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Are hiking boots necessary?

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I'm going to Philmont this summer. Do you really need hiking boots? I've done many weekend backpacking trips and never used boots because they seem unecessary. But Philmont is such a long trip, I was wondering what everyone thought.

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I can't imagine backpacking without hiking boots. If for no other reason, if you sprain your ankle or injure your foot you will be a burden.

 

I require my Scouts to wear them when we head for the back country. If a Scout simply can't afford them, I get his shoe size and buy a pair for $5 in a thrift store and charge it to his account.

 

If you are not in a hurry, you can find some really good used boots, why not?

 

Kudu

 

 

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The reasons I have steered clear of boots thus far is threefold:

 

1. They seem to be too heavy and bulky, plus if you want regular shoes also, theres extra wieght to carry

2. They are expensive (though thrift stores are a good solution)

3. They are time consuming to put on, take off, and adjust

 

Also, this might just be experience with a bad pair, but I think they are uncomfertable and blistering.

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Define the term "hiking boot". That term now includes anything from below the ankle cut to 10" tall. And not many provide any real ankle support. If one is looking for true ankle support it needs to be something that the boot is specifically designed to do.

 

Personnally, I prefer an over-the-ankle boot for long hikes in the backwoods or over terrain simply because I like to have protection for my ankles; ankle support is not an issue for me.

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I wear backpacking boots 7 days a week because I need ankle support due to an old injury. Mine are about two pounds per boot. I don't feel comfortable without a pair of tightly laced, indestructible boots on my feet!

 

If you get the right size hiking boots (usually 1/2 size larger than your regular shoe size) and wear a pair of heavy non-cotton socks with a pair of non-cotton sock liners, you won't get blisters (the socks rub against each other rather than your skin). The sock liners wick off most of the sweat even in hot weather.

 

Most people recommend wearing a new pair of boots for at least a few weeks before backpacking.

 

The only time I ever got blisters as an adult was the one day I wore official BSA hiking socks at summer camp :-/

 

They are expensive (though thrift stores are a good solution)

 

You should also goggle "used hiking boots" (with the quotes). Evidently they are also available on Ebay and MSN, and you can sort by price.

 

Kudu

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Yes. They are necessary. One twisted ankle and you are done.

Not only are they necessary, but you should really think about which ones to buy carefully. The difference between a good hiking boot and a cheap one is the difference between enjoying your trek and regretting you ever started it.

I climb 14nrs in the Colorado rockies. I have a favorite pair of Lowa boots that are probably 15 years old. They are no heavier than street shoes, waterproof and extremely comfortable and provide great support. Never had a blister with them. They also retail for over $185. I've probably done 20 summits with them and well over 1000 miles in the back country. The soles are almost gone and I'm on the fourth or fifth set of shoe laces. I don't want to replace them. They fit so well. But alas, I head to Philmont in 2007 so I will be replacing them with an identical pair this summer so I can break them in for the trek next year.

 

Don't go the cheap route on footwear. Comfort and support are king.

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Everyone seems to have covered the ankle support issue. There are, however, those who prefer low-cut hiking 'boots' and do just fine with them. They're the ones that more resemble shoes.

 

Ankle support is important - don't get me wrong. I wear over-the-ankle boots myself. I've owned a pair of Vasque's for years and have never had a blister... ever.

 

With all that said, I believe the most important part of a good hiking boot is the sole. The sole of the boot provides traction, but it also buffers the feet from all the pointy rocks and rough terrain over which you hike... with a 40+ pound pack on your back. You don't get that kind of sole and support on a sneaker or lightweight street shoe.

 

You may be looking to save a few bucks on gear for your trip. After all, 'A Scout is Thrify'. Do what you have to do, but don't skimp too much on hiking boots.

 

You don't need $150 GoreTex-lined boots to enjoy backpacking anywhere, let alone, at Philmont. Find a decent pair of Columbia's or like others have said, a decent pair at Goodwill, etc. Make sure they aren't too heavy (one of your goals anyway) and make sure the sole isn't too worn.

 

Then, make sure you have some good liner socks and medium weight boot socks. You'll be good to go.

 

Good luck. You're going to have a great time!

 

Pete

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An inexpensive, yet very good, brand of hiking boots is Hi Tech. They make lightweight hiking boots that weigh no more than gym shoes, cost around $45.00, and don't take long to break in. I wear these hiking boots as regular shoes every day (except for work), and have since 1985. With heavy use, I go through a pair maybe every 6 to 8 months. I mentioned they don't take long to break in - my personal experience is that the amount of time it takes to break them in is less than 5 minutes.

 

You can get them either ankle high or low cut, depending on whether you need the extra ankle support - for flat trails, low cut work out pretty well, but for the type of terrain you'll encounter at Philmont, you should get the ankle high boots.

 

CalicoPenn

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Yes - get the boots!

Also consider replacing the generally inadequate insole with a tougher one - I'm a believer in one called "Superfeet." It adds more support and protection against the hard rocks that others have mentioned.

And wear them a LOT before hitting the trail. You're not just breaking in the boots - you're getting your feet used to wearing them. Even the best boots are likely to rub you somewhere. By wearing them a lot in the weeks and months before you go, you'll toughen up your feet.

