New Hiking Boots

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My Vasque boots

I bought my Vasque Women’s Talus Waterproof Hiking Shoe back in 2017. For my first real hike as an adult, I wore sneakers and that was actually fine on Mt. Tom in Holyoke. But for the Seven Sisters, my dad wanted me to have good boots. So I went to REI in Fenway, where selection was limited for some reason. I also think my budget was probably pretty tight, and they sold me hard on the Vasques. It worked out, because I’d never had a blister or foot issues in them.

But hiking in the Adirondacks is a whole other beast, and most of the trails are wet all spring and summer long from melting snow and recent rain on bare rock. Falling multiple times and slipping constantly on Hadley Mountain had me completely doubting my abilities. It wasn’t until I stood up on a wet rock, dragged my foot across it and realized there was no grip whatsoever that I realized it was not me – it was my boots!

Vasque is a reputable brand, and the outer soles are Vibrams, which is the best in the biz. But I read other reviews, 90% of which were positive but 10% made the same complaint as me – they are slick on wet surfaces and don’t grip well. YES.

So two weekends ago, when it was 100 degrees out and I wanted to be inside with air conditioning as much as possible despite my desire to hike, I went to REI again. I told the girl working in the shoe department my concerns with the Vasques, and she was surprised but helped me try on several options. I went in dead set on the Merrell Moab Mid WP Hiking Boots, but they didn’t feel great on my feet even though they were the right size. After the Merrells, she recommended I try the Oboz Sawtooth II Mid BDry Hiking Boots – a brand I’d never heard of before. When I put them on, right out of the box, they felt like giant socks. They hugged my feet and especially my weak, floppy ankles, without being too firm or digging in anywhere. My arches felt supported with the insoles the boots come with. The color, a brown and subtle blue, was far less girly and aggressive than the pinks and purples most other brands offer women. I was sold. Out of due diligence, I tried on several other pair, ranging from $100 to $300, including Solomon, Keen, and La Sportiva, but the Oboz were my new boots.

After picking out some new socks (I’ve learned I like a low-cut sock in summer when I’m wearing shorts or capris so tick prevention is limited to DEET rather than keeping my skin covered – so I bought these and these), some tiny bungee cords to temporarily hold my trekking poles in place on my pack until Osprey fixes it later this year, and my long-overdue $20 lifetime REI membership, I finally looked forward to hiking on wet rock again, without the fear of falling!

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My new Oboz boots

On my solo hike this past weekend, it was bone dry and I didn’t get to test the soles’ grip, but man these things were comfy. I was a bit tentative about going out for a 7+ mile hike, alone, in brand new, unbroken-in boots. I left my Vasques in the trunk but the way this course looped, if they hurt anywhere after Mile 2 it was going to be a very long, painful walk back to the car to switch (fortunately I could’ve driven to another trailhead further in, which I suppose means I could Uber from where I started experiencing pain…), but that didn’t happen! I had read that Oboz have basically no break-in period, and I found that to be accurate.

My arches were a little sore and tired as early as 1.5 miles in, but that’s because A. this trail was SO rocky. I was rarely ever walking on a flat surface. And B. I didn’t swap out the insoles, because I wanted to see how my feet felt. By the end, my arches were fine and I know they need to get stronger anyway, so I think I’ll probably keep the original insoles and know that I have my Superfeet ones on standby if needed. The boots also hugged my ankles so well that despite low-cut socks, never once did I get a stone or stick in my boot, rendering boot gaiters useless – which is good because I left mine at home (they need to be permanently velcro’d to your boots and I wasn’t going to do that in case I decided to return the boots).

No blisters or other weird rubbing, and hot spots only on my big toes where I have hot spots when I walk in flip-flops, sneakers, and hiking boots alike. My feet are a mess – a pedicurist’s nightmare – and opposite from most women, winter is when I get pedicures because there’s no point in the summer because I’m always on the go, messing them up.

The real test will come the next time I hike a wet, muddy trail or go the day after heavy rainfall so I’m still holding onto my receipt, but I have high hopes!

 

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