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The history of boots.

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The trip is winding down, but unfortunately not fast enough as my transportation had become, well, worn out. My trusty leather boots which I purchased right after finishing my last big trek, Everest Base Camp, have finally become too worn to wear. The leather tops are still okay, especially after a $2Q shoe shines at the park, but both soles had wear spots which left my socks exposed. The base of the shoes basically crumbled apart so it was like walking in potholes on every step. The biggest factor however was that after one step in slightly damp or a puddle left my socks at the end of the day feeling like the consistency of a thin flip flop. They were crusty and it really started to stink. Stopping off at shoe shops to see about getting resoled, they did not have the same style sole so the only thing that could be done would be to shave the bottoms and then glue, stitch, and nail on a new soles. I have done that before on my black Merrels which I used in Africa, but they just can´t handle the abuse and start to seperate really quickly. Once that happens you have to super glue every other day and risk the chance of losing the sole in the worst possible location. So, I broke down and spent a couple of days scouring the town checking out a couple of markets, the central park shops, and even a couple of modern shopping malls. In the end I found a worthy pair in one of the shoe stores on the shoe street by the central market. I was contemplating sticking to my normal trekking boot style in leather, but as usual trekking stuff tends to be either really cheap or if you can find it overpriced western branded good boots. I actually probably looked at a thousand pairs of shoots before finding one style that I liked and which ended up to be the only pair available. They are a brand named Flexi which are a shoe company in Mexico who specialize in better than average leather shoes. Instead of going hiking style they are a low cut shoe/trekkers. For fifty bucks they were a bit much for Central America, but I figure they will work well back home as casual wear as well.

History of boots….Steveislost.

1) Merrel´s bought via the internet. Too small and killed my feet in the Venezuela trek.
2) Merrel´s bought in Bogota, Colombia. Water resistent high tech canvas style.
3) Merrel´s bought in Cape town, South Africa. Full leather, waterproof, Goretex.
4) Merrel´s bought in Baalbek, Lebanon. Used, $20US, full leather.
5) Uplander´s bought in Polkara, Nepal. Full leather, waterproof.
6) Flexi´s bought in Xela, Guatemala. Full leather, lowcut.

My switch to full leather is two parts. The canvas style boots even the expensive ones tend to split at the seams where they attach to the soles. Also, with full leather I get to utilize the services of the shoe shine guys. This is another one of those issues where you get to help somebody (but not having to give straight out to begging) but also you have nice and shiney almost new like appearance shoes. Lastly, I do like to fit in a bit and wearing the candy colored full on trekking boots just doesn´t fit if you go out somewhere nice whereby some nice fully polished all leather boots have a bit of sports casual look to them.

Secondary footwear:
Teva trekking sandals, internet.
all rubber strap sandals, local market.
Fake teva sandals, Polkara, Nepal market.
four pairs of standard flip flops, local markets.

Steve´s theory of traveling footwear.

I find that their is a lot of different perspectives on the footwear issue going from guys walking around barefoot to people wearing $500 trekking boots who never walk farther than the taxi to the doorway of their next destination. It is kind of like that question people ask about what you are carrying in your backpack. My answer tends to be that regardless of what you learn about the subject, in the long run you will revert back to the lifestyle that you live at home and follow that same pattern. In regards to backpacks and stuff, if you are a pack rat back at home, you are going to carry a massively overstuffed pack, a day pack and probably a third bag for the other stuff that doesn´t fit in the others. If you are a minimalist then you will probably be like me and are constantly justifying every item you carry. No different for the footwear.

