Well, thats all very interesting. You dont 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 dont think the problem is necessarily with the boots. I say that because in the past month Ive 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 todays typical lining, a fabric material called Cambrelle.
So, given all that, I have to say theres a fit issue. It sounds to me as if the boots are too tight in the heel, and theyre 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 dont mention how you had these boots fitted, but Id go complain to the fitter if thats possible.
Anyway, what to do? Youre right about one thingleather linings are pretty great. They do require more time to break in, but once thats accomplished you have what is very much a custom fit. Theyre not that common any more, but a few makers still use them. The Lowa Baffin Lady ($250; lowaboots.com), for instance, is a serious backpacking boot that has a leather liner, as well as hefty 2.6mm leather outers. Plus theyre built on a womens last, so theyll fit better than a small mens boot. Scarpas Womens Nepal ($199; scarpa.com) is another fairly heavyweight hiking/backpacking boot that has a leather liner.
Are your current boots fixable? Maybe. If theyre 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 & Johnsons First Aid Waterproof Tape (about $5 a roll). And check your sock combinationI like something such as REIs low-friction Silk One Liner Socks ($6.50; rei.com) under something such as SmartWools Light Hiker Socks ($15; smartwool.com).
Hope that helps!
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