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These boots aren't made for walking


#1

I’m looking for some advice about boots. Some years ago I discovered
the Brasher Hillmaster range of boots, which have proved to be the
most comfortable walking boots I’ve had. However each pair of boots
has lasted less well than the previous pair. In fact the leather on
the first non-Goretex lined pair is in better condition than the
leather of any of the later Goretex lined ones, despite the sole
having lost most of its tread depth.

Just over 3 years ago I tried the women’s version of Brasher’s
Trailmaster range since that was supposed to be more suited to off
trail walking (Brasher no longer seem to make this). These were again
extremely comfortable, but on my Yorkshire Dales trip the ankle cuff
of one of them has almost split from the body of the boot. I consider
this poor after only about 12 or 13 weeks of actual use, since I’m not
aware of having had any “accident” that could have provoked this
split.

So I’m looking for recommendations for a comfortable but more robust
walking boot, which can cope with off path walking (including over
bad “Galloway” ground - heather/bracken/bog/tussocky grass). The other
constraint is that I have small but wide feet - I tried on some Scarpas
but they were too narrow, and I’ve seen nice looking Zamberlans that
are also too narrow.

I don’t have long before my next SOTA trip, so I fear I may just have
to spend money on a new pair of Brasher Hillmasters, but I’d like
something more robust.

Caroline
M3ZCB


#2

In reply to M3ZCB:

Good morning, Caroline.

I’d be very cautious before buying another pair of Hillmasters. I have had two pairs so far and they both gave good service. The second pair just did the SDW but that was their swansong (where does that saying come from?) and they are now scrap. They did well over 1000 miles which is not bad. The tread is nearly worn down in places! I had been saving them for this walk because of their comfort.

Brasher built their reputation on “out-of-the-box” comfort - and inded they were. I naturally went for third pair, and didn’t think too much of the fact that the padded cloth lining inside the heel had been replaced with leather. I did enquire and was told that they no longer do that style.

I used them round the house for a while but within a mile of setting off on my lunchtime walk at work, I had a sore spot which turned into a blister. The other foot went the same way before I got back. My colleague had exactly the same experience.

Fortunately, I was able to return them and I ended up replacing them with a pair of Scarpa GTX. Very similar to the Hillmasters but stiffer, slightly heavier and slightly more of a mountaineering boot. Yes, they’re a bit narrower but it’s early days yet. They may well settle down.

So, I too am looking for new boots to replace the Hillmasters. Not for mountain use - the GTXs will do just fine - but for trails. Something lighter and possibly with a more padded footbed than either of the above.

Good luck. It’s a big commitment and a big gamble.

73, Richard


#3

In reply to G4ERP:
Why not have the first pair re-soled? It’s a lot cheaper than buying a new pair. I used to have my climbing boots re-soled twice before having to buy new ones because of wear to the uppers.

Richard: “Swan song”, the earliest mention I know of is in one of Plato’s books, it might be “The Symposion” but I’m not sure - haven’t read it for years. If I remember correctly it goes something like “the swan that lives its life in silence sings a glorious song before its death”.

73

Brian G8ADD


#4

I am on my third pair of Hillmaster GTX Boots and have experienced no issues whatsoever with them.

I have a very wide instep and so it is very difficult to locate a comfortable boot. Hillmaster GTX do the job for summer and autumn. A good pair of soxs are key. No problems with Bridgedale or Rohan sox but that is personal preference.

Should you fancy a really comfortable pair of boots there is a super cobbler in Richmond who will handmake them for you.


#5

In reply to ALL:

I’ve heard good things about older Hillmasters. I started off with a pair of Berghaus Explorer IVs. These are a soft boot with Goretex lining. I wore them nearly every weekend for 18months before I treated myself to a better pair of boots. I still use the Explorers for walks about the lanes where I live. The Goretex membrane did develop a tiny puncture after 12months but not enough to concern me. After a day of really wet ground and weather there would be a damp, dirty patch the size of a 50p on my sock. It was damp rather than wet. However, wearing them this winter in the snow a lot has finally seen off the membrane and the leak is now worse but only on one foot. The other is fine. A typical problem with Goretex lined boots and more so with soft rather than leather Goretex lined boots.

For proper walks I have a pair of Meindl Burma Pro MFS boots. These are frighteningly expensive (£175) but fantastically well made. They were stunningly beautiful when new and it seemed a shame to actually use them rather than displaying them! They’re 2 years old now and I hope to get another 2/3 years out of them. They’re a full leather boot with Goretex layer. Much stiffer than the Explorer’s and heavier. They come up higher on the ankle and I think this is what protected my ankle from a serious injury when I slipped on Moel Siabod. It took me a long time to get the Meindls to be comfortable. This manifested itself as random severe pain on the underside of my big toes. Eventually this turned out to be too thick a footbed and swapping for a thinner one cured the problem. They’re now fantastically comfortable. Unlike the soft boots they do need cleaning and waxing etc. The sole is replaceable too.

