Boot Break-in and Maintenence
by Matt Wymer, Rokslide Prostaff
The most important part of solid foot care is taking the time to test your system before your big hunt. It is often hard to mimic the terrain you will be hunting, but every effort should be made to come as close as possible. Spend some time in your boot before hitting the mountains. For this article, I interviewed Stephen Lathrop of Lathrop & Sons. They have a combined 50 years experience in the science of podiatry and orthotics, much of this related to hunting boots.
I asked Stephen about breaking in boots. He said that there is a myth out there that new boots require 50 miles before they are broke in. It is his experience that a properly fitted boot system (boot, footbed, socks) should be comfortable the first time you lace them up. As far as break-in, he recommends a two-to-four week process depending on the boot.
A shorter and/or blended material boots should be worn three days a week for 2-3 weeks and then taken on several short hiking trips. Taller boots, and/or those of all-leather design, should be worn three days a week for 3-4 weeks, and then hiked in to analyze fit. Throughout this process you are either confirming fit or finding out the fit is not right. Upon completion, it is either time to start over and get a better fit, or head out and really push the boot.
Another question I had for Stephen was boot care. He stated that common problems include the rubberized rand separating from the leather, stitching failure, and dried out leather. These issues can be reduced by using water-based boot treatments and carefully following the manufacturer's care and maintenance guidelines.
Improper use of heat to dry your boots can lead to damage. Most stitching is a nylon material and—when heated—can shrink, stretch, or melt. Additionally, wet leather can be dried too quickly resulting in brittle leather that can tear and crease. Stephen recommends avoiding direct heat when drying or treating your boots as the potential for damage is high.
Boots should also be thoroughly cleaned, treated, and stored in a cool, dry environment after each outing. The first step is to remove the laces and footbeds, then hand wash those items. Remove the dirt from the boots by running them under lukewarm water and lightly scrubbing away the stubborn spots. Try to clean between and under eyelets and in any crevices. I like to clean the treads as this allows me to use the boots in my house so I can train climbing stairs or doing step ups.
After the boots are clean, it is vital to protect the leather. Stephen was careful not to recommend a particular product, but did prefer water-based products. Apply the first coat while the boots are still damp. The goal of this step is to restore the waterproof qualities to the leather. The second step is to condition the leather to ensure the leather remains supple and durable. Be sure to take the advice of a professional, or go directly to the manufacturer to ensure you are using the correct products for your specific boots.
My current boots are the Lowa Bighorns. I looked up Lowa's instructions here. They align with Stephen's recommendations and provide additional detail. Notice that the guidelines aren't a simple paragraph but rather a detailed and specific set of instructions.
Any boot worth wearing is going to require proper break-in and care if you want to squeeze the most performance out of it. Besides understanding your boot's specific guidelines, keep these tips from a pro in mind for more miles and comfort on the mountain.
You can discuss this article here (and get entered to win boots from Lathrop & Sons)
Salomon Quest 4D GTX
by Brock Akers, Train to Hunt Director
With my season winding down, I wanted to share my thoughts on the Salomon Quest 4D GTX hiking boot. In the last several years, this boot has become wildly popular and for good reason. They are comfortable, lightweight, and affordable. I've owned mine for about 10 months putting about 300 miles on them. During that time, I wore the Darn Tough Full Cushion Boot sock exclusively. I never treated them with anything before or during use as I wanted to test them without any aide. I am not sure Salomon recommends even treating them as a quick online search yielded no results. That could have changed by now though.
Schnee's Bridger Hiker Boot
By Robby Denning, Rokslide Staff
From late June through early October, scouting and hunting mule deer in the West typically allows for a lighter weight, non-insulated boot. This means more comfort in both wear and heat dissipation. Lighter weight boots are typically easier to break in due to less leather/more synthetic construction unlike you usually find in a heavy duty hiking boot. Also, few active hunters (where you're walking at least half the hours of your hunting day) need an insulated boot in temps down to just above freezing. In fact, insulated boots in these temps will make your feet sweat causing cold feet. You'll actually be colder in an insulated boot that is even slightly damp, than a non-insulated dry boot.
Stephen Lathrop of Lathrop & Sons Boots
Of all things we prepare to encounter on a hunt—such as harsh terrain, altitude, and foul weather—the most detrimental may well be the smallest and most easily overlooked. A blister is a collection of fluid beneath the epidermis (first layer of skin). Unlike calluses, which are caused by prolonged rubbing, a blister most often occurs due to a period of intense friction on a localized area. A blister on the foot, or even worse, several blisters can incapacitate even the most determined and toughest of us all. Fortunately, there are preventative measures that can be taken that greatly reduce the chances of onset and, if they do occur, the effects of blisters.