I am somewhat of a cheapskate. Frugal, even. I bought a pair of Cherokee lightweight hiking boots in 1991, and literally put several thousand hiking miles on them. They cost me $20. Those boots served me well, obviously.
Then one of them failed spectacularly. In August 2010, the front sole of the right boot came completely off on top of Lassen Peak in California. My foot went right into snow, brrr… I carry string and such, and managed to tie the sole back to the upper for the walk back down. 19 years out of those boots.
I went to Academy shortly thereafter and bought a pair of Navados, I think for $34. They seemed to fit OK, and I started walking in them. Less than a year later, I got a huge blister, my first ever hiking, while at Yosemite backpacking. I had noticed that my socks each day were very, very dirty, but figured that the trail dust was sifting in from my ankles. I checked the boots out when we got off the trail, and found that the sole on one had split completely through for about six inches, fore and aft! Not side to side (which is where the bending stress is). The huge amount of dirt was coming into the boot from the bottom! That was the reason I got the blister. The other boot was failing exactly the same way, but the split wasn’t as long or wide. Those went into the trash. They had about 150 trail miles on them.
I went somewhere and bought a pair of Ozark Trail boots for about $35. A year later (now we are in September 2012), I did another Yosemite trip and while on the trip, noticed that the darn boots were starting to split side-to-side along the sole. Grrr… The splitting was not too bad, but it was already letting water into the supposedly waterproof boots. Those boots accumulated about 250 trail miles in that year.
I’ve used trail miles several times here, but I also wear my boots when it’s cold outside, or rainy or snowy, or if I am working out in the yard, so there is additional wear on them.
I started reading the boot reviews in Backpacker, and looking at new boots casually over the holidays. Finally, I had a business trip to Omaha in February, and there was a huge snow event forecast, so I determined to hit various outlets in search of good boots. I talked it over with Raegan, who encouraged me to be a little less of a cheapskate, especially given how much walking I did.
So I did some web searching, and visited a couple stores. The Dick’s Sporting Goods in La Vista was visited. I tried on a couple pair, and then put on a pair of Merrell Geomorphs. I described it to someone a while later, it was like when Harry Potter picked up his wand the first time, it glowed and the wind blew. My feet slipped into those boots like butter, and they felt molded to my feet.
I walked around the store for almost an hour. The Geomorphs have a goodly amount of padding inside on the sole and the uppers. They weigh just over two pounds, and are very comfortable. I walked out of the store in them (literally). They set me back $129 and sales tax.
Here is a picture (taken from the Merrell website):
One note: these boots have Vibram soles. I noticed while I was walking around in the store that the soles gripped the slickish store floor very well. I noticed that extra grip a couple times on the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) a couple weeks ago; the whole area was wet, and the Vibram did a great job of hanging on to the slick rocks.
So far, I’ve worn them on three hikes and one backpacking trip. I have about 40 hiking miles on them, and a lot of walking around. I wore them all last week when it was raining heavily, and they kept my feet warm and dry. On the backpacking trip, they walked in snow, sleet, and rain. I forded a number of creeks where the water came to right below the top of the boot, and they didn’t leak a drop. I use polyprop socks, and even though the boots are waterproof, I don’t get sweat-soaked (we’ll see how that works this summer, though).
So I am very happy with these boots. I hope to get 10+ years of service from them.
17 July 2015 Update:
Not a happy post. Our Scouts went backpacking in the Weminuche Wilderness week before last, we were out for six days. On the evening of Day 3, I took my boots off and inspected them. They were in the process of a massive failure, along the arch and on the opposite side. By the time we were off the trail, the failure had widened to five and three inches, respectively.
This is what it looks like:
So I’m not happy about this. I had two instances of loops the laces thread through breaking. The first happened after about nine months of service, and Merrell offered to replace them, but I had a local shoe repair place fix the problem. It happened again about five months ago.
So I got just over 2.5 years of service from these boots, and probably 300 trail miles out of them, including the brutal Grand Canyon backpacking trips.