A Comparison of Footwear for the Serious Walker
I walk, therefore I am
When I began my journey at Silver Dollar City in beautiful Branson, Missouri, nestled in the Ozark Mountains and resting alongside picturesque Table Rock Lake two years ago, I knew I would be walking; I knew I would be out in all forms of weather. What I did not realize was just how many miles I would be walking!
The previous person who worked in the position I have held the past couple of years said she had been doing 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day, rarely making it to 20,000 on a long, busy day. I felt I was in good enough shape that I would be able to handle the exercise, and to date I have with minimal issues. However, that is not to say that each day is easy or even mildly difficult: some days are just brutal I can assure you.
So, what does that mean for me on an annual basis? Well, last year (2017) I walked just short of 2,100 miles; over 4,000,000 steps. For this year, I will top that number making another hundred or so miles to about 2,200 miles. To put that into perspective, that would be a walk from San Diego, California north to Seattle, Washington and then east to Duluth, Minn. then Chicago, Ill. and on to New York, NY.
People, that is a long, long walk.
Feet, don't fail me now!
I am a (currently) 59 year old 5' 10.5" man who weighs in at roughly 240 pounds. I have always been relatively active, playing softball (both fast and slow pitch), basketball, bowling, hunting, fishing and even some canoeing thrown in for good measure at times. When I went hunting, my favorite location routinely required a solid mile plus walk in across country all while carrying all of the hunting paraphernalia one needs on a full days hunt (including the removal of a deer at the conclusion of a successful days hunt). But this is something altogether different as it is a requirement to assist in various venues, carrying items from one to another location uphill and down, in heat that reaches 115 degrees F and cold that drops to -20 degrees F at times, in storms with heavy rainfall, strong winds and lightning as well as snow, ice, sleet and freezing rain. To be able to complete my rounds, footwear is absolutely the single most important item on my shopping list. To that end, I have gone through several pairs of boots over the past two years and I would like to share my findings with you.
Georgia Giant Boot
I found these boots a few years ago while working at another job that required me to walk in all weather; not to the extreme I do now but a respectable couple of miles a day while working. I had worn out (after five years) a pair of Lacrosse boots that I just absolutely loved. I tried to find another pair of them, going so far as to contact Lacrosse themselves. Unfortunately, they had discontinued them but did offer me a deal I have yet to take advantage of. Maybe someday, if I can find a pair of boots I like from them again.
Enter the Georgia Giant boot. Several years ago I fractured some bones in my right foot while showing my Labrador Retriever in an AKC show. While I know its not a tragic clogging accident, it still hurts if I do not have a good solid boot on. So, I looked and looked and found this pair. When slipping it on the first time I literally sighed with pleasure. It was like slipping on a pair of the most comfortable slippers, not a boot. I love them!! However, they only last so long and eventually the sole wears down to a point I can't wear them anymore for work. The uppers are still in great shape even if the soles aren't. Altogether the $110 I spent on them at Atwood's Farm Store was money well spent.
My wife tried to buy a pair online for me to replace these. The first pair we received I wore for a day and found that one of the rivets was not properly set, resulting in a blister on the top of my foot after only a few thousand steps. She bought them on Amazon, so she contacted the buyer, returned this pair and had another pair shipped. This pair had another bad rivet, resulting in one of the tie hooks not being in its proper place. We sent this pair back as well.
I am not keen on buying boots online anymore. I prefer to go into a store and try them on myself, walk around and see how they feel. Call me old fashioned...
Doc Martin Airwalkers
Early summer 2017, I went to a local shoe store to look at another pair of boots for myself. I hate wearing the exact same boots day after day, wearing them out so fast. I wanted a pair that would be comfortable, a bit cooler for the summer heat and yet not cost me an arm and a leg for my feet. I found these on a sale rack, with the normal $100 price cut down to a mere $30. A bargain, if they fit.
They did and they felt pretty good on my feet as well. I figured "Why not?" and bought them.
So, how did they do? Actually, they are not too bad. I had heard good things about Doc Martin shoes but this was my first experience with them first hand. The uppers did well, lasting close to a year before my big toe began wearing through the leather above it. I didn't wear them everyday, alternating them with other boots while walking at work. I rarely wore them away from work, preferring to save them for the job. And while the bottom did wear down and the inner sole compress down to virtually nothing, I can say that someone wearing them on a job that didn't require my sort of exercise daily would probably be quite happy with them. As for me, while good they just weren't up to the task of my ten plus miles a day work habit. I'll give them a C+.
Brahma Waterproof Bravo
In summer of 2017 I purchased these as a pair to wear in rainy weather. They were not an expensive choice, just a pair to wear for those days when my more costly and supposedly better built pairs of boots would not be worn.
The soles were softer, and while comfortable I felt they would not stand the test of time in my work environment. I did replace the insoles with better, gel inserts to help my tired feet cope with the miles. So, how did they do?
