Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
It's that time again - I need to replace my shoes. These will be my everything shoes - backpacking, standing, walking... all of it. It's tempting to just go to payless and get some of those $20-$30 Champions. They look good, are comfortable, shockingly light, and you can't beat the price. BUT, they don't last very long at all. Rather than buy more disposable shoes, I thought I'd see if anything in the $50-$60 range is a better value if I shop clearance and deals. Can anyone recommend anything in this price range (that still looks good)? I prefer understated black and white shoes, or even better, all black shoes. I could get a pair of Merrell Moab Edges for right at $60, but they're on the heavier end of what I've been looking at. Or, can get some Columbia ATS Trail LF92s for about $55, but I don't know their weight, or durability, or pretty much anything about them at all other than they look good and that Columbia is generally a reputable company. They don't have to be trail specific shoes, BTW; I'll hike in anything. Thoughts?
I think Merrels are good shoes. I buy discounted shoes from Sierra Trading Post and Joes New Balance Outlet. I've come across a pair or two of New Balances that I think were discontinued because of durability but overall I've been very happy with the price for performance from both those websites.
I used to buy a new pair of cheap hiking shoes each season--lightweight ones that I never worried about ruining. But I noticed that each year I felt the soles we're wearing out too fast. I could feel every damn pebble on the trail after a while. That's no fun. So I bought a pair of Merrill's shoes a couple of years ago. I have a few hundred trail miles on them, and they are still going strong. If they last me one more year they will have been cheaper than the cheap shoes I was buying...and I don't feel any pebbles yet!
Loc: Portland, OR
Buying trail shoes is hard to get right. Even the expensive ones can be a poor bargain if they don't fit you. And with most shoe companies committed to changing models every year, there's a good chance they have not tested their 'improvements' sufficiently to know whether their newest design is not actually worse than it was before.
The approach that has worked for me is, first, I always buy at a steep discount, which usually means buying last year's model of shoe that they are closing out. I always read reviews by users. The older models have (finally) been tested in the real world and their defects have been revealed. Next, I buy a brand that has worked for me in the past, since reputable makers usually don't change their lasts every year or constantly migrate from one Chinese factory to another trying to cut costs. Also, I ignore the looks, so I've have worn some mighty UGLY! trail shoes.
Lastly, as soon as I'm satisfied a particular model really does fit me and is durable, I try to snap up the last few pairs in my size, anywhere I can find them on the internet. Because my size is not among the most popular (size 8), I can usually scare up one or two more pairs at closeout prices late in the game. I'm generally paying from $60 to $80 a pair even so.
Then, when I've run through my precious stash of that model of shoe, I have to go through the whole process over again.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I didn't like my last pair of Merrill's at all.
As a experiment I decided to buy a pair of $35 hiking boots from Bass Pro and I spent another $20 on better insoles. Those were about the cheapest hiking boots they had.
Those did ok, but they only lasted for about 8 months before blowing out the soles. None of the Merrills or the one pair of Keens I bought over the past 8-10 years ever did that. I still had the Keens so I wore them for the rest of the year before getting another pair.
I just got another pair of Bass Pro hiking boots as a birthday present. These were a step or two up from that first pair and cost $55, and they do seem to be better made. I didn't have to buy aftermarket insoles for them, the ones they came with are surprisingly good. I've only been wearing them for about a month and a half now and I like them a lot.
So far I think they're pretty decent. The soles are pretty soft and have a good grip, the shoes are flexible and didn't need to be broken in, and the waterproofing has worked good. I've got them wet quite a few times already and we had a good snow a few weeks ago and my feet have stayed dry.
They're worth taking a look at if you have access to a store. I wouldn't recommend buying shoes online, I want to try them on first, but I will say these fit good right out of the gift box and I would've returned them if they hadn't.
.... I wouldn't recommend buying shoes online, I want to try them on first, ....
I used to take this view, but after many frustrating experiences of trying to find shoes in stores that fit me, I order everything online now. The stores, around here at least, never seem to carry a wide range of sizes and models. The salesmen are constantly trying to sell me something they have rather than what I want. Buying on-line I get what I want at a much cheaper price. Sure, I've gotten a few flubs, but even if I take those into account I've ended up with cheaper better shoes overall. The ones that just didn't fit right, that I couldn't return (for one reason or another) meant that someone at Goodwill got a great deal.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
If you know the brand and model of shoes you want buying online is probably the way to go now.
That's why I miss the Merrill's I used to buy. I think I bought about 4-6 pair of those over maybe 6 years. If I could order those online I'd do it in a heartbeat.
These Bass Pro shoes have really impressed me when I consider the price. I've done a bit of hiking in the forest behind our house now and down around the lakeshore and it's pretty vicious out there. Steep with lots of loose rock and these are pretty darn close to as good out there as those Merrills used to be. I can't say they're better, or worse, but they're pretty good so far.
I found the box they came in. They're called "Redhead Caliber Hiker". They're mids, not low cut, which is what I prefer, and they're fairly lightweight.