Hiking boots with wide toe bed and good arch support and...
October 17, 2013 1:50 PM   Subscribe

After a lifetime of wearing out hiking boots prematurely (blowing out the toe beds mainly). I found a brand (keen) and style that worked great. But... Now those boots are coming to their lifetime end and I need to replace them. Keen no longer makes that style and the only other Keen Hiker I've tried and liked they don't make a size that fits.

So I need new hiking boots, which will get worn from early fall to late spring near continuously, with:
1. wide toe bed
2. good arc support
3. come in 12/12.5/13 sizes so it's likely I'll nail the sizing correctly depending on variation of manufacture.
4. sturdy construction

In the past I've tried:
Timberland (ok/too narrow)
Merrell (ok/too narrow)
Keen (currently)
Northface (hated/too narrow and crappy construction)
various cheap assed brands

have considered Redwings, but looking at them, while I like a lot of what I see, I don't think they have the arch support needed.

If you have suggestions I'd greatly appreciate not only brand names, but specific style names as well. Priced - up to $200, but better be great for the high end of that.

posted by edgeways to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I know you said Timberlands are too narrow, but they do have wide sizes. I'm currently wearing a 14W and it fits like a glove. I generally wear a 14 4E, so they're pretty wide.
posted by sanka at 1:56 PM on October 17, 2013

I have Keen-sized feet and I have had a lot of luck with Ecco boots and I wear them basically from October through April. I have something like this but with even less detailing, just staight up boot. My previous boots were a pair of Redwings and I liked them a lot and they got so worn in they felt like they were hiking socks after a while, in a good way. The Eccos were wider. I have flattish feet however so neither had much in the way of arch support but you could get insoles for them.
posted by jessamyn at 2:01 PM on October 17, 2013

Why not Redwings with insoles? My co-workers (on our feet on concrete for 15 hour days) swear by Superfeet greens. Also, I presume you're talking 12-13 mens, rather than 12-13 womens, but you don't specify.
posted by mollymayhem at 2:07 PM on October 17, 2013

Keens are known for their wide toe boxes -- have you tried all the different models of Keens or just a few? Also, a lot of their boot models also come in a lower cut shoe model, so if you're not opposed to shoes instead of boots you might try those if it's just a matter of what's in stock somewhere.

My last pair of boots were Keens, and I'm hiking in a pair of Vasques right now (women's Mantra 2.0) that I quite like. I do miss the giant toe cap on the Keens though -- the ones on my current shoes are peeling off after less than a year because I don't pick up my feet. Other than that, I like the shoes enough that I just glued them back on instead of returning them to REI.
posted by natabat at 2:23 PM on October 17, 2013

Response by poster: (yeah, men's srry for the oversight) thanks so far
posted by edgeways at 2:23 PM on October 17, 2013

I have found that the only hiking boots that seem to last a very long time, even with heavy use, are Italian-made all leather boots - e.g. Scarpa, Zamberlan, Asolo. They cost $300 or so, but over years of use, the cost is quite low per year, compared to $150 boots that won't last nearly half as long. Good quality leather also has the advantage that it can be quite effectively waterproofed, which cheaper boots can never be. Keen, Timberland, Merrell etc. are a clear step down in quality from this type of Italian boot.

I have recently downgraded my old Scarpas to work boots after about 7 years of hard and frequent use. They are holding together quite well, but the leather is wearing and doesn't waterproof very well any more. This is mostly a result of abrasion on sharp rock, rather than wear from use directly.

Wide toe bed fit is an issue - but you just have to try as many pairs as you can to find something that can work and then use insoles to get the best fit you can (I'm partial to the Montrail heat-moldable ones).
posted by ssg at 2:24 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have extremely wide feet and holy shit I love my Sorel Caribous.
posted by 256 at 2:55 PM on October 17, 2013

I need a wide toe bed and I'm really happy with the Saloman 3d GTX boots my local store recommended (after trying lots of different options). I was pretty wary of synthetic boots, but they were awesome and super light on a recent 8 day walk in the alps. Failing that, if you can get them, I would totally go for Altbergs, which I lust after, but weren't stocked local to me and I don't think buying boots online is a good idea...
posted by prentiz at 3:02 PM on October 17, 2013

Merrell also makes wide-sized shoes. My fiance swears by them. Nearly every single pair of regular shoes he's ever tried on is too narrow for him - this is a guy who found Keens to be too narrow! - but Merrell's wide size is just right (2E/4E? I can never figure out the naming scheme).
posted by dialetheia at 3:34 PM on October 17, 2013

I have super wide (E) feet with weird arches and love my Keen Voyageurs (women's 10.5). I've had them for 3 years and wear them constantly when doing field work from April - November. Previously I had a pair of Sorels with a wide sole.

