Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hiking Boots

I have what is coined by the shoe/boot industry as "low volume" feet. Not only are my heels narrow, but my overall feet are skinnier than average. According to a sales guy at Richey Shoes only 1% of the U.S. population fall into this category. I find this statistic hard to believe, but this is the excuse most shoe and boot manufacturers have to only make regular and wide sizes. For most shoes I can get away with regular width, and I have found some brands that err on the narrow side.

When it comes to hiking boots you have to have them properly fitted. If they are too wide in the heel, they will slip with every step and cause blisters every time. The boot must grip your heel and move with you. If the rest of your foot does not fill the boot it will slide and allow your ankle to twist and trip. This is my problem with my current pair of boots. They were almost narrow enough for me when I first bought them 8 years ago, and over time they have stretched and allow my foot to move around.

Boot problems get worse when you add a backpack, which is what happened on our Dolly Sods backpacking trip. My feet and ankles hurt so bad by the end of that trip (granted it was some of the most treterous hiking I have ever done). That's when I decided I need a new pair of boots.

I have ordered and returned two different pairs since. New Balance makes a nice pair of narrow boots ($150), but the size 10 was too small (my usual size), and the thought of buying 10.5 size anything makes me cringe. Plus they were too small in the sides of my fore foot, and I don't thing a half size will fix this. Unlike dress shoes and even running shoes, boots must have a roomy "toe box" to allow your toes to flex and spread with each step.

My second pair of tryout boots were Asolo Atlantis. ($133 at These run narrow, and fit me pretty well, but still slipped a little in the ankle. So I decided to return them and hold out for the perfect boot (but now I am wondering if I should have kept them).

Now I have my eye on a pair of Lowa Renegade that are sized narrow ($190 at But they are out of stock and the factory won't be making them in narrow for another few months.

So now I am quickly running out of time to break in a new pair of boots before the trip. I have trid Plan B, which is new insoles. I tried Superfeet for a long time, but they hurt my feet even after they were broken in. Currently I am trying Orthofeet BioSole Gels that I got at Richey & Co. The sales guy there said that I am not used to having my arch supported, so the new insoles will feel weird. So far they are ok, but I have not hiked in them yet.

I have my eyes on a pair of Lowa Banff Pro narrows. But they are pricey and possibly too heavy. What makes them unique is their leather lining (instead of gore tex). It is supposed to be more foot-conforming and breathable, while just as waterproof.

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