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GeneralRecommended Foot Wear - What boots should I get?

15th Mar 2018 16:32 UTCScott Rider

Hello all!

I've been trying for a long time to find hiking or work boots that fit my needs whilst I venture into the Colorado Rockies. I have used Timberland, Dr. Martens, Sketchers, Dexter boots, generics (which turned out the longest lasting), and a couple other cheap brands.. I have not tried Merrill and some of the $100+ boots as in my experience the deteriorate quickly at no matter what price range. In fact, I was desperate to get boots on a trip and had to get some from WalMart and they are still being used.

My problem is I have size 14 and almost no stores carry sizes that large. The Wallyworld boots are 13's but wides, still they are starting to hurt my toes. Ironically, they are in great shape still after 7-8 months of use... By far the best and the cheapest.. Go figure... But this why I am searching for that perfect pair and asking you all on Mindat!

I have searched for a topic on this and ran into this older topic: https://www.mindat.org/forum.php?read,6,216837,216846. It really didn't address me needs. Plus, I've been warned by a few friends not to use steel-tip boots in case I have a huge rock fall on my foot (which has happened before) and cut my toes off... So I've not bought any steel tipped boats (plus they mess up my toes anyway).

What brands work best for you all in terms of durability AND comfort? I have crappy busted up toes so I need to shop online to get a 14+ shoe as the current boots are just killing my toes. I won't have the luxury of trying on new pairs either as most stores simply refuse to carry over 13s..

Any help on this is greatly appreciated!

15th Mar 2018 17:34 UTCDaniel Bennett

my northface all terrain shoes are the best i have used. i guess you would need to contact the company about larger sizes.

15th Mar 2018 18:57 UTCScott Rider

Thanks Daniel! I haven't thought of cross-trainers and other types of shoes besides hiking or work boots. I have some running shoes, I may give them a shot in Lake George. The problem I've keep running into is that the boots will wear out around the sides because I'll be in a hole, or a pile of rocks that eventually tear them apart. Plus I will hike miles and that doesn't help the durability either..

I did find an old pair of Timberlands I used years ago... They are shredded, but still in one piece. I threw them on and they are still comfy. Problem with those is they are insulated, so they don't work well in the summer heat.

15th Mar 2018 18:59 UTCPaul Brandes Manager

Most of the good outdoor stores (Cabelas, Bass Pro, Dicks, etc.) will carry larger size boots. If they don't, they can order them and have them shipped to you. Not sure where you're at, but if there is an Academy Outdoors nearby, they stock a good selection of large boots as well. You might also try Duluth Trading Company.

As far as boot brand; I have always had great luck with either Wolverine or Red Wing. Yes, they are a bit expensive, but you certainly get what you pay for when it comes to boots. If you have foot issues, look for a pair of Wolverine Durashocks. They are very comfortable for all day wear.

15th Mar 2018 19:35 UTCLarry Maltby Expert


I am an incurable story teller so I will apologize in advance. Your size 14’s reminded me of a business trip that we took to Japan in the late 1980’s. Our hosts planned a traditional Japanese dinner for us where it was proper for us to take off our shoes and sit cross legged around a low table. We filed in and took our places at the table but our hosts did not come into the room. After some time we got up to check on them. They were standing in a circle looking in amazement at a pair of shoes. They were Hal’s size 15’s. One guy was able to put them on backwards and scuff around. Anyway a good time was had by all including Hal.


15th Mar 2018 20:25 UTCScott Rider

Great story Larry!! I took Japanese in high school and when we had exchange students come to the US, they were simply stunned about how everything is HUGE in America... They were amazed how big the school was and how big the homes they stayed where (average Japanese home is considerably smaller than in the US). But I think what amazed them more was the fact Denver was so spralling, yet the population was "small."

They were from Kyoto, not the biggest city in Japan, but its more compact a city than Denver. It has about 250% the population per square mile. But still, there average home were like rooms to some homes here in the US. The average sq footage of a Japanese "home" did surprise me (if you believe Google), at 1,300.... I would have thought it be much less, especially with Tokyo apartments being so tiny...

Back to my topic though, I think Paul's suggestion to try Cabelas, and Bass Pro, and also check out the Army surplus that's close to my home. I will try on some boots there, and then buy the one I like online!