For my personal choice, I do like to go to the more extreme side of wearing heavier duty trekking boots. I do like to get out in the wilderness, regardless how much I write about preferring to sit in front of the tv watching other people go out into the wilderness, and actually use them for what they are designed for. Also, people don´t realize that even if you are a city dweller, there are not the uniform sidewalk standards that you would find in the US. Roads are pretty shit everywhere, so you need to remember that the walking areas are not going to be spectacular. For instance, you can have a block of businesses side by side with one walk way running across all of them. As everybodies business is different, that difference is also carried out along the walkway as every section is at a different heighth making it no different than the stone steps required to climb to Everest Base Camp. Add the fact that a lot of places don´t even have tarred roads so you are basically doing nothing different than taking any mountain path. My motorcycle days also encouraged heavy duty foot security as things are so compacted that you run the risk of losing anything sticking outside the perimeter of your handle bars of footpegs. Cow shit, dog shit, cat shit, bird shit, pig shit, etc., cow piss, dog piss, cat piss, bird piss, pig piss, etc., human fluids of all types, and in man made pollution, soften in up with a bit of water, let it metabolize and fester, and you have every square inch of walking space, enough said on that. Bug bites, sun burn, snake bites, religious aspects, and civilized appearance are also moderately influential issues. Finally, a good example is if you think of what type of vehicle you would want if you had to drive across Africa. Most people would of course say a Land Cruiser or something of that sort (although in reality you would be fine if you used a scooter as 95% of anywhere a normal tourist would want to go is perfectly fine tarred/dirt roads), because they would want to have something that would be made for the ruggedness. But often times you ask people about footwear and they say of flip flops or tennis shoes. A final example for my way of thinking is that I look towards the military. The military probably requires the most extreme usage out of footwear. They aren´t carrying 75lb packs, hoofing it up and down mountains in flip flops or tennis shoes. They are in heavy duty boots that give support, protection, and will last. Enough said.

In regards of the name game, I started out much like everybody else buying shoes based on the name brand and price. In general, the rule that you get what you pay for is fairly true, but in reality nothing is going to last when you are really doing some long term traveling or trekking. They are just not made for longevity. All of my boots lasted about a year with some falling apart all over and the leather ones which held together but I just ended up walking the soles off. The biggest disappointment was the waterproof capabilities. I really like that aspect because I hate having to walk around stuff (puddles) especially when you are on a long grueling hike, but it is worse to have muddy wet feet, so in the beginning I was paying the extra money for the added benefits. Unfortunately, the waterproof capabilities work, but only for short term. It´s another one of those wear out factors that I unfortunately don´t think they have perfected (with the exception of the $5US rubber boots which I got in Vietnam and made riding in the rain no problem). Now, after a lot of trekking, I don´t worry about it anymore and just walk through whatever just knowing that there is not much you can do about it and it is not worth the time to take the boots on and off (crossing rivers), trying to stay out of puddles, or basically being a whoosy. Just look at it like the locals do, its a part of life that you just deal with and not worry about it.

And finally, take shoes that you can get cleaned and polished so you can support the shoe shiners which are all over the world who are doing something with their lives and deserve all the help that they can get. Shoe shiners I have found are some of the most honorable people I have met as they are the ones who probably don´t have a lot of options but are not willing to sell out their souls by begging, stealing, or giving up and being alcoholics or drug addicts.



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6 responses to “The history of boots.”

  1. Acidspike says:

    Awesome post. I’m always curious as to the footwear that serious trekkers use. It seems to me like one of the most important , yet, least discussed items.

  2. ben Luke says:

    Look like you have done alot of tramping, hope some of it was in New Zealand

  3. snw2srf2stt says:

    Acid, I added a new section to my post for you, the theory of traveling footwear.

  4. snw2srf2stt says:

    Ben, I made it south to north in Australia quite a few years back but didn´t make it to New Zealand. I should have. My original plans consisted of heading down there after Asia and then across to South America and then back up to the US but it would have entailed a year 6 and 7. I think when I am feeling the need for some real outdoor activity stuff I will put NZ back on the list.

  5. Marisa says:

    Being minimalist myself, I just use hiking boots and cheap rubber flip flops for all my travels. My gortex hiking boots with the tire tread are starting to break down, but I put a pair of inserts in them for added support. Planning to go to China again this summer so hopefully they’ll last.

  6. Priyank says:

    Hi Steve, its very interesting to read about this. I usually pack my flipflops and carry one pair of trekking shoes – nothing special, just what I wear on a normal day. 🙂

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