    Emigrant, MT
    Ratings: +18 / 0
    I have several different Danner model boots.

    Here's probably my favorite for moderate hiking (I am gettting a bit on the older side myself, but use them on daily 3 miles summer hikes at 5,000' elevation @ 4 mph pace on gravel surface, and appreciate their light weight, and overall ankle support: (They also fit your price range)

    Danner® Radical 452 GTX® Hiker

    This is the time-tested design that helped to re-establish Danner® as one of the premier hiking boot makers in the world. Based on the advanced Terra Force technology, the Radical 452 GTX is as light as it is tough. While internal and external nylon shanks provide uncompromising stability and responsiveness, a super-soft polyurethane midsole and sturdy footplate provide comfort without sacrificing security. And with the trusted, 100% waterproof protection of GORE- TEX®, your feet will be as dry as they are comfortable.

  19. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    Posts: 7,136
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    Ratings: +1,226 / 0
    Thanks for the tip on the 'new' Danner boots. It was a pleasure to look through their product offerings and see that someone is still making a stitched, replaceable mid- and outer-sole design boot, like

    In reading through the reviews though, it reminded me of one more cautionary about hiking boots which I learned the hard way since my earlier post in this thread.

    The other day I happened to look closely at the soles on the Keen Targhees I was raving about earlier. To my dismay, I found that the lugs on the outside rear of each heel (thanks to my pronating stride) were so worn that the the midsole is now exposed leaving no heel lugs left and thus much less traction on irregular surfaces.

    Why the rapid wear I wondered?

    The easy answer is that I wear them every morning for my 2-3 mile neighborhood walks with the dog. Since my weekday walks are usually on pavement, the harder surface quickly abrades the soft soles that were designed for maximum traction on trails, not sidewalks.

    The cautionary: if your boots fit so well that you're tempted to wear them in your daily routine (especially if they're waterproof), the softer outer soles intended for hiking and backpacking will wear out quickly when you wear them on pavement. Soles intended for regular pavement use are much harder than those used on hiking boots, and thus last far longer.

  20. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,572
    Your City ,State
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    I still have my old Vasque Sundowner, goretex lined boots. While they are a classic and I'd wear them for really rugged hiking, I got a lighter pair of the Keen boots Kent mentions above a couple seasons ago. They are super light and goretex lined also, and no break in required. But there was info in the packaging that the soles are a softer material and smaller lugs, so they won't last so long. They are definitely an investment in comfort over longevity, and should not be used for daily casual dog walking unless you want to buy frequent replacements.