I was recently in the market for a new pair of hiking boots. My last pair had so many miles that the soles were falling off, literally. I did what most outdoors enthusiasts my age did, and searched the internet and read reviews on certain popular brands of boots. That was my first mistake.
Next, I found out what large retail store in our area carried the best reviewed boots and stopped in. I was greeted by a friendly employee who confessed to not hiking local and whose every other word was a sarcastic or flirtatious remark. The boots I was able to try on were tough, heavy and not at all comfortable. I left the chain store defeated and irritated.
Thank goodness for our local outdoor store! In thirty minutes I was paying for a hiking shoe that has been the most comfortable shoe I have ever worn. While chatting with the knowledgeable employee in between trying on a variety of shoes and boots, I learned that I was making some very rookie mistakes on my search for new footwear.
I started my visit to the local store by telling the employee what type of boot I hiked in previously and what type I had just tried on. I learned early on in this encounter, that my first mistake was going to a large chain store. By shopping local, the customer can be assured the employees thoroughly know their store inventory and are also more likely to know your local environment. The local stores can better recommend a quality boot or shoe because they have tested the inventory and are more likely to carry shoes and boots that will hold up and fit better.
As I continued to try various boots , I kept running into a problem with the fit of the boot against my heel. This is not a new problem, most of my boots require me to wear mole skin to avoid blisters here, but I was hoping for some new technology in a boot that would cure this ailment. I soon learned this was a twofold and not an uncommon problem. The first remedy was to try a “low hiker”. By wearing a boot that fit over my ankles, the way the biomechanics were playing out was causing the boot to rub in that area of my heel. When I switched to a hiking shoe, the problem was solved.
The second remedy was a change in socks. I thought the employee was just trying to increase her commission until I tried on a new pair or mid-weight hiking socks. Suffice to say, they are a game changer and these two technical fixes were just what I needed to get me back on the trails.
If you are in the market for a new piece of gear, start by shopping local. The local employees are knowledgeable and trustworthy and will steer you in the right direction. I had to learn this the hard way, but in the end knowledge beats out convenience when it comes to hiking boots and most outdoor equipment.
-If you are in the Upstate of South Carolina, go to Appalachian Outfitters. We have trusted them for over 20 years. As the one of the owners, Jonathan, says about getting the right gear for people, “Its just fun for us ”. Click Here to visit their Facebook page