12 months ago I found myself with a broken pair of boots and an impending trek departure (on the Overland Track in Tasmania) within 48 hours. I had almost gone for a short training hike when I heard a clunk and felt my right boot loosen before I had even left the house. I thought about doing a duct tape repair (seriously is there anything that stuff can’t fix?) and then remembered the last wet walk I had done in a downpour – the water proofing membrane was clearly gone too, and with the weather forecasting snow in the alpine region of Cradle Mountain where we were headed, I decided I needed to do this trek with new boots.
Granted, I had worn my old boots out over the course of 2 years and had absolutely smashed them with treks in Nepal, Mt Kilimanjaro, Kangaroo Island and New Zealand plus the weekly hikes I did with my regular walking group and training hikes before heading off on treks. These boots had done the mileage and yep, I’ll admit, I probably didn’t look after them all that well either. I didn’t really clean them up too often or re-waterproof them as I might have been told to, but I loved them (they were Salomons) and I never had to “wear them in” nor did I get a single blister with them. Ever.
For a wide foot gal like me, I just thought I would grab another pair in my size and hop on the plane to Tassie the next day. No problems.
As it turned out Salomon didn’t make the kind of boot I had anymore. I discovered this by revisiting the shop I had purchased them from originally. I think I went into shock and walked out in a daze of confusion. I had just expected a purchase of the same boots in my size and see you later. Have a nice day oh and enjoy the trek!
I wasn’t able to think straight because I wasn’t sure I could pull off wearing a brand new pair of boots for the Overland Track with not being able to “wear them in”.
Could I wear in a new pair of boots in 24 hours?
If I wore a new pair of boots every hour between now and the Overland Track could I wear them in enough? 48 hours, actually less than 48 hours now and counting….
If I couldn’t wear Salomon what could I wear?
Was there a boot wide enough for me in other brands that was designed for a woman?
Should I change brands?
My head was spinning!
I didn’t even think to stay and try any others on, I just kind of walked out of the shop deep in thought and reconsidered the duct tape option. After all, I had told all my clients (and I mean this had been a mantra when discussing boots with newbies who came along to my weekend walking groups and new members in my Wise Women Walking program), never take a pair of boots on a trek without wearing them in first! Could I eat my own words? Could I pull this stunt off? Reckless, my mind was screaming at me. Don’t do it!
Within half an hour, I realised the duct tape would still not solve the water proof-ability problem, we were expecting snow for heaven sake, pull yourself together woman. I started the car and drove my reckless self to another retailer to see what they had in stock.
The sales person was awesome. I’ll admit my state of mind was a bit panicked. She listened, she listened some more and then she proceeded to bring out boxes and boxes of boots. Some were gorgeous, but they didn’t fit. Too narrow or too long. Some did fit, enough for me to think I could make them work but did I mention they were just plain fugly? I know I am always sprouting about how clothing and shoes should be purchased based on practicality/comfort over looks, (lord knows the rest of my wardrobe is testament to this – hiking for me has never been a fashion statement) but I was really struggling with the orangeness of one pair that dare I say it, were the most comfiest I had tried on after the first 10 pairs. Or 20 I had lost count. We had built a fort of boot boxes by this stage. And we were not done yet.
A brown pair of boots caught my eye. I went over to the men’s section and was drawn to a soft leather pair that looked warm, comfy and waterproof. Stuff it, I thought. I asked if they had my size.
“I’ll bring out the smallest size we stock because it’s a men’s boot,” she said, as she disappeared behind the folding doors.
I didn’t think they looked too manly, not that I cared, crikeys they weren’t orange so we were off to a good start. I’d bought men’s shoes before when I wanted a casual walking shoe so this was not new ground for me. These just looked, well, like my kinda boot. Wide, strong, sturdy and soft inside.
The sales woman returned and said, “You might be in luck! But to be safe, add another pair of socks in case they are too big”.
The shop was close to closing by now, I had to make a purchase in the next 10 minutes or I was back to duct tape. And wet feet. For 6 days.
I added another pair of thin socks, slid my feet in, laced up and stood up. I swear the boots sparkled under the stores downlights. I could hear an orchestra building up to crescendo in the distance, and a larger lady warming her vocals as though she was about to break into a high note, it might have been the store radio (or was that just in my head?). I felt a whole body tingle. Could these be “the ones”?
My feet actually felt like they had entered a pair of slippers, only I knew I could take on great distances with weight on my back and my injini and merino socks. They felt so strong, supportive, sturdy and comfortable. I suddenly felt invincible against snow, rain, deep puddles.
“They’re perfect!” I exclaimed.
I walked around the shop, up and down the step up to test the angle of uphill and downhill. I couldn’t believe it. I had found my boots!
“Just wear 2 pairs of socks for this trek to reduce the chance of blisters”, the sales woman told me.
20 pairs of boots and 2 hours later, I was ready to trek!
After high fiving the sales woman, I left as the staff locked the door behind me. I was ready to start wearing my boots while packing for Tassie.
I now owned a pair of Scarpas and dammit, they were awesome.
It was definitely a desperate risk worth taking. I didn’t really need to wear them in – they totally rocked it on the Overland Track. I had dry feet and not a single blister over 6 days.
Not only that, but one of my fellow female hikers had the exact same pair. Men’s boots my foot, ha! They really are built for anyone. Nearly 12 months on and they are still going strong.
Oh and I still tell my walking groups to wear their boots in.