The Great Boot Debacle

18 May 2015     4.00 PM    69 F    Sunny and hot

It might seem a little strange, on the face of it, to find yourself contemplating the qualities of winter boots on the warmest day of the year so far. Actually, I can already feel the sweat building up between my toes, just at the thought of trying them on.

Fortunately, I won’t have to put any of them on. Because they are all headed for the bin.  I’m not having a complete brain melt – although it is warm enough, but am actually, finally, being brave enough to discard a collection of boots that have failed me, in a variety of ways.

As you can imagine, like most sensible people, I quite like having warm feet. At a push, I’ll even accept cooler than I’d like, feet. I’m not terribly impressed by cold feet and I’m terrified of frozen, frostbitten feet and toes. Not that I’m thrilled by the prospect of having any frostbitten parts, just in case you think that’s open to debate. Accordingly, over the years, I have spent quite a lot of time and money on many different boots. Some have been terrible, some have been decent-ish, some have been good and one or two have even been pretty warm. Of course, the ambient temperature has a whole lot to do with that. What seems fine at 0 F ( a mere -17C) has proven to be surprisingly disappointing at -30 F.

However, the pile of boots heading out the door are all being chucked for one reason. It is a failing they all share, and it’s something that makes a winter boot, less than ideal for it’s purpose.

Boots not up to the tasks.
Boots not up to the tasks.

As you can see from the picture, they have all split which kind of defeats the purpose of an item meant to keep cold and damp out. The top two pairs, the Sorel and Baffin boots were proper winter pacboots.  I had a pair of Sorels in previous years that were pretty good. This pair lasted less than 3 months before starting to split along the seam where the leather meets the rubber, and also across the actual rubber base. The Baffin boots at least lasted the whole season before they decided to split in almost exactly the same spot. I guess I must just use my feet in a peculiar way. Presumably the boot designers don’t bend their feet when they move.

The Boggs fared a little better, and lasted almost a year before starting to leak, strangely enough in the same place as the Sorel and Baffin.  Now I’m really beginning to wonder about the way I walk. Lastly, the Keen boots. They did survive longer than the other 3 pairs and they also got worn a whole lot more than the others. In fact, for a large part of our sledding this winter, because it was so mild (relatively speaking) I wore my Keens and pair of Neos and my feet were pleasantly comfortable, as well as being better supported than when I wear my other usual winter footwear combo of mukluks and Neos.  I guess how disappointed I am in the big boot manufacturers quality is testament to  the fact that I have a few pairs of Steger Mukluks, including some  that are well over 10 years old and still in great shape and doing what is required of them.

I really like my mukluks, but they do have a couple of drawbacks.  They’re not great in wet stuff and the soft sole is wonderful and comfortable to wear right up till the moment that you forget you’re wearing them and try and kick a snowhook into the ice. Using the Neos as overboots solves both of those issues and really just leaves the one design flaw. Me and my weak ankle.

So, I did chuck out all of the damaged boots and I’m currently cursing my latest pair of rubber boots.  As you can imagine, we get quite a bit of water, mud and snow around here at various times. Everybody owns at least one pair of rubber boots, and here in Alaska those tend to be Xtratufs. Just to be difficult, I stuck with what I knew from back home, and bought Muckboots. Hmm, well despite the hefty price tag, they really didn’t last that long before springing a leak. They were replaced with the Boggs mentioned above as well as a pair of Ranger boots. When those gave up the ghost, I bought a pair of Lacrosse insulated rubber boots and they did really well all autumn but just yesterday, I noticed this………………. I suppose a generous application of duck tape will keep them going just now, but suspect that they are on their last legs.

My funny feet curse strikes again. Another pair of boots die.
My funny feet curse strikes again. Another pair of boots suffer a mortal wound.

Whilst doing a bit of reading as I try to decide which pair of boots to replace those with, I found that I’m not the only one with troubles. And it also seems that the fabled Xtratufs are maybe not so superior any more either.

So, who knows what I will buy next. Somehow, I suspect that unless I can stop walking at all, I’m going to be replacing boots on an annual basis -which just seems crazy. Therefore, if any boot manufacturer is looking to conduct field trials on the sustainability of their new boots, I hereby offer my services as a test subject.

I should also probably confess at this point, that the above mentioned boots are just a shockingly small proportion of my actual boot collection. I like buying boots, even if I do tend to wear my favourites the majority of the time. It’s always nice to have choices.

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