As I opened the package, the first thing I noticed was that they were made out of ankle-high sturdy leather with little give. Unlike the running shoes that I had been hiking in for most of my adult like, these boots were not flexible. I couldn't help wonder how it would be to hike in them and not be able to flex my foot all that much as I had been accustomed to with the running shoes. They seemed well-made though, and I put them on, walking around the house. They were pretty comfortable and all of that, but I couldn't put out of my mind how stiff they were. I've always had fairly picky feet, when it comes to footwear, and I was worried about these boots. Still, I had spent the money and maybe they required a breaking-in period, so I held onto them.
My day job was as a mail carrier and I thought that I could break them in just wearing them to work. The postal service does have requirements for footwear, but occasionally, people do a bit of fudging on that without being reprimanded, and that's what I did. At the end of the day, there was one spot on the outer part of the boot's collar that had really hurt the tendon that runs down the outside of the ankle. Still, I thought, maybe the boots needed more breaking in.
However, I put them aside and went back to the running shoes.
A few years went by and the boots just sat in the closet. At the time, I wasn't doing any kind of winter hiking--rarely venturing into inclement weather, and when I did, I had some old army boots that were broken in and that did the job adequately, if not wonderfully. I had been backpacking, but generally it was for overnighters and no multiple day excursions. Then I planned the Kings Peak four night backpacking trip.
With that length of hiking, and expecting any kind of weather, I wanted something a little more durable than my running shoes. I remembered the Northface boots I had tucked away in the closet. I'll take those, I thought to myself.
It started out fairly well, but that first day on the trail, due to unforeseen circumstances, such as heavy run-off keeping us from crossing the creek where we needed to, we ended up walking extra miles, just so that we could be ready for the hiking on the following days. The first day was 12 miles and by the end of the day, I was exhausted.
Already that place where the boot rubbed my tendon on the first day I ever wore them was beginning to hurt tremendously. I didn't know what to do. We were miles from any chance of wearing something else, and we still had the peak to climb. By day three, there was no way I could endure the pain any longer. I pulled off the boot and took my knife and cut out the portion of the boot that was rubbing. Relief at last! It would take days for that pain to totally subside, but at least the pressure was gone. For the rest of the trip I could focus on why we were there instead of the pain I was in.
When I got home at the end of the trip, I tossed the boots into either a box that we had been saving stuff in to go to the local thrift store, or I threw them away disgustedly. I honestly cannot remember.
There is a moral to this story. That is, that when purchasing boots, or any article of clothing on which you have to depend to protect you in wilderness situations, make sure you like them, and if you have any misgivings, return them immediately and get something you are comfortable with.
A second lesson is this: Don't be afraid to modify your clothing to save your body from pain. If I hadn't been smart enough to cut my boot to relieve the pressure, I'm not sure how much longer I would've been able to walk. And don't skimp when it comes to footwear that you will depend on to get you out of rugged terrain.
Northface likely does make some good hiking boots, but in this case I think they were on the discount rack for a reason. It's all part of the adventure though. Keep on hiking!
|Jewel Lake, Uintas|