How can I protect my heels while breaking in new boots?

I recently purchased what were supposed to be great boots, only to have them rip my heels apart. I narrowed the problem down to the point where a combination of ses meets in the heel of the boot. My old boots were leather lined and didn’t have the ses of death. So, where can I find leather-lined boots these days, and how can I protect my heels when hiking regardless of the boots? Tanya Washington, D.C.


Well, that’s all very interesting. You don’t mention what boots had the “seams of death," but I imagine they were two of several modern mid-weight backpacking boots, probably priced around $150 or so. Right? If so, then I have to say I don’t think the problem is necessarily with the boots. I say that because in the past month I’ve put considerable miles on two fairly heavy-duty boots (Scarpa Escape and La Sportiva Trango S EVO GTX), both right out of the box, with no more than a slight (and fleeting) hot spot on one heel during a long uphill grind. And these are boots with today’s typical lining, a fabric material called Cambrelle.

Lowa Baffin Lady Hiking Boots

Baffin Lady Hiking Boots

So, given all that, I have to say there’s a fit issue. It sounds to me as if the boots are too tight in the heel, and they’re causing pressure points and then blisters. I actually like boots to be a bit loose in the heel, so that your foot has room to move in a natural manner. You don’t mention how you had these boots fitted, but I’d go complain to the fitter if that’s possible.

Anyway, what to do? You’re right about one thing—leather linings are pretty great. They do require more time to break in, but once that’s accomplished you have what is very much a custom fit. They’re not that common any more, but a few makers still use them. The Lowa Baffin Lady ($250;, for instance, is a serious backpacking boot that has a leather liner, as well as hefty 2.6mm leather outers. Plus they’re built on a women’s last, so they’ll fit better than a small men’s boot. Scarpa’s Women’s Nepal ($199; is another fairly heavyweight hiking/backpacking boot that has a leather liner.

Are your current boots fixable? Maybe. If they’re a half-size too small, take them to a shoe or boot maker and see if you can have the heels stretched a little. Often you can, and that will help. Also, try taping the seams with something such as duct tape. If a rough seam is the culprit, that may help. Tape your feet, too, with Moleskin or white adhesive tape such as Johnson & Johnson’s First Aid Waterproof Tape (about $5 a roll). And check your sock combination—I like something such as REI’s low-friction Silk One Liner Socks ($6.50; under something such as SmartWool’s Light Hiker Socks ($15;

Hope that helps!

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Filed To: Hiking Boots
Lead Photo: courtesy, Lowa