I read a great story about an Appalachian Trail through-hiker who blew out his boots on the trail, limped into nearest town, and was astonished at these amazing new boots that didnt give him any blisters even when they were brand new. The season ended, he went back to school, and resumed the AT the following summer with his wonder boots. Which now gave him terrible blisters. The difference? Although the boots were well broken in by hiking a few hundred miles, his feet had gone soft in the down time.

 

You're going to have a great time!!!

-mike

 

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Liner socks really do make a huge difference. I was introduced to them about 10 years ago and now wear them while skiing, snowboarding and hiking. They are real thin slippery socks you wear under your normal socks. Any hot spot in the shoe is releived because the inner sock slips inside the outer sock and doesn't rub against the skin. You can buy specific inner socks at high end camping stores or use an old pair of silk dress socks. For those of you shaking your heads in disbelief, give it a try. They really work.

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I too am a big proponent of liner socks. Absolutely essential in my opinion. A good sole ( as previously mentioned ) with a decent shank is needed to protect the soles of your feet from the rough terrain. Used to be you could get steel shanks, but most mfrs are using stiff nylon shanks now in order to reduce the weight.

 

You need to have a little room in your boot also - as you hike your feet will swell, and you don't want the back of the boot to run against your heal. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to slide your index finger (snugly) between your heel and the back of the boot ( would that make it a 'good rule of finger' ? )

 

Finally, make sure you clip your toenails the day before the hike. :-)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I'm not so sure. I think what hiking boots have over other types of hiking footware is ankle support. But I think that applies to rough rocky trails or a lot of stream crossings. Philmont is pretty much packed trails with just a few stream crossings.

 

Our Trail Guide a Philmont wore Teva hiking sandals as well as many of the other Trial Guides. And some just wore tennis shoes. Those guys/gals put in a lot of miles each summer.

 

My 45 year old adult partner at Philmont had blisters so bad by the third day, he was considering quiting and leaving the group. He decided to first try out his pair of Teva sandals he brought for camp shoes and had very little trouble the rest of the trek.

 

I have a pair of really good Salomon Hiking Boots that I love to wear, but if and when I go back to Philmont, I think I will take my very light and very comfortable Salomon river shoes. I wore them on a Northern Tier canoe trip up in Canada last September where we took an agressive nothern route. With a canoe on my shoulders most of the time, I portaged some of the toughest trails I have ever hiked and I can honestly say even with the rocky trials, my feet were never more comfortable.

 

I do agree that good soles, socks and sock liners are very important and we push this very hard on our crews. I have never had a hot spot in the last 15 years after using good socks and liners.

 

I don't know, but the quality of hiking foot gear today is really good. A light pair of hiking shoes or sandals that can handle a 50 lbs pack is pretty tempting for Philmont type terrain.

 

Have a great weekend.

 

Barry

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For me, Eagledad is right on the mark, but for you he may not be. Hiking shoes are a very personal piece of equipment that needs to suit your feet (soft/tough, dry/sweaty, etc), your physique (feet/ankles size, shape, strength, flexibility), and the type of terrain or use they will see. Part of this will come from experience - years of experience and trying various shoes are an advantage.

 

As the contrarian here, I have never spent more than $80 for a pair of hiking shoes/boots, I rarely wear anything other than a single pair of cotton socks, and function fine with either low cut shoes or over the ankle boots. (Experience with short treks, treks over all types of terrain, long hiking treks, backpacking treks - 10 to 150 miles)

 

Ankle support is generally not for me and I think that many people who wear boots with stiff ankle support predominantly (especially daily) make their ankles weaker in the long run. Yes, there are those whose ankles will not stand up to much abuse or who have suffered an injury that subsequently requires ankle support. And ankle flexibility is as important as ankle strength - you should target your feet and ankles with strength and flexibility training well prior to your trek.

 

As mentioned above in several posts, what's on the bottom and inside of the shoe/boot is as important if not moreso than the style/type of boot.

 

I would suggest that you not experiment with something other than what you know already works for your feet for a long or tough trek. Many make the mistake of acquiring the newest highly rated hiking shoe because they will be making the trek of a lifetime. Many are disappointed with the result. The shoes you wear for that upcoming 100 mile trek should be one that you've already tried before for at least 50 miles.

 

Again, shoes/boots are an item that need to fit you. You, and only you, will be able to determine your need in the end.

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Cotton socks? Wow.

 

To each his own, Eagle74, and if cotton socks work fine for you, great, but you have to admit that, in the long run, polypropylene or Cool-Max liners, combined with a medium weight hiking sock, will do a far better job wicking foot perspiration away from the skin and be more comfortable.

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I gotta agree on the cotton socks. Sure they are comfy for the first couple of miles on the first day, but after that, man. You'd need to peal them off my feet with a torch and a puddy knife.

As for the sandals, they have made great strides (pun intended) in sandal design. The biggest problem I have with them is small stones getting under your feet. But for stream crossing and boggy areas, they are the nines.

I also agree you can get a pretty nice pair of boots for under $80, but once you get the really nice $180 pair, its real hard to go back! And unless you are growing, they should outlast the $80 pair by 5 fold. Or at least you will love them so much you squeeze every bit of life from them before sending them to hang from the rear view mirror.

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