Good Boots, Bad Feet
You have heard the stories: bleeding shins, whole foot blisters and something called trench foot. Mountaineering is tough but you didn’t know mauled feet were part of the bargain. Relax, by doing a little homework you can concentrate on bagging that peak and not your aching feet. I offer some advice, which is not exhaustive, but hopefully sheds a little light on the miry world of mountaineering boots. There has been an explosion of boots on the market, including leather and the new hybrid boots.
For the sake of brevity, I want to look at plastic.
A double plastic boot is the key to keeping your feet warm and dry when it’s cold and wet out on the glacier. The outer plastic shell is a waterproof barrier and protects your feet from getting wet. Plus, maintenance is little to none; you won’t have to worry about putting enough wax on your boots. Plastic boots are equipped with an insulated liner that will keep your feet toasty warm for several seasons without having to be replaced. The liner is removable so you can pull them out and sleep with them at night. This will help to dry them a bit from perspiration and keep them from freezing at night.
A proper boot fitting is the most important aspect in buying a pair of boots. When you go shopping, allow yourself plenty of time and find out if any staff has attended clinics by Phil Oren. He is a leading boot fitter that has developed the Fit System, which is the best system to properly fit boots. It is a six-step system that includes: 16 point foot examination, proper sock selection, measurement (both weighted and un-weighted), boot selection, stabilize foot with foot bed and modification where needed. If you cannot find a trained fitter, visit Phil Oren’s website and educate yourself with as much information as possible. (check out: www.fitsystembyphiloren.com)
After you have been fitted with the proper boot, customization is the final step. The newest product out on the market is custom heat molded liners. One of the most popular liners is from Intuition Sports and is made out of ultralon and comes pre-molded which speeds the customization process. To customize the liners they are heated and placed into boots and then the boots are worn until the liners are cooled. Once the liners are cooled they will hold the shape giving a perfectly customized fit. (see: www.intuitionsports.com)
Your boots should last a number of seasons even through the hardest abuse. Plastic holds up well to the elements but even good boots wear out. When the soles start to wear thin its time to ship them to Dave Page Cobbler. (www.davepagecobbler.com) Dave Page is the world’s finest mountain boot repairer. He is renowned for his repair work on boots (he repairs all boots for REI). His specialty also includes repairing Birkenstocks and resoling athletic shoes.
This information on boots was compiled by our new Program Manager, Brent LaDoux. For more information, or additional gear questions, please contact him directly.