Believe it or not, they performed extremely well. especially considering their price. I walked in the rain to begin with in these boots, then in the sun, heat, wind, hail, snow, ice and everything Mother Nature threw at me. I began to wear them almost every single day I worked. My Grade? A+!
Wrangler Rugged Oxford
I purchased these spring 2018 as a pair to wear for the summer. I had my new boots (I will discuss these later) to which were difficult to break in and needed something to give my feet a break. I didn't want to spend too much as I had just dropped a large amount (to me) on the boots so after looking around I settled on these.
Man, did I get what I paid for with them. Within mere weeks of wearing these a couple odd days a week they began to break down. First the soles, which were so soft that after only two days they were wearing down. Then the area over the big toe broke through so I could see my sock! They are now relegated to fishing shoes for when I wade a creek or the lake. These are very poor shoes, not well made or containing quality materials. Unless you rarely move your feet I would steer clear of this shoe. Grade is a D-.
Purchased early spring 2018 after an intensive hunt for a good, solid pair of boots I found these and they are a high quality pair of boots. I had been into at least two dozen stores that day and was about to give up when I stopped for gas. On the other side of the gas pump a man got out and I happened to look at his boots. I liked them and asked him what they were and where he bought them at. To my utter shock, he told me the name of the store and it was literally the one I had just left five minutes before! After filling up my tank I hurried back to the store and asked for this specific pair of boots. The salesperson, who just minutes before told me he didn't have any boots like I described, took me to this pair, which were exactly like I had described to him!
Shake my head.
Anyway, I bought them for their construction as well as their style. The sole is sturdy, made of a hard material which is wearing very well, and has a good tread design that works well in all types of weather. All leather, they took a while to break in and my feet had a hard time during this period. But once broken in they are quite comfortable. The only negative I can say is that they are not waterproof. They are water resistant but a good rain still gets my feet wet. I suppose I will end up putting a waterproofing on them at some point. At this point I will give this pair a grade of A.
Red Head ASC II
Red Head ASC II
With my Wolverine's not being waterproof, my Brahma Bravo's wearing down and no longer waterproof, I needed a pair of boots to wear in snow, rain, and sleet at work. I found these in a sale catalog and decided to take a look at them at the local Bass Pro Shop.
The ASC II is waterproof and has some Thinsulate for some warmth. I decided on the zip front, as I figured they would be something I would take to work and change into should the need arise which would be easy to get into and out of. I tried a pair on in my size and was at the register before the salesman could ask me if I wanted to apply for their credit card (he chased me down and asked anyway, as did the cashier).
Good: easy on, easy off just like I wanted. Warm and dry, just as they were advertised. I like them and they were even half price!
Bad: the sole is really, really soft. I mean, I can squeeze the sides of the shoe together soft. And after wearing them for two days at work in the intermittent rain I worry about how long they will last. The sole is already showing signs of wear on the heel and in the ball of the foot area. I doubt they will make it 200 miles at work. They might be just fine and dandy for someone wearing them in the woods and fields, but concrete, asphalt and gravel will destroy them. Ah well, if I wear them ONLY when I need them, carry them to and from work when it isn't raining they might be okay. I guess. Too soon to give a grade on as I have only worn them for a couple of days.
My current pair
So, after buying multiple pair of boots over the last two years, spending anywhere from $30 to $120 each, walking over 4,000 miles and wearing out virtually every pair I bought last year, I decide to get another pair to start 2019 with.
For overall comfort, durability combined with cost I bought another pair of Brahma Bravo's. They just stood up to everything I (and nature) threw at them, the uppers survived well and while the sole eventually wore out it took a while, believe me. At the end of December, after a couple of days of light rain and me coming home with wet feet (regardless of the waterproofing I put on the leather uppers) I finally realized why me feet were getting wet: I had literally walked a hole in the sole of each boot! For the first time in my life I had walked the soles off a pair of shoes!
Now, if you recall these soles were soft, making them easy to break in and walk in from the get go. I had my concerns about how long the sole would last but they did indeed stand the test of time (and miles!). For the overall value of comfort, cost and durability I can heartily say this boot is well worth looking into. Rugged yet comfortable, easy to walk in yet durable, the Brahma Bravo checks off every category.
Table showing what, how much, miles walked and where purchased.
Miles (at SDC)
Bass Pro Shops
While my Wolverine boots are the most expensive, they did take the longest to break in but will end up lasting a long time. If I alternate them with the Brahma Waterproof Bravo's and Red Head ASC II's I should be good to go for this year and well into next year I would think. At 2,000 plus miles a year, my 4,500,000 steps at 2 1/2 feet per stride should be in comfort, remaining dry in wet weather and if I keep using an insert for the bottom of my feet I should be okay.
My advice to you, gentle reader, is to search out a pair that makes your feet feel good. They might be expensive, they might be affordable, they might look good or not: it doesn't matter. Get the pair that makes your feet feel good if you walk anything like I do. Do not be afraid to try a pair that you might think are cheap (Brahma Bravo!) they might just surprise you.
© 2019 Mr Archer