Hi there gentlemen!
Today is a good day to talk about a rather delicate topic. Boots. This piece of equipment is often overlooked as to how much importance you should put on it and, truth to the matter, this should be one of the most important parts of your gear assortment. One you must -also- invest in.
Now, I’ve read somewhere a good phrase for it. I think it was Conrad anker that said “Take care of your feet and they will take you far”. And this my dear gents, is nothing but pure truth. So, without further ado, let’s sink our teeth into choosing the perfect boot.
First things, first.
There is no such thing as having one pair of boots to rule all conditions I own about 12 different pairs and they all serve a different purpose. Now, is not necessary to go crazy buying but the more activities you make, the harder you play, the more boots you will need. Fact.
With this in mind, what we will try to pinpoint in this article, is how to choose a boot that can perform the best in the most different conditions. Now, I don’t like naming brands because the decision is very personal and should ultimately be yours and about the feeling you have when you get your feet into the boots. So, what works for me does not necessarily works for you and so on. However, here are the things you should consider before thinking of any boot:
Decide if you want a summer or winter boot (this difference cannot be avoided) and, although you could use one or the other in their counter environment, it won’t be pleasant. A winter boot will be too warm and heavy for the summer as a summer boot will be too light and cold for the winter. There are some “all season” boots, but that is like going to a chinese restaurant to eat a pizza.
Distances you want to walk matter a lot. A climbing or scrambling oriented boot will be stiff (with a rocker point) and it will make your feet feel like hamburgers on a long trekking. You have to consider if you’re a person that like long, endurance trekkings or you want something solid that you can frontpoint with.
I have done some horrendously long treks to get to the base of glaciers and stuff like that wearing only ice climbing double boots with carbon soles and, although possible, it wasn’t pleasant at all. Learn from my mistake and -in that case- have a pair of approach shoes with you. You won’t regret the extra kilo.
Now that you have the two basic concepts (season and distance) let’s go to some other specifics:
You should be looking to spend at least 30 minutes talking to the guy from the store as he measures, fits and tries different options for you. If someone wants to sell you a boot in less than 5 minutes then he’s being commissioned by the brand to sell, sell, sell.
I would recommend to buy a brand that re-soles the boots for a small price. The upper body of the product tends to last for a very long time and boots only get really comfy when they are beaten up so, a good change of sole will keep those puppies going for a long time and feeling like you’re wearing sleepers.
Although vibram soles have been in the market for quite a long time as the preferred rubber from many manufacturers, Michelin is making an aggressive takeover by putting some real work out there and bringing quality and reliability on new designs inherited from the tire industry. They must know something about rubber, right? They do seem to degrade faster than a Vibram sole tho. Anyways, both companies have good enough technology and if you add a re-sole for 30 eu, then you have nothing to worry other than the construction of the boot.
About the construction, look for consistent stitching. One of my clients is an alpine boot manufacturer and I have seen first hand when a boot is properly made. Like I said, consistent stitching, clean seams and pristine glue marks are all attributes of a good shoe.
Last but not least, there’s weight and shock protection. If you will be doing some alpine terrain or things with lots of sharp rocks, you want to look for something that has proper rubber protection on the sides. Also something with a sturdy and stable heel support that will allow you to progress without bending an ankle.
Now for the bottom line, let’s look at some conclusions.
For the trekking gentlemen out there: If in winter look for a cosy high-cuff boot with hydrophobic impregnation and waterproof fabric. Leave at least 0.5 size of space to allow for socks and insulation. For the summer, pick something with strong heel support, very breathable and mid-cuff. Hopefully look for something with two-zone lacing.
For the Alpine goers: Look for something with strong side protection and hopefully with a carbon insole to boost rigidity. Some boots will even have a specific front zone for front pointing. Look for something with placement for automatic crampons or at the very least for semi-automatics. If you’re thinking of serious ice climbing, choices are not many and most double boots are properly constructed.
That’s it for now gents. This should allow you to establish the best mountain boot for the purpose and that’s without thinking of any brand in particular. The choice is up to you.
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