Posted: 10/15/2008 7:59:55 PM EDT
Why Light Hiking Boots:
For the last dozen plus years I've been a big fan of light weight hiking boots, I wear them all the time, day in, day out. So when I hit the trail there is nothing new for my feet, no worries of breaking a boot. IMO, the light weight boots are perfectly fine for all hiking unless you have serious issues of frostbite to contend with, so they are perfect for most any bug-out or bug-in situation. Sales people will argue needing a bigger, heavier (and more expensive) boot saying you need ankle support, etc, etc, but with years of hiking, I just never see it (and have never twisted an ankle, etc). Minor cold feet issues can be mitigated various ways such as with vapor barrier socks (not for everyone), keeping your boots well waxed and basically understanding how to prevent / deal with cold feet. Any trip where I expect less than 30% of snow / really cold situations I'll go with a light hiker, its always paid off for me. The benefits of the light hiker are obvious, cinder blocks type boots on your feet are bad (I have some of these too).
In the past I've stuck with some good brands like Vasque and Merrell. On my last go around I wasn't too happy with their offerings / price and found a deal on some "Hi-Tec Altitudes". Hi-Tec generally has more budget footwear and I normally expect that to be reflected in the quality. In this case I was wrong. After four years of wear these things are still going strong, I just did a 50 mile backpack trek with them with no issue. The interiors do have some wear spot holes (as do the original innersole), not too unexpected for a lightweight hiker of this age, but the wear spots have never proven to be a source of discomfort. There is one spot on each outsole where they have worn through. The construction is still solid, I don't doubt that I couldn't get another year plus easily out of them. They have been zero maintenance, just put them on and go, even the laces are original.
These boots have a very good design, everything you want from a real hiking boot, nothing you don't (extra weight). Reasonably waterproof with a fully gusseted tongue are a must, and the Altitudes have it.
With the economic collapse coming I decided it was time for another pair of boots and put these in the back-up pile. I was impressed with the Hi-Tecs enough to not even consider another brand, I just wanted the same thing and checked for them on the net.
I found that Fogdog sells them with free shipping and free return shipping- price is $89.99 but you can get a 15% off coupon.
So if you don't know your size this could be a good way to go (I don't think they run big or small). I also found that Sun & Ski Sports (a small regional, local chain) has some for a great deal, with now limited sizes (men's only) for $55.93 with free shipping for orders over $79:
To get the $79 I'd suggest adding two pair of Thorlo socks- at $12+ a pair they are pricy but worth every penny for abused feet (I wear them for long outings, not daily):
The Hiker Crew is a good pick:
If anyone really wants to see pics of my crusty old boots let me know. Also, I may have an extra pair of size 11 (in Chocolate) for sale at cost. I couldn't tell / remember what size I owned and order both 11 and 11.5 (keeping).
Please note, I have no ties with any of the companies involved beyond being a customer.
Good info, makes me wish I could find some in my size (16D)
+1 on the Thorlo socks. I started using them in the military and they have so much padding in comparison to normal socks that its crazy.
The only issues I had with them, is that the military boot sock model is so thick it might be an issue if your boots are already tight. Not sure how thick the other models are. The 2nd problem is that they made my feet stink like hell! An excellent sock however, I still use mine quite often.
Heavy hiking boots really start to shine when you are carrying a very heavy pack over rough rocky back woods, particularly if you are not on trails and have to step on rocks or sticks that roll under your feet. Seems exactly like what might occur while bugging out.
I have always used heavy hiking boots and found the lightweight ones did not cut it with heavy packs. Hiking is not the same as backpacking. There is a reason the army issues heavy boots.
Sports Authority sells them as well. I've bought two pair of them to date. I gave my older pair to a friend who is still wearing them as work boots every day. I was pleased with them because unlike a lot of waterproof leather boots, my feet don't cook in them in the Florida heat. Great boots. I got both my pair on sale too.
I use lightweight hiking boots for hiking in ALL temps HOWEVER, if you have some super-duper cross country 80 lb BOB strapped to your back, I would not recommend them.
Lightweight hiking boots are made for just that, LIGHTWEIGHT hiking, ie. pack around 30 lbs. or less. The salesman at places like REI and EMS are not completely full of shit when they try to offer something w/ more support; it depends on your load.
Also as a side note, lightweight hiking boots have tread compositions for different applications; some may be firmer or softer rubber depending on the types of trails you plan on hiking (think of it like snow tires vs. all seasons) You wouldn't put your snow tires on in July just like you wouldn't use your Asolos w/ soft rubber soles for rocks on pavement walking around town; they'll wear out too quick.
Anyone that plans on doing some backpacking owes it to themselves to go to a reputable store, try different boots on and listen to the salesman's advice when it comes to boots; your feet will thank you
ETA: To the OP: Thanks for the heads up on those Hi Tecs! O, Thorlo Hikers are my favorite hiking socks (I like them better than my Smartwools)
+1 and add to this if you are starting out w/ weak ankles - i've broken both - then you opt for the heavier boot, especially if you're hiking rough trails or carrying a heavy pack.
There is no question that there are situation where a heavier boot has advantages, and certainly there is never one boot that is best for everything. Of course, if you know what works for your situation then stick with it.
Just like dealing with sections of snow, a light hiker may be better if you are going on terrain that has limited sections where a heavier boot will have advantages, such as certain rough sections, but overall the light hiker comes out on top.
Also, I consider trekking poles a near must for any backpacking and they certainly can make a difference in being able to use a light hikers when a heavier boot could otherwise be used. Good skills with trekking poles can extend the use of light hikers for both higher loads and rough terrain.
Granted, in an extreme bug-out situation where you need your hands on your rifle at all times you can't use trekking poles, and if you're constantly on rocky terrain with a 90 lb load then the light hikers aren't the best, but at that point you'll likely have bigger issues to deal with than your feet.
I've done 100's of miles with a 80-110 lb pack, it can be done with a light hiker, they aren't the same as a tennis shoe.
In summary, here are the reasons you may want a heavier boot IMO:
- Large sections of rocky terrain such as golf ball sized talus. Here a more stiff shank (and / or longer shank) will held save your feet from a pounding. The shank isn't so much an issue with scree or half-foot sized rocks. You also have issues of rolling an ankle on rocky terrain where trekking poles or heavier boots can help provide support.
- Extreme cold - you don't want frostbite.
- Personal situation - if you have broken ankles before or have some other concerns a heavier boot may be a better choice.
- Need crampon compatibility - no light hiker can accept crampons well due to their flexible shank.
- Personal choice - no debate here.
+1. My point was they often do tend to push for heavier boots, I'd recommend starting off light and work your way up when you know you need it.
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