When I buy backpacking gear, I frequently spend months comparing features and looking for the best prices. I hunt down reviews and sift through specifications until I’m confident I’m making a wise buying decision.
But I don’t do that when I buy shoes.
I know that doesn’t make much sense, considering that most people think what you put on your feet is your most important gear. But I don’t do that because I got smart and let someone else do the work for me.
I go to a store that has employees who know hiking/backpacking footwear and spend a lot of effort to make sure their customers get fitted properly. I drive a couple hours to get there and sometimes spend a couple hours being measured and fitted for shoes.
At the risk of making this post a free commercial for Diamond Brand Outdoors, I feel I need to single out this store because, in my mind, it is noteworthy.
A few other stores claim to use the Phil Oren FitSystem method of fitting footwear, but Diamond Brand is the only one I’ve found that practices it like a religion.
Though I seem to be gushing about this store, what I really want to extol is the new pair of hiking boots I bought yesterday, a pair of Zamberlan Java XCR mid-cut boots. I wore them all day today because I figured I should make an attempt to break them in before a backpacking trip I’m making this weekend.
There’s no such thing as boots that don’t need breaking in, but it’s almost as if I needn’t bother with these. They were comfortable all day long.
Okay, so sitting at my desk most of the day doesn’t exact duplicate the pounding my feet get on the trail, but I’ve never worn boots all day and not have them feel sore eventually, hiking or not.
The real proof will come this weekend. The hike will be from Carver’s Gap to Big Hump Mountain, a mere seven miles in distance on the Appalachian Trail, but brutal for the elevation changes. And the forecast is for sloppy weather, which should give a good test of the Gore-Tex lining.
One more point to make about these boots: I paid for them, unlike Tom “The Corporate Slut” Mangan, who got his Zamberlans for free.
(Sorry, Tom, I couldn’t resist that.)