Having fixed the problem with the footbeds I’d certainly buy another pair of Meindls. I’m hoping that when the sole has worn down the boot will still be serviceable enough that it’s worth replacing the sole. I’ll buy another pair as well and then should have two excellent pairs of boots.

The leather on mine is good and tough, it’s 2.8mm thick. Perhaps I’m careful where I put my feet considering how much the boots cost but there are few nicks and marks on the toe cap. They’ve been used on every activation I’ve done since Tinto in April 2008. Like all Goretex boots, they’re hot in the summer and the original Meindl footbed breathed better than the one in now but there’s no real perspiration problems in hot weather. On seriously wet walks (Meall na Fearna) they kept my feet perfectly dry. The boots got so wet then that it took 5 days for the leather to finally dry out!

Like all these things, it depends on budget and how they feel but I’d seriously recommend you try the ladies version of these boots. Reviews of the Meindls went on at length about their comfort so I knew there must be something not right about mine. I must have fat feet like the rest of my body which is why there was a volume problem for me. Being diabetic I have to take great care of my feet. At my annual foot checkup my doctor (who does a lot of hillwalking) always complements me on the good state of my feet which we both put down to the quality of the walking boots.

Andy
MM0FMF


#6

In reply to G8ADD:

While it is an excellent suggestion to resole boots Brian, I am now wary as to the quality of the workmanship that the “modern” practitioner can achieve. A pair of Dachsteins that I had back in the 1990’s were resoled and unfortunately did not survive an extremely damp descent of The Cheviot, the soles completely coming away from the uppers which was a pity as they were extremely comfortable boots.

Currently I have a pair of Kayland Contact 1000’s which are excellent value at around £120 if a little on the heavy side - a pair of size 9’s weigh 1700g. They have been brilliant on a wide range of surfaces from dusty track to icy snow and have resisted the ingress of water when I have forded streams. From the start they have been comfortable (their first outing straight out of the box was Plynlimon + Disgywlfa Fawr + Pen y Garn in March 2008) and I haven’t had one blister since I got them.

With many of the popular routes in the Lakes being “motorway” standard, I am currently looking for a lightweight pair of trekking boots for use over the summer, but like Caroline I will no doubt be running the gauntlet in respect of selecting the boot that is most suitable to my needs.

73, Gerald


#7

In reply to G6DDQ:

Hi Myke, Brian.

Thanks for the reference. This forum never fails to come up trumps with all sorts of useful facts :slight_smile:

If it was just the soles, I’d be very tempted, but the leather has gone in the usual place where it creases on top of the boot. Add to that the scare I got half way through my walk when I was cleaning them and discovered the leather torn for about 1 1/2 inches along one side where it joins the welt, and you’ll understand why I think they’re scrap. I suspect it happened when I was setting up on Butser and bending down a lot. I kept an eye on it, stopped flexing my foot in that way and it didn’t get any worse.

Myke - out of interest do your three pairs have the cloth lining round the heel area or are they leather?

I’ve got fairly skinny feet (a bit like the rest of me, really) but the blisters my slightly better-padded colleague got were a carbon copy of mine.

I use two pairs of socks. I know that’s a bit old-fashioned according to some. A silky-smooth inner sock and a thicker outer for padding.

73, Richard


#8

Thanks all for your comments.

Reading Richards comments, I note that the failure mode on my two previous pairs of Hillmaster GTX boots was the leather cracking up at the fold on the top of the boot, though in both cases I bought replacements before any serious failure. The most recent pair are beginning to show signs of failure there, but the sudden split in the ankle cuff is is the more serious problem. As a rough calculation the most recent pair has done about 800 miles, which is not that much less than Richards 1000 miles, so perhaps I’m expecting too much of them. However the first pair of Hillmasters I had really did go on for years.

I liked Andy’s description of the Meindl Burma Pro MFS boots, but a quick trip lunchtime round the few remaining “outdoor” shops in Cambridge hasn’t found a stockist. I did find Meindl Borneo which is claimed to be the non-Goretex equivalent, and they seemed a reasonable fit, but I want Goretex.

Like Richard, I’m a two pairs of socks person - not only for the boot comfort, but also to provide a thicker layer of protection against mud and prickly vegetation!

73,
Caroline M3ZCB


#9

In reply to M3ZCB:

“Like Richard, I’m a two pairs of socks person - not only for the boot comfort”

Personally I would always look for a non goretex boot & if necessary wear a pair of goretex socks. I`ve never yet found a goretex item that “works” - it all leaks sooner or later. I find once goretex boots get wet they take an age to dry whereas socks dry much quicker.
73


#10

In reply to M3ZCB:

According to the fountain of all facts and knowledge… Google, the following are Meindl stockists.

