Before I became and archaeological field technician, I never wore proper shoes, hiking or otherwise. I always wore flip-flops. In the rain. In the snow. In the sun. Skateboarding. Bicycling. I think you get it.
The only time I didn’t wear flip-flops was hiking. Then I wore sneakers.
I hiked a bit as a kid. I loved to be outside. I really loved to be barefoot, but you know that doesn’t work so well most of the time.
I hiked in running shoes, sandals (who remembers the Lands’ End knock-off Birkenstocks?), Tevas, and even tennis shoes (which my dad insisted not have any tread at all- useless for hiking).
Finally, when I was in high school, my mom got me real hiking shoes. They weren’t boots, they looked like sneakers.
Similar to that. They had tons of grip on the bottom, not so much in terms of ankle support. I wore them a few times. I bought them a couple sizes too big, hoping to grow into them. Unfortunately, that was right at the time my feet finally stopped growing. They are still too big.
When I finally went to college, I began hiking more often. At this point, it would have been a good idea to get some real boots. But I was stubborn. And who has the money for hiking boots as a college student? I wore the same pair of New Balance sneakers for many years.
They made it to my field school in Peru, but they didn’t make it back to the US. When I got back, I bought the same ones.
Back before the Great Recession they were under $40!
These lasted until I got my first CRM job. I still didn’t own hiking boots.
During my first week in the field it became apparent that my footwear was no longer adequate. They had holes in the pinky toes (due to my super wide feet- which will be important later). A co-worker called them rattlesnake bait. A valid concern as there were a number of snake sitings, and finally a nice, fat Mojave Green was spotted right near the lunch spot.
I was also required to wear steel-toe boots. So I headed over to dear old Wal-Mart (cut me some slack, I was this close to broke) and picked up some Wolverine steel toe boots.
They served me well for almost a year. The whole time the soles were slowly peeling off. Finally the rubber heel just came right off.
Also- in case you are thinking of buying a pair- the laces fell apart within a few months, and got progressively worse over time. Not to mention, they are entirely too uncomfortable to wear without some cushy insoles.
Really, these boots couldn’t stand up to hiking. They couldn’t stand up to hiking, because they are not hiking boots. Shocking.
I finally decided it was time to shell out for real hiking boots.
The REI near me had one pair of Lowas, and one pair of Vasque boots. I tried both on, found the Vasque ones to be a bit too bulky, went with the Lowas. They were super comfortable right from the beginning.
They were great during the excavation. Wonderfully flexible, but still supportive enough to stop my ankles from rolling.
Then I wore them on a few surveys… This did not work out well. Either they were too narrow (I really do have super wide feet, comes from wearing flip-flops too often), or I bought them half a size too small. My toes were not happy.
These boots are awesome. My coworker refers to them as “little tanks” that encase her feet in safety and support. The majority of my coworkers wear these same boots, and it seems that a lot of archaeologists nationwide wear them as well.
Finally, I went to an oil field safety training recently, and the instructor said it best. “Your boots are not the thing to skimp on. You’ll be spending every day, all day in your boots. It’s best to make sure they’re comfortable”