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773 Years of Footwear 2013-02-20

a talbe of shoes

I grew up in the days where wearing hiking boots with red shoe laces was a fad. America was in the midst of the Earth Movement and all things were green. We were all trying (or pretending) to get back to nature. We didn't need corporate America, we were children of the Earth.

During that period (70's), hiking boots were an important status symbol of any self-respected outdoors man. My boots were so big and cumbersome that as I clambered around campus, folks would ask if I was going skiing. (Yes, ski boots had just started making the transition to plastic and many leather ski boots were still around.) In those days if you went for a hike or on a backpacking trip, then you wore your hiking boots. What else could you wear? There were really no alternatives, unless you wanted to wear your 'Chucks' (Converse All Stars Chuck Taylor basketball shoes). Chucks have endured and are still a fashion statement today, but they have never been much of a trail shoe. Boots were the only choice.

When buying boots there were two criteria, the bigger the better and they had to have red shoe laces. The size of the boots mattered. Not the fitting size, but rather the actual bulk of the boot. You were judged by how big your boots were (or at least that was what I thought). I wanted everyone to know that I was an outdoors man, I wore the biggest boots I could afford. Then, there were the laces, they were fat, red attention getters, that said, 'I am a hiker.' Hunters tried to camouflage, but hikers wore red laces. I wore Raichle and Galibier Super Guide boots.

In the late '70s Asolo Boots came to America, or at least that was the first time I saw them. I got a pair of Yukons. They were lighter weight, they had yellow laces (yes I know it was almost blasphemy), and they actually fit my feet. I could wear the boots without getting blisters, though I was often times mocked for the yellow laces.

In the '80's the lightweight (leather and nylon mixture) boots were popular. I still wore my solid leather Asolo's, but I thought the new boots looked promising. Instead of the lightweights, I began using running shoes on the trails. By the early eighties I was running daily and frequented on trails. If I could run trails in the shoes, then I could also hike in the running shoes. The Nike Pegasus was my running shoe of choice and when they made a trail shoe (Trail Pegasus), I purchased a pair as soon as possible.

In the '90's I was running even more. I used boots so infrequently that I almost gave them away. I still wore Nike shoes, but the company brought out new shoes every three months or so. I have no idea what the names were. In the outdoor world, Five-Ten (the site link did not respond for me) started making sticky rubber approach shoes. Most of my hiking in those days was getting to some rock climb. I fell in love with the approach shoes. I could walk across wet rock without slipping. After a couple of pairs of Five-Ten shoes, I discovered LaSportiva. The shoes had sticky rubber and they fit my feet. In the next fifteen years, I went through a number of approach shoes and light boots from LaSportiva. I was pleased with almost every pair.

In the '00's the biggest revolution might not have been in footwear, but instead in the social acceptance of hiking poles. I had used sticks for a few years in the mountains, but then with the new millennium it seemed as if everyone was using poles. With sticks, I could carry a pack on mixed terrain and not worry about my footwear. Of course there were those who asked if you were going skiing, but they were probably jealous - ha!

Now in the '10's I have a new running shoe and trail shoe. My wife and I found Hoka One One. The shoes are super-cushioned. Gone are the days of your feet feeling like they've been beat with a hammer. The cushion gives a smooth ride on the trails. For off-trails we use either a running shoe with an aggressive sole or lightweight boots. Then if we are traveling through snow we have lightweight crampons that fit to our running shoes and if at all possible, this is our first choice. I will say that we have at times chosen a lightweight option and the choice was a mistake. Finally, we do use either boots or bigger boot when in snow. Our choice of boots is dependent on how long we are suposed to be on the snow. If we need full crampons or are worried about cold feet, then we wear full boots.

So through the years, a few notes ...

My wife and I try to wear the lightest footwear possible.

As we grow older, we like cushioning.

We have the experience to overcome a bad choice (in what shoes to wear.)

Blisters ruin trips. I have been on trips where I had to take a few days off because of blisters.

Hiking sticks really help and especially if you feel like you need to wear a boot for stability. If you have never used sticks, hike with them a few times before you commit to using the sticks and a lighter weight shoe. The combination works for us, but not everybody has feet like ours.

I have never sprained an ankle while using sticks.

In the past couple of years, I have been using my trekking poles less. I cut back because, I was afraid the poles were becoming a crutch.

I like my running shoes to have a loose fit. My feet slide a bit, but I never get blisters or toe jam.

I like my boots to fit in the truest since of the word. Go to a trusted dealer and try the boots on. Listen to the fitters advice. Leave yourself plenty of time to choose the correct fit.

Red laces are pretty but they are really not that important!

Happy Feet trails


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