FIELD & TREK
32 Fitzroy Street
Cambridge
Cambridgeshire
CB1 1EW

OPEN AIR
29 Green Street
Cambridge
Cambridgeshire
CB2 3JU

Also Cotswold Outdoor in Bury St. Edmunds stock Meindl too.

I’m also a 2 sock person. Bridgedale Coolmax liner socks and Bridgedale Summit Extreme being the current favourites.

Andy
MM0FMF


#11

In reply to MM0FMF:

In reply to M3ZCB:

According to the fountain of all facts and knowledge… Google, the
following are Meindl stockists.
The problem with using Google is getting the right search terms…

FIELD & TREK
32 Fitzroy Street
Cambridge
Cambridgeshire
CB1 1EW
They were good when they were in Fitzroy Street, but went downhill when they relocated into the basement of a “sports” shop. They only have the cheaper Meindl boots/shoes.

OPEN AIR
29 Green Street
Cambridge
Cambridgeshire
CB2 3JU
The best outdoor shop we’ve got in Cambridge - they had the Meindl Borneo.

Also Cotswold Outdoor in Bury St. Edmunds stock Meindl too.
We’re supposed to be getting a Cotswold Outdoor in Cambridge, but it’s currently a
building site, so a trip down the A14 might be needed.

Steve’s idea of non-Goretex boots and Goretex socks is interesting. Though I find
wet slopping round in the boot to be as much of a problem as wet against the skin.
I unfortunately had that experience when I went through snow into hidden icy water
below when descending Great Shunner Fell in March :frowning:

73, Caroline M3ZCB.


#12

In reply to M3ZCB:

The problem with using Google is getting the right search terms…

Indeed it is. I remember when it was hugely useful. Then they let anyone on the 'net and Google got filled with keyword spammed links. Never mind.

From personal experience, my local Cotswolds is quite good. They often have corking bargains like my down jacket for £80 instead of £160! They do have a proper broad range (the shop is big) but to cover all brands I often need to visit Cotswold, Tiso and Nevisport and then go back to one of the shops to purchase. The boot staff at Tiso are excellent and whilst I have more limited experience of Cotswold’s boot staff, they do seem to have some people who have been trained in fitting boots to feet. Buying boots is one of the few things I’d not be prepared to do online. Partly because if everyone buys everything online then eventually there’ll be no shops to try things for fit etc. So I don’t mind paying the bricks-and-mortar premium in this case.

I too find the idea of Goretex socks intriguing. ISTR you wear a normal liner sock, Goretex sock then an outer sock. This protects the Goretex. When someone has done as much hillside marauding as our INKy has then you have to seriously consider what he says!

Like you I too have broad feet. In fact I have a “broad” everything! The Meindl’s are a broad fitting and I remember that Zamberlan and Raichle boots all seem very tight. Hopefully you’ll have enough time to get something bought and broken in somewhat before your next sorties.

Andy
MM0FMF


#13

In reply to MM0FMF:

FWIW, the most comfortable boots that I possess were safety boots bought for about £20 from a safety boot specialist. They are hard wearing, have steel toecaps and are a very broad last to fit my very broad feet. So far I have got 15 years of rambling and hill walking out of them and I reckon they are good for another five…I just hope I am!

73

Brian G8ADD


#14

In reply to M3ZCB:

Sorry for the very short reply, I have been using some Ecco’s for a good 3 years now and they are still going strong, RRP 130 GBP, I got them for 30! They easily handle scrubby terrain although the do have a tendency to let the bits in…
They have held out the water very well although could do with a little go-over soonish.

Not sure of the model, sadly.

Tommy M6AIM


#15

In reply to M3ZCB:

European manufacturers in general do have a tendancy to make narrower boots. Altbergs of Richmond come highly recommended and in recent years have developed a network of independent bootfitters and stockists so you don’t have to go to Richmond if you want a pair. They do a variety of width fittings as standard(from xtra narrow to xtra wide). They don’t subscibe to gtx though, some of their boots have waterproof membranes, some don’t but treat them with their recommended boot wax and they’ll do you as well as gtx.

I’ve had 3 pairs of Altbergs and not been dissapointed with them. So you’d think that’s what I’d be wearing but no, for the last 3 years I’ve generally been wearing trail shoes/approach shoes. Sure they don’t last as long as boots, after 12 months I’ve pretty much destroyed a pair so they need replacing more often, by comparison my last pair of Altbergs lasted a little over 2 years. But the trail shoes are much cheaper, 3 pairs in 3 years for (from memory) about £140 in total.

