by Sue Freeman
Looking at a pair of hiking boots is not normally what sets someone to feeling old. But, I can’t help it. My life is measured by hiking boots and their progression in technology. As with other advances (notably electronics!), the hiking boots of today are a world away from the hiking boots of my young adulthood.
In 1995 I began preparations to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. The prep included shopping for, selecting, and breaking in a new pair of hiking boots. I selected a state-of the-art all leather, mid-calf hiking boot called Moraine from Montrail. These were rugged behemoths that weighed 4 pounds and surrounded your foot in protective leather. The footbed was flat, requiring an insert to provide a minimum of cushioning and arch support.
Months before hitting the trail I began wearing my boots; first around the house for short time intervals.
Then for forays outside, gradually building up the time span and letting the boots somewhat conform to my feet as they were softened by sweat. Some hikers would fill their boots with water and others would even wear them in a shower in an attempt to get the perfect fit. But, as you can imagine, water wasn’t the kindest to leather.
In fact, we slathered the boots with waxy waterproofing which served to keep the water out but also proved adept at keeping sweat inside. I came to learn, in a painful way, that sweaty feet are a breeding ground for blisters. On the trail, I trashed my hiking socks and began wearing only liners. And I took frequent breaks with my boots off to air out my feet and liners. Still, my feet blistered horribly.
Over the years, as I hiked other long-distance trails, I tried various boots. Each was an improvement in small ways. But, one thing that irked me to no end was the impossibility of finding boots that weren’t waterproofed. For years, a boot wasn’t sold unless it sported GoreTex waterproof fabric.
Fortunately, those days are long gone – and so unfortunately is my youth. I got a new pair of hiking boots recently – TevaSpheres. Hot off the development and manufacturing line, they’re the latest advance in technology, built for those of us who enjoy a variety of land-based outdoor fun that covers a diverse range of terrain. The ones I got are the TevaSphere Trail. They’re built specifically for women and offer a sturdy trail shoe, but NO waterproofing. Yipee! My happy feet can breathe. And I’m only lifting 1 pound of boot – a far cry from the 4 pound behemoths which probably weighted closed to 5 pounds once they got wet and stayed wet.
Some things do get better with age. Technology advances – such as the first-of-its-kind spherical heel and pod-arch system are significant improvements for people like me with aging feet. I bet the young ones will enjoy them also. I’m looking forward to giving my new TevaSpheres a decent workout.