Have you tried going into a decent outdoor store and seeing what the staff recommend? It took me about 4 tries before I found the right pair, thank goodness for the patient staff at MEC (Canada's version of REI).
posted by snowysoul at 4:07 PM on October 17, 2013

As always my standard response to any enquiry about boots is White's Boots and Shoes.
posted by X4ster at 4:20 PM on October 17, 2013

If a combat-style boot will work, try the Magnum Spider Desert. They're sturdy boots, very light weight (18 oz), and have decent arch support and the wide size is equivalent to a EEE size. I wear mine all day long and stay comfortable.

Or if you want to try Red Wings, go in to the store, and try a pair of boots and then add in the "orthotics" if they don't have enough arch support for you. They'll add $50 to the cost of the boots, but once molded to your feet, they're hard to beat. The only problem is that not all stores stock wide sizes, so you may have to wait a day or two for them to get shipped up from Red Wing.
posted by DaveP at 5:10 PM on October 17, 2013

Lowa's have done well for me in high and low quarter models.
If your feet ankles balance knees etc are up to it, Sperry is now making a boot version of the kinda indestructible topsider.
posted by buzzman at 9:42 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

You mention "blowing out the toe beds"- I assume you're referring to either a failure of stitching or material in the area forward of the ball of the foot. In footwear manufacturing parlance, this area is usually called the "toe box". If your problem is due to that part of your foot being too wide, then you need a differently-shaped boot; if the problem is due to crappy materials/craftsmanship, then you need a better quality boot.

I think ssg and buzzman are on the right track with their recommendations of better quality boots like Scarpa, La Sportiva, Lowa, Asolo, et al. One advantage of many Euro shoe brands is that they use European sizing, which has 4 more increments within a size run than U.S. sizing. I suggest you visit the websites for these companies to find a dealer in your area- see if you can find a smaller local store vs. a big chain retailer for the best chance of getting decent help- you want a salesperson that really knows how to fit boots, and not just where boot boxes are in the stockroom. And then, if you get quality help and find the right boot, please buy it locally instead of saving $10 and getting it online- give them a chance to earn your business!

When it comes to arch support, you should consider aftermarket insoles, specifically Superfeet. Even many high quality brands use insoles that are not very good, and though Superfeet aren't cheap, I buy them for my own shoes and find that they make a huge difference in comfort and support, especially if I'm on my feet for hours a day.

Anecdotal but relevant- Two years ago, a 6'3", 250 lb friend with size 13 wide feet and issues almost identical to yours asked my advice on what boot to buy; I advised him to check out the Lowa Renegade. He wound up buying a pair, and loves them. They're available in wide, and though their MSRP $220 is $20 beyond your stated budget, they should be more comfortable, last longer, and be a better long term purchase than many other boots.
posted by EKStickland at 10:35 PM on October 17, 2013

posted by professor plum with a rope at 11:04 PM on October 17, 2013

I've had a pair of the Lowa Renegade; they've been dusted scraped and beat hard; five minutes with a shoe polish brush and a tub of Kiwi minkoil and they look new again. German made. Metal eyelets will outlast leather eyelets; and teh double and triple stitching is a thing to look for.
There are articles that math out how a $200 shoe now for the next five -ten years is more affordable than the $100 shoe that lasts a year or two; some things are worth saving for or investing in.
posted by buzzman at 12:36 AM on October 18, 2013

Seconding Lowa. I've had my pair since 1999. Very wide toe box, very good arch support, which I specifically look for in shoes.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 2:54 AM on October 18, 2013

Response by poster: Thank all of you for the suggestions. There are at least a handful of suggestions that it looks like I'll be able to find around here, including the Lowa and ECCO. yeah, would prefer to buy local if possible both for being able to try it on and for local business support purposes.

Not so much the combat boots or the winter/Sorels though I appreciate the suggestions.

I suspect I'll mark the best answer after I actually buy something.

posted by edgeways at 9:15 AM on October 18, 2013

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