My current pair are North Face Mids, the mids having slightly higher ankle cuffs (if that is the right term) than regular trainers, I’ve found these fit better with my gaiters at keeping all the “stuff” out. The biggest advantage of these over boots are that they are lighter, the theory being that weight saved on feet is worth somewhere between 2 and 5 times that weight saved in the rucksack, depending on who you ask/what you read. You don’t get the support of boots but if you don’t jump in the deep end and try to walk up Mullwharchar first time out and let you ankles get used to the difference I found I got used to them very quickly and my ankles got stronger quickly.

I’d just like to throw this option into the mix, it’s not the traditional option nor the advice you’ll get from much literature or shop assistants but I’ve done some long days, some big pack days, both on and off “piste” as it were and it can work. Certainly it won’t be right for everyone but just to add another option to the pot…

Iain, M3WJZ

For the record, one pair of socks, except in winter when thermal liners are added.


#16

In reply to G4ERP:

In reply to G6DDQ:

Myke - out of interest do your three pairs have the cloth lining round
the heel area or are they leather?

Richard

The two earlier pairs had cloth lining, the latest ones just leather. I must say I do prefer this type.

I wear just one pair of soxs.

I have always experienced problems with the “in-store” advisers. They seem to be preoccupied with length and ignore instep which is why I will not buy from Field and Trek.

My “real” winter boots are the Scarpa Fitzroy. Getting a bit long in the tooth now but have been great this winter in the snow.

Sorry for the late reply but have been pre-occupied trying to re-arrange flights. Talk about a lack of information, Qantas (thankfully booked with them) were very up to date and helpful. The holiday had to be cancelled and re-booked for later in the year.

I was going up Helvellyn on Fri for St Georges Day but the CAA and NATS banned all dragons from flying


#17

In reply to G6DDQ:

QANTAS = Quite A Nice Trip, All Survived!

73

Brian G8ADD


#18

In reply to M3ZCB:

In reply to MM0FMF:

Also Cotswold Outdoor in Bury St. Edmunds stock Meindl too.
We’re supposed to be getting a Cotswold Outdoor in Cambridge, but it’s
currently a
building site, so a trip down the A14 might be needed.

Thanks to all those who contributed suggestions. In the end I got some Meindl Burma boots from the Cotswold Outdoor in Bury St. Edmunds, which I used almost immediately on our trip to Wales. They seem to be as comfortable as the Brashers but with ankle support (which is good since I have weak ankles). I’m not sure how well they are going to last though since they came back from one week’s walking looking tattier than I’d expect from nearly new boots, despite application of plenty of leather conditioning stuff. Would probably be better if I didn’t walk into rocks so often!

They’re about to get an even more challenging test, weather permitting since we’re off to GM land next week - hope to do one or two G summits on the way.

73, Caroline M3ZCB.


#19

In reply to M3ZCB:

Good afternoon, Caroline.

Firstly, well done for finding a boot that meets your needs. One of my colleagues here has a pair and is very happy with them. He did comment that he initially found them a bit tight and ended up getting a local cobbler to stretch them for him. This seems to be a standard procedure involving some special kit and an oven. A technique that’s well worth knowing about as so many good boots are cut a bit narrow.

I think my own quest is also over. I ended up with Lowa Renegade GTX Lo - which are really trail shoes but I think they will be ideal on long walks on defined paths. 1146g so heavier than their spec. Good padding both under and around the foot. Nubuck leather outer and Gore-Tex lining. Longest walk so far has been 9 miles but most of that was on roads where the cushioned footbed was great. Hopefully I’ll get one longer outing before tackling the 180 miles of ODP in them.

73, Richard


#20

In reply to M3ZCB:

I wonder for how many people like myself the search for comfortable footwear is an absolute nightmare. I have no bunions, corns or callouses, but I do have what are known as “high volume” feet. That means a broad fore-foot with high instep. (OK - fat as well). All of my life I have dreaded wearing out my current favourite footwear, because I never seem to be able to find the same type of shoes again.

Last time, I tried on every make and model of boots and trekking shoes in all the local outdoors shops, to no avail. Then I happened to be in TK Maxx looking for a pair of sunglasses when I spotted a pair of Karrimor KSBs. To my delight they fitted perfectly, and cost only £50.00.

They are very stoutly built of full grain leather and took rather a long time to wear in, but now when I put them on I feel ready for anything. They could do with a bit of extra heel cushioning for walking on roads, so I use Dr Foot orthotic insoles to prevent my heels from pronating excessively.

TK Maxx also had a pair of Karrimor Mount Low trekking shoes which also fitted perfectly and which I also snapped up. However these shoes have a breathable membrane and I find that my feet always feel too warm and sweaty in them.

73
Ken