Posts Tagged hiking boots
Comfort is key when it comes to choosing footwear for your outdoor adventures—whether it’s hiking or just plain meandering. In the past few months, I’ve seen fellow travelers get blisters, lose shoe soles, and even ditch the shoes altogether when they completely failed. But my recent go-to hiking boots, the Breeze 2.0 GTX, have kept going with plenty of miles left in them.
Vasque’s best-selling hiking boot, the Breeze, has gotten a reboot for 2013. The enhanced hiking boot is lighter and more breathable than its predecessor, making it ideal to bring along on your adventures. After an entire day on the trail, my feet didn’t feel like they were along for all those miles, and I was ready to put them on again the next day for more.
The Breeze 2.0 GTX mixes waterproof leather, mesh nylon fabric and Gore-Tex waterproof liners, making the boots both durable and breathable. They also have a Vibram outsole and a rubber toe cap, which come in handy when the trail gets tough. The sole is not only good with traction and support, but also is flexible in negotiating varied trail surfaces. The footbed equally cushions and supports your soles, and as I mentioned above, I had no problem wearing the boots all day without feeling like I was wearing them all day.
Adding to the comfort, the collar of the boots is padded, minimizing rub and discomfort. I can’t count the number of boots I’ve tried in past years that fell down in this area.
The Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTX boots are now one of two regular hiking boots I use—both made by Vasque. I still love my Talus UltraDry boots, as well.
When I took my new Keen Glarus hiking boots out of the box, my first thought was, ‘now there’s a hiking boot’. The Glarus just looks the part: full-grain leather upper, eyelet lace-up bindings, rubber outsole with toe-guard…this boot is the epitome of the traditional outdoorsman’s (or outdoors-woman’s) hiking shoe.
How did the Glarus perform? Beautifully, from the first day hike to multi-day backpack trips, to several serious mountain ascents. Right out of the box, the Glarus kept me blister-free, and despite weighing more than most hiking boots I’ve worn, they continue to be among the most comfortable boots in my closet. The toe-protection on the rubber outer sole is very helpful for rock scrambling and severe elevation gain and loss, and the stiffness of the boot kept me from rolling my ankle more than once.
The Glarus features the KEEN.DRY waterproof (but breathable) membrane, which meant I could stand in a mountain creek and not feel a thing. Ditto for summer snow packs on Sierra and Cascade slopes. The eyelet lacing system makes it easy to get the boots snug, but of course, you’ll see this feature on most boot construction. The thing that sets the Glarus apart most for me is the serious toughness of this boot. It’s pretty well indestructible, and you feel that way as well while you’re hiking in them. These are solid boots. Can you find something lighter? Yes. (The Glarus weighs in at 17 ounces.) Something softer and more pliable? Probably. But if you want to feel as though you can push through, climb over, and hike through whatever a trail throws at you, this is the boot to attempt it in.
The Glarus comes in a men’s or women’s version. The women’s, which I wore, comes in bison (dark brown leather), brindle (tan leather) or black and sells for $160. Half sizes are available. I haven’t needed to treat my Glarus boots at all, but if you wear them very regularly, a leather conditioner and cleaner is recommended. Pick up your pair at Amazon, Altrec, or Backcountry.
I’ve been trying out a lot of hiking boots this spring and summer season, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that they’re not all created equal. That’s no surprise of course, so allow me to clarify: what I’ve come to understand is that two boots in a similar price range and of similar quality can have very different impacts in the field for different people. The important thing is not to find the ‘right’ hiking boot, but rather the right hiking boot for you.
The women’s Lowa Focus is a perfect example. Out of the box, I thought the Focus looked a bit bulky, but this hill and highland boot is surprisingly nimble and lightweight. What it’s not is flexible. It’s quite stiff, which ended up hindering my hiking. My hiking partner, however, tried it next, and fell in love. The construction of this boot is very high quality: made of abrasion resistant suede leather, cordura, and microfiber, the upper boot really stabilizes the ankle. If you have ankle issues or a tendency to turn yours, you’ll do very well with the Focus. You get a waterproof, breathable GoreTex lining, and a lacing loop system that really keeps your foot snug. (See the theme here…a very tight, stable, secure fit.)
