How to choose the right hiking boots – Lessons learned
Choosing the right boots for hiking is a challenge faced by most outdoor people. In this article, Georgie highlights some hard earned lessons on her quest to find the best hiking boot.
Boots are a favourite topic of conversation in wilderness huts each night, as walkers hobble in and peel off smelly wet socks to reveal tender, prune-like skin and painful blisters. The socks don’t often rate much of a mention, but the praising or colourful cursing of boots gets plenty of air time.
I bought my first pair of real hiking boots to walk the Overland Track in 2009. I liked the blue colour, they were comfortable, and I was assured they were waterproof and suitable for the OT. And they were 20% off. However, after 6 days on the OT with constantly sodden boots, wet socks and wrinkled feet, I realised that the colour should perhaps not have been such a big influence in my decision.
When the boots eventually dried out I took their wrinkled corpses back to the retailer, who suggested the boots might have a waterproof lining fault. He offered to swap them for another, identical pair – an offer I tried to decline but had to accept, due to a No Refund on Sale Items policy.
Two lessons were learned here:
- Buy boots for ALL the things I want them to do, not just because of any one feature, such as colour.
- Pay full price, so I have control over what happens next if the boots need to be returned.
I decided to bite the bullet and buy new waterproof boots. A trip to Fortitude Valley in Brisbane had me in K2, being fitted with a pair of mid weight Vasque Wasatch GTX boots.
These wide-fitting boots were comfortable and the salesman absolutely guaranteed they would handle Tassie’s wet and muddy conditions. So I bought them and tried to ignore the fact that they were brown. They took about 4 weeks to thoroughly break in, but are now extremely comfortable to wear all day on all terrains.
I did the OT again in Nov 2010. I knew Tassie’s very wet winter and spring meant there would be a lot of mud and deep water puddles the whole length of the track, so I applied multiple coats of Sno-seal to the waterproof suede outer and hoped the Goretex liner would perform as promised.
Thankfully, my new boots didn’t let in a drop of water for the whole 6 days.
- they were still soft and flexible
- there was little obvious wear on the Vibrim soles
- the laces hadn’t frayed or broken from using my gaiter clip
- And the knobbly soles worked very well as downhill brakes
The boots cost $350, but after that very wet trip I feel it was money well spent.
Most walkers have great horror stories about boots, or favourite old boots.
We would love to hear yours, so we can have a laugh and learn from your good and bad experiences. You can share by leaving a reply in the box below.
Till next week,
Image: Mirsasha – via Flickr
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