Military boots from my era.

For a whole decade, after I got mine, nothing beat my old leather army boots.If your grandmother (or worse your mother) wore hiking boots, these are not those boots and they they aren’t mine anymore either. 

Vasque Hiking Boot

After years of wearing those books packpacing, Vasque came out with some very heavy duty trail boots. I suckered into buying a pair because there were just two options, my high topped laced army boots, (and others just like them(, and these new lower cut heavy duty boots that were all the rage. 

I did all the right things to break them in, but once I was on the trail, the weight of those boots really wore me out. I think they probably weighed a couple of pounds each, but after 10 miles they both felt like 20 extra pounds. Thank heavens I had a pair lightweight moccasins to wear at the end of each day to recover.

I kept both boots and used them on and off believing I would twist an ankle if I didn’t, but the Army boots were much lighter, which I liked better. Finally out of desperation I took some running shoes on the trail. I liked the low cut feel and lighter weight. Best of all I did not twist an ankle. 

These days, that is still my perfernacw and thanks to a market that has responded with a variety of solutions, you have great choices now too:

I will review a few with you here, beginning with the heaviest to the lightest.

Heavy Boots

Most Scouts won’t need this kind of boot, that is unless they are bushwacking or bouldering through a rugged wilderness. These boots are a hybrid between a rugged mountaineering boot and a sturdy hiking boot, but like my first pair of boots from Vasque, these will be heavy. Boots like this should have traction, lugged soles to grab a variety of surfaces. They should be high enough to protect ankles from twisting and offer protection from briars, mud, and water, They will come at a higher price, and like I said, they weigh a lot. So, unless you need footwear for hard work and aren’t worried about comfort, these might be your choice, but not me. 

Mid-weight Hiking Boot

Last year BSA launched three styles hiking boots

These days, this is what nearly every hiker thinks of when they think boots. Boots like this are versatile for moderate trails but are also a bit heavy for longer treks.

Lucky for us,  BSA launched its own line of licensed boots in 2017. There are three styles in the Be Prepared Expedition Pro series. These are mid-priced and like other boots in this category have “a slip-resistant rubber outsole, an EVA midsole, and a squishy memory foam footbed.”  Most mid-weight boots offer some ankle support and blend waterproof leather and synthetic outer layers to keep feet both dry and ventilated. Most offer reinforced rubber toecaps for extra rock protection in rugged terrain. Campmor advises, “Don’t forget to look for staple signs of quality: Waterproof outside, [well-stitched] soles, and a Gore-Tex inner lining.” 

Trail Shoes or Hiking Shoes

Cabela’s Men’s Leather X4 All-Terrain Shoe

This has become my personal all around solution and my choice is Cabela’s Men’s Leather X4 All-Terrain Shoes; I have worn this shoe longer than any past boot in my closet and even enjoy them for everyday wear. There is no question that is shoe category is vogue becasue it is a compromise between comfort and performance, plus they look good for casual wear back home. 

These are more sturdy than trail runners because of their thicker, lugged soles and the combination of reinforced fabric and leather outers. Naturally, the shoe is lighter than any of the above categories and by my experience,  much more comfortable than standard hiking boots. This style of boot demands a close check for waterproofing, quality stitching, arch support, and lace design; unless my shoes are treated they leak in wet weather. 

Trail Running Shoes

These days trail running is all the rage, but my experience goes back long before this was popular. I worked in the mountains nearly every summer and I loved to run, so my solution was to buy heavy duty running shoes and it would be a pretty far stretch to consider these “boots.”

Today’s trail runners have more padding and tougher soles, but they are all shy on ankle support, so my trail shoes (described above) would suffice if I was still running. However, I really like the Merrell Agility Peak Flex as it is described in Runner’s World, where they wrote: “testers gave it high marks for the balance of weight and cushioning that made the shoe smoothly conquer a variety of trails.”

Hiking Sandal

Keen Men’s Newport H2 Water Shoes

I see these on the trail often, but mine don’t work well there; I do not like pebbles under my arch. Yet I have worn out one pair and am on my second set of Keen’s

Sandals like this might be an option for the casual hiker on well-maintained trails, especially since they are quite lite. Of course, these are great for any water crossing and as end-of-day camp shoes. Mine have a toe guard, which I would recommend to anyone looking to buy. Also check for rugged construction, arch support and good quality stitching. 

Footwear on the trail should reflect the terrain you will face, but for me, the all-around solution is a pair of low cut trail shoes. I use them for every hike or backpacking trip and have found they meet my needs well

Darryl Alder
Darryl is a retired career Scouter with more than 30 years of service. These days he is a Scouting Ambassador and serves on the Council Membership and Marketing Committee. However, his pride in Scouting is his volunteer service as an Associate Advisor, Varsity Scout Coach, Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, Chartered Organization Representative, and Commissioner.

One comment

  1. Joyce Olesen
    Joyce Olesen ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I have to agree with you on your choice of the low cut, light weight hiking boot. There is water proofing that can be applied if needed. It can be found in any camping store.

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