Q:

When do boots need to be replaced?

At what point, if ever, should your boots be replaced? Is it a question of mileage, time, or condition? I've had my boots (L.L. Bean Knife Edge, leather) for a number of years. They are well maintained and comfortable. Is there a point where the boot does not perform its support function and the trade off between comfort and support (in favor of comfort) is not worth it? Jim Comerford Wyncote, Pennsylvania

Sep 18, 2003
Outside
Outside Magazine
A: Well, some years back, my friend Larry and I were hiking out from the Enchantment Lakes area in Washington's central Cascade Mountains. About 12 miles in, and....um...12 out (funny how that works). Plus a lot of thrashing around in between as we scrambled up several peaks and generally explored that amazing area, which I first visited in 1975, when woolly mammoths still roamed the terrain there.

Anyway, we were about five miles from the car when I heard the usually taciturn Larry say, "Damn!" which from him was a veritable torrent of verbiage. Turning around, I found him staring at one of his boots. The sole had delaminated, leaving him with a gape-mouth boot. Some adhesive tape sort of fixed the problem until we could reach the car.

That's one potential clue that it's time for new boots -— the sole delaminates. Sometimes repairable, but often a sure sign you need a new pair of boots. Other indicators: The leather is so soft that they no longer offer good support, the stitching has completely blown (although that can be repaired), and the boots have shrunk a half-size, which can indeed happen with really old boots. If you pronate, as I do, you might find the boot has canted 15 degrees to one side -— another sure sign to move on. Finally, I had some old Galibier mountaineering boots with a steel shank that rusted right out of the boot! That was repairable too, though.

So, the answer is: Whenever YOU think it's time for a new pair. I think you'll know it if they get so soft they no longer perform they way you want them too. And really, a good-quality pair of leather boots, properly cared for, is as close to a lifetime investment as you can make these days.

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