The Focus is made for use with mid-weight packs (30-50 pounds max), so it’s not designed for expeditions, but rather weekend backpacking trips and day hikes. The thread is ‘self-cleaning’ which I had never heard of before. What it means is that debris comes right off, allowing the surface area to grip consistently and well. The Focus is a great boot to keep you on your feet and keep you from sliding around on unstable ground. It performed well during local Oregon hikes where we sloshed through our share of mud and slick undergrowth, then it accompanied us to northern California, where it did equally well on slick rocks. The boot weights in at 2.4 pounds, and comes in two color options: black and teal, or beige and yellow.
Personally, I prefer the more pliant fit of my Adidas Formotion boot, but if you need a firmer fit, the Focus is a great option that’s still surprisingly lightweight and breathable. The quality is top notch, and the price, around $220, is compatible with similarly crafted hiking boots. Pick up a pair at Amazon, Summit Hut, or Altrec, and note that a low-top version is available as well, for about $30 less.
I’ve probably tried out 20 pairs of hiking boots and shoes in the last decade and these Wolverine Pulsar ones may finally be my Goldilocks pair—just right. They’re comfortable but supportive, waterproof yet breathable, and are not so narrow that they compress your toes in front.
The cool thing is, you could have very different feet and still find these just right for you, thanks to Wolverine’s unique offering of a disc inside the shoe—under the removable insole—allowing you to adjust the heel for your gait and activities. It rotates to four settings, two of them to compensate for problems the way custom orthodics do: low arches/inward wear or high arches/outward wear. (Take a look at your oldest shoes and you’ll probably see one side of your heel worn more than the other.) The two other settings are firm or cushion, to adjust for how soft you want the shoes based on your energy and the terrain. I wasn’t so sure this feature was for real, but I tried it on different settings and could feel the difference. Since I have flat feet, this disc adjustment has allowed me to wear these for weeks without feeling the need for orthodics.
But wait, there’s more! The Vibram rubber outsole is as good as you’re going to find on any hiking boots and I got excellent traction from them on dry rocks and in slippery streams while hiking in the mountains of Bulgaria. Since Wolverine’s heritage is making heavy-duty work boots, you know they’re designed to hold up in trying conditions.
Despite the mesh-looking upper, these are totally waterproof too, thanks to the Gore-tex membrane built into them. Again, I went stomping through streams with these things and when my companion’s socks got soaked, mine stayed toasty dry.
They come in two colors: the black with yellow trim ones I’m modeling there at the top and the light blue ones in the photo to the right.
If you’re still not sure this adjustment wheel thing is for real, Wolverine gives you a 30-day comfort guarantee. Wear the shoes for 30 days and “If you’re not completely satisfied that they’re the most comfortable shoes or boots you’ve ever worn, send them back for a refund.”
You can get the Pulsar hiking shoes in regular and wide sizes, on the half size, at outdoor gear stores or direct from Wolverine at a list price of $175. They’re just starting to show up at the online retailers, but Amazon has them at a discounted price.
It’s always great to find super-lightweight hiking shoes, which pack easily for a trip. But when it rains or you have to walk through marshy conditions, the mesh in those boots tend not to be much of a barrier against water. To keep your feet dry, bring along the Vasque Talus UltraDry boots.
The waterproof lining in the Talus boots keeps your feet dry while you’re sloshing through the city streets or the wilderness. And while they’re sturdier than the lightweight shoes that leave your socks soggy, at a pound each, these boots won’t add much weight to your bags.
The Vibram Nuasi outsole provides solid traction on a variety of surfaces. I used them on dusty trails, river-slick rocks and rain-soaked grasslands. When I had to do a little trailblazing, the nubuck upper kept the shoes from getting snags in the heavy brush. And for those concerned about ankle support, the padded collar provides stable ankle support for all your adventures.
The Talus boots are comfortable as well, with a cushy insole that allows plenty of mileage without having to rub your aching feet. And at the end of the day, those feet will still be dry, which is a major key to travel happiness.