Gear Guy

How do I size a boot I can’t try on?

I have been looking for a boot that can do it all. From aggressive summer day-hikes to light winter mountaineering in New England. I've been reading all your past articles and the Boreal Bulnes seem to be the ticket, though they seem not to be made anymore. I did manage to find an online retailer with the Bulnes at a great price but I now have a dilemma. How do I pick a size for a boot I can't try on? Since no stores currently carry this boot and the online retailers have questionable return policies, what would your Gearness do? If you wouldn't buy online, do you have any recommendations for similar boots? My anxious feet await your guidance! Matthew Mendonza Boston, Massachusetts

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You’re right about the Bulnes ($215)-surprisingly, it’s no longer being imported to the U.S. Which is too bad, as it was an extremely good boot.

On the other hand, as a discontinued boot, you can find good buys on it. I found them for $134 at in a full size range. Fitting a boot by mail is definitely tricky, but potentially worth the risk unless you’re one of these guys who writes in and says they have hammer toes and wide feet and flat arches and need size 15 and gee why don’t people make a boot for me? The Bulnes is a fairly straight-fitting boot. If you are confident in your casual walking shoe size (the fact is, few people know their correct shoe size), then order a half-size up. By the time you add a liner sock and mid-weight hiking sock, you should be spot-on.

There are alternatives to the Bulnes, a moderately heavy hiking book or a lightweight mountaineering boot. In this category my current favorite is the Montrail Vercors ($190). It’s sort of a de-tuned Moraine AT. Really a nice boot-not too heavy for even a day hike on rough terrain, but beefy enough for some light strap-on crampons. Asolo’s AFX 520 GTX ($200) is another good boot in this category-it adds a Gore-Tex liner for extra (superfluous?) waterproofing. But first, I’d try to get some bargain Bulnes…

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