What boots require the least break-in?
Are there hiking boots or shoes for the occasional hiker that do not require a break-in period? John Phoenix, Arizona
These days, whats surprising is how few boots require anything remotely like what one normally would think of as a break-in” period. Often, when reviewing boots for Outside and for this column, Ive laced up boots right out of the box and hiked up to eight or nine miles. Thats only turned into a catastrophe once, when some boots Id picked out for a longish hike/climb—up Mount Rainier, as a matter of fact—were a half-size too small. Felt fine at home and on some minor tromping around, but over the course of three days I endured significant troubles. My fault, in that particular case.
But I digress. Most modern light hiking boots are built a lot more like running shoes than traditional hiking boots—theyre flexible, well-cushioned, yet still pretty supportive. A good example of this would be Montrails Torre ($125, www.montrail.com), a leather hiking boot for day trips or light overnight hikes that, if fitted properly, I wouldnt hesitate to hike around in with essentially zero break-in. Same for the Tecnica Cyclone Mid GTX-XCR ($119, www.tecnicausa.com), a synthetic leather boot that even has a Gore-Tex liner. Another good-fitting boot that shouldnt require much break-in is the Asolo Fugitive ($169, www.asolo.com), which has real leather uppers and a Gore-Tex liner and is getting a reputation as a boot that fits nearly everyone.
Still, you do want to make sure the boot fits well, so dont shop by brand. Try several, and when you get the boots home wear them around the house a bit to ensure no pressure points or hot spots pop up. If theyre clean, then returning them is no problem. If the boots seem right, then take some walks around the neighborhood and on some short trail. You should be good to go pretty quickly.
More trail-ready hikers reviewed in Outsides
2004 Buyers Guide