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qlilac

AFFORDABLE Hiking Shoes

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I know, I know, I SHOULD invest in a good pair of shoes for hiking. BUT considering I'm only just starting, and really only going on one trip to Acadia National Park before the winter sets in (and including my low funds status), I'm looking for a pair that maxes out at maybe $60.

 

 

Does anyone have good suggestions for places to look? I've checked out Kohls, DSW, and Target so far. Any brands that offer cheaper options?

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I grabbed a pair of Saucany this past spring for $50. Heavy grip tread, very lite, breathable. I've worn them as my everyday shoe for months.

Zappos is your friend.free shipping, free returns. Pick out a few pairs based on your criteria, order, try them all on, send the others back, keep the one that fits best. Their business model is designed for this, makes it super easy!

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Honestly if they're just being used for a single hike before winter, I'd save the money and wear a good pair of comfortable sneakers.  Most good hiking shoes take a lot of shorter/easier hikes to break them in properly (good way to avoid foot pain/injury).  I'd say a good pair of shoes that you've already broken in and gotten used to would suffice just fine for a single hike.

I run a hiking group and have led over 30 hikes since I started it this spring with hikers of all levels, very few use dedicated hiking shoes, most just go with a good pair of running shoes and do just fine.  We hike an average of 9 miles with several 15-20 mile hikes mixed in on all sorts of terrain, bushwhacking, climbing straight up the sides of mountains, you name it.  Running shoes do just fine on all of this terrain.

All that said, hiking shoes are much like running shoes in that what fits one person well won't fit everyone else well.  What I usually tell people is that these shoes are like wizard wands, they choose you more than you choose them.  Any shoe that gets recommended to you by someone else, won't automatically work well for you.  Just one more reason why I'd like to stress you just use something you already have.  If they're lacking in support, grab some good insole inserts.

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I picked up a pair of New Balance Trail Running shoes at Dicks Sporting Goods last year for 49.99. I've used them for hiking and they are fantastic. 

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REI Garage has some great deals if you can find your size. You can get top brand name gear for half off (which is sometimes still too expensive for me!) or sometimes even more. They are clearance items, so if you have a common shoe size, it may be harder to find what you want.

 

 Eastern Mountain Sports is also worth checking out.  Their regular prices on things are about the same as REI, but they have a lot of sales and they let you use coupons on top of sale prices.  I got a $100 rain jacket for $40 because it was on sale, I had a coupon, and they sent me a $10 off your next purchase thing, and they let me use all three!

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I would suggest Men's Moab FST Mid Waterproof boots. This boots are usually around $140 but you are able to get them on sale for about $84. I will tell you that they are worth every dollar. They are waterproof, warm, and comfortable. The grips are great, no sliding.

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i watch Steep and Cheap, which is like a clearinghouse for Backcountry. I got a pair of trail shoes for 1/3 their original price when a new model came out.

 

That being said I have hiked in Kohls store brand hiking boots and they were not terrible.  I wouldn't want to be doing 20 mile days in them but for day hikes they are fine.

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I have an old pair of Meindl mountain boots (civilian version of the "Bergschuh, leicht" that the german army issues to the mountain troops) which I use only rarely. Grippy sole, indestructible leather, and a very firm ankle support. I wear these only when the trails get really rough, which is... ah... very rare. On normal roads or trails, they feel to stiff for me. 

For "normal" hiking or rucking, I often wear my old army-issued combat boots. Being all leather, they suck when it's warm. Anything over 15-20°C and you'll soak your feet in sweat. But they're tough and (if polished regularly with the army-issued shoe paste) reasonably watertight, so a good choice when walking through muddy stuff or over wet grass. But most of the time, I just wear cheap 3rd-party "desert"/warm climate combat boots. You know, the hybrid stuff, fabric with leather reinforcements. They are much more breathable, so a lot nicer in warmer temperatures, but the padded fabric also keeps your feet reasonably warm when it get's cold. As long as they don't get whet. When equipped with gore-tex or similar, they can be water repellent enough that a bit of snow or wet grass won't soak them, but put them in water like hiking up a creek, or even just planting your foot in a pudle, and they will fail, unlike a properly cared for leather boot.
The cheapest ones can be had less than 60€. All of these have a limited durability - all pairs I've ever had started to disintegrate from the inside of the heel. A lot of the cheaper ones will also have their sole worn out by this time. My current pair is by 101 INC (~75€) and recently started to disintegrate at the heel padding after 1.5 years. That makes them the longest lasting pair of hybrid fabric/leather boots I ever had; 1.5 years is not that bad considering I wore those nearly daily. The cheaper MilTecs I had before were completely done is less than one year... not only with disintegrating padding, but also but with worn out soles. Won't buy those again. 

So this is the cheap stuff. The more reputable brands like Haix, Meindl, Lowa will charge you ~150-200€/pair. Would be interesting to see if these last longer enough to justify the price difference. On the one hand, all three of these are current or former suppliers to Bundeswehr, police, THW, fire brigades and rescue services, and for example my Haix firefighter boots are 15 years old by now - but I only wear them once a month and a C3-unit is light duty. The guys from the technical platoon and the debris clearing group wear through theirs in 3-5 years (they are called out more often, and their job is a LOT tougher). On the other hand all those are leather boots, and I don't know for sure if this durability translates over to the fabric/hybrid boots. But take MilTec, for example; even their leather combat boots don't last... So yes, I expect quite lot more from Haix/Meindl/Lowa and the like*. 
Oh, and before somebody misunderstands the last paragraph: do NOT hike in firefighting boots. Soles are way to stiff. This was just a durability rant.


PS: the shoes I liked best were my very first pair of combat boots. Lasted for 12 years, worn nearly every day. Including my time in basic training, both as a recruit and later as a drill instructor... so they saw lots of abuse. Unfortunately, they don't make them like they used to, the newer army boots are glued together, the old style was double-stitched. Trabert still makes a traditional model, but hell, are they expensive...


*Other reputable brands include Hanwag, Trabert, Dachstein... 

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