What you wear on your feet when you hike can make a big impact on your hiking experience. If your feet are unhappy, that can make for a bad day on the trail. Ill fitting boots/shoes can cause achy feet, blisters, achy knees or hips. They can even cause your back to hurt. I’m not an expert or even close to one! I just know what works for me and Russ and want to share that here. I did a lot of research on hiking boots before I started shopping to see what was out there and to get an idea of what to look for and what to stay away from. But in the end, I think it all boils down to your own individual comfort. Don’t buy the brand, buy the comfort. I guarantee, no one is going to stop you on the trail and ooh and aah over the brand of your boots or snicker behind their hands because you’re wearing an “off brand”. And if someone does, who the heck cares? They’re just jerks that probably spent $1000 in gear to hike 1 time and decided they don’t like to sweat or there’s too many mosquitoes and you’ll never see them again anyway!!
When I decided I wanted to start hiking, my biggest concern was finding a pair of boots that would be comfortable on both of my damaged feet. I have that problem with any shoe. What works for my left foot more than likely won’t work for my right and vice versa. Shoe shopping in general is a nightmare and shopping for hiking boots, where the selection was pretty limited compared to shopping for a new pair of sneakers, was even worse! I went to sporting goods stores, boot stores, the mall, Cabela’s. I tried on name brands…Keen, Merrell, Solomon, Vasque, Hi-Tec and several others I can’t remember. I tried on store name brands. I was so discouraged and afraid my hiking days were over before they even started. I’m not picky, I don’t care what color my boots are, I don’t care what brand they are. The only MUST was a mid high top for ankle support. My left foot has the crushed toes problem so I needed a boot with a big toe box. That wasn’t too hard to find. My right foot…that’s the real problem child! I have a 6″ long scar from 2 surgeries that runs from my ankle down the side of my foot. I have nerve damage from the first surgery and a severed nerve from the second surgery. The entire outside of my foot is numb but really painful. Right at my ankle bone is where the nerve was severed and that’s a major “hot spot” for numbness and pain. That numbness and pain goes under my foot at the front of my heel and around the front of my ankle. That’s also where the point of my heel bone broke off and did not reattach. It’s hard to describe the feeling and pain. I trusted that my doctor was doing all of the right things…I was wrong! Anyway, finding any shoe or boot that feels halfway decent on that foot is a real challenge. I don’t like to have anything touching the outside of my foot, even a sheet or blanket when I sleep. If I can find something that has even compression from my little toe all of the way to my ankle and the arch is just right and has enough cushion for my heel…it might work! Sounds weird doesn’t it? No sheet or blanket touching my foot but even compression is OK? I can’t explain it. I went through Nerve Desensitization Therapy where they used various things from soft silky material to rougher material (eyelet type material) and lightly rubbed it up and down my foot. The goal was to desensitize the nerve but I couldn’t stand it! That was the worst pain I’ve ever felt! I laid there and cried like a baby through each session. As soon as I put my compression sleeve on…relief! So, back to my hunt for boots! I was about to give up and remembered I had yet to try Bass Pro. BINGO!!! I found a pair of Red Head boots, Bass Pro’s brand, on sale for $49!! I couldn’t believe how comfortable they were…on both feet! Of course they were stiff so I wore them to work a lot to break them in before I actually hiked in them. Come to find out, a friend of mine and my daughter both have the same boots! I should have just asked them in the first place! My Red Heads are also water proof, but not so much when the water is deeper than the boots are tall! I found that out crossing a stream when a rock I stepped on tilted and in I went! I just stood there cracking up while my boots filled up, thankful that I didn’t fall or drop my phone/camera!!
Russ just bought a new pair of Merrell Energis yesterday. He had been wearing a pair of Bear Paw boots that he loved but they finally fell apart. He wears his to work too. He’s a Chimney Sweep and mason and he spends a lot of time up on hot roofs, climbing ladders and getting mason dust and soot on his boots. They take a beating! We’ll see how well the Merrell’s hold up. He says they’re really comfortable and lighter than the Bear Paws. That’s one of the drawbacks with my Red Heads. They are pretty heavy compared to other boots. It would be an issue if I were going to be doing longer hikes I think. My niece Amy just bought a pair of Ahnu boots for her hiking trip in the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee and she said the Ahnu boots felt like she was walking on clouds! I tried on a pair yesterday just to see and yep, I can see what Amy meant! The ones I tried on were a different style than hers and they were pretty comfortable let me tell you…they were so light weight! And they were all leather!