I have had a few sprained ankles over the years and wondering if the Lowa Vertex GTX is still the gold standard for ankle support. I'm 50 years old and going to Philmont with a bunch of hardened 17-year-old Eagle Scouts. Any suggestions? David Winterville, North Carolina
Yeah, bad ankles can suck the fun out of any hiking trip. And its certainly a good idea to wear boots that offer as much support as possible. I still really like the Lowa Biomex" Vertex GTX ($168; lowaboots.com), which combines surprising comfort in a rugged boot with an external ankle-bracing system that is extremely effective. Its a great starting point for anyone with bad ankles.
Scarpa SL M3 Boot
Scarpa SL M3 Boot
So too are several all-leather boots that dont have anything exotic like the Lowas but still offer excellent support. Danners Talus GTX ($174; danner.com) is a classic all-leather boot that also has a Gore-Tex liner and a full rand around the sole for extra protection. Asolos TPS 520 GV boots ($210; asolo.com) also go the leather-and-Gore-Tex route in a little heavier, but still comfortable, boot. And Scarpas SL M3 ($210; scarpa.com) remains the personification of a sturdy backpacking boot that offers plenty of support and protection along with years of use. They have tough 2.9 mm leather and eschew a Gore-Tex liner.
All that said, its also true that once an ankle reaches a certain stage of weakness, boots alone arent enough to hold them in place. I have that problem on my right ankle due to an old sprain that I re-injured several years back and that has never fully recovered. So I recommend a quality ankle brace such as the DonJoy Stabilizing Ankle Brace ($40; betterbraces.com). Its made from sturdy, non-stretch fabric and is laced up then stabilized with straps that stay in place with hook-and-loop fasteners. It will fit under a boot without going up half a shoe size. These braces really are pretty comfortableIve used one for yearsand will reduce your ankle problems by at least 75 percent, if not eliminate them entirely. I have NEVER rolled my bad ankle while wearing a brace. Without one, several times.
The Gear Guy reports from 2007 Winter Outdoor Retailer, the bi-annual gearapalooza in Salt Lake City. Check out his top picks for gear to watch in 2007.