15th Mar 2018 20:46 UTCErin Delventhal Manager

I am a faithful fan of Keen brand hiking boots - my first pair I wore during many backpacking expeditions, digging trips, and eventually just every day. They lasted years and I only recently finally caved to getting a new pair.

They're extraordinarily comfortable (to the point where I really try to avoid having to wear any other shoes) and have lasted extremely well for me.

15th Mar 2018 21:24 UTCScott Rider

Erin, you made a great suggestion. Judging by the reviews I am seeing, I may have a tougher choice to make LOL! Keen seems to have quite a good reputation, and the prices are right in line with the others I am looking at... But I think I'll put that on my list of potentials! I don't think I have ever put this much effort into a shoe purchase before... A car, a contractor, yes.... But not shoes LOL!!!

I am still torn between getting a steel tip shoe or getting a "soft" toe... My paranoia around having the steel clamped on my toes after a rock falling on them makes me hesitate... But of course, without that those toes could just break... This is my conundrum...

15th Mar 2018 22:14 UTCKeith Compton Manager


I think it is also important to assess the tasks and the ground on which you will working and to ensure that the tread is intact. Poor soles not only are uncomfortable but are dangerous as they may cause slipping as well as leak water or other contaminents that may be in a mine or quarry site. You need to consider wet and dry conditions - rocks can be very slippery when wet. A well-defined tread pattern – the more edges, the firmer the grip, rubber soles offer more slip resistance on wet rocks than polyurethane soles, Different tread patterns are suited to the size and type of contaminants, but for general collecting I would simply suggest a well defined tread - perhaps a V pattern.

As to whether steel capped or very strong leather - I have seen where steel caps are mandatory and others where it was a no no.

The main consideration should be foot protection and I consider that the firm leather and high ankle support to be best, plus a good tread..

You could also consider military boots.

15th Mar 2018 22:19 UTCKyle Bayliff

I got a pair of Wolverine boots recently. They are by far the toughest set of footwear I've ever owned. Pretty happy with them.

15th Mar 2018 22:42 UTCScott Rider

Keith, thanks for the input. I have considered military boots. I'm even heading to the Army surplus tonight after work and see if they have any deals.

Most of the areas I dig are like Lake George, Devil's Head, Sagauche area. But primarily I dig through pegmatites. So the debris is usually what tears my stuff apart. I try to clear out where I am digging, but when you hit a pocket you lose that desire! I don't go into mines (unless I am with my club), but I've been digging around Calumet lately, but the adits are sealed and no one should go in there anyway. So I try to stay away from that risk.

I definitely will get waterproof boots as I have dug in the rain and snow many times. I usually am quite prepared for those situations. I carry a yellow rain suit all packed up in my backpack that I carry my tools.

Basically my requirements are high ankle support, good soles, extra wide for my big arse feet, waterproof, and have excellent traction... So far the Keen, Wolverine and Timberland are my considerations.

15th Mar 2018 22:54 UTCKeith A. Peregrine


Like you, I'm using Wallyworld (Brahma, to be exact) size 13 (I've always worn 12's, but in the past 10 years or so, 12's seem to have shrunk in size). They usually last me 2 years scurring across the poor rock piles up on the UP of Michigan. Biggest problem has been shoe laces (What?). They barely last 3 - 4 digs, then they begin to fray and then disintegrate quickly. Then I use generic, which then last me the life of the shoes.

Main problem has been keeping them watertight. Usually not a problem during the summer and fall (July, August, and September), but the past two years August has been wet. Despite emptying a can of water repellant on them at the beginning of the season, they begin to crack where the shoes flex toward the toes. Friends use leather boots to good affect, but they always seem to chaff the back of my heels. So, I'll replace them every two years. Main problem is that Wallyworld seems to change their offerings every couple of years. Been fortunate with Brahma, though they seem to be vanishing from the shelves this past year.

Ironically, the soles tend to go first. Guess it might be stepping on the sharp basalt rocks. They gradually soften, then something sharp thrusts through.

Let us know what you decide. Might need to go that way at the end of collecting season this year.


16th Mar 2018 12:38 UTCAlfred L. Ostrander

The myth that steel toed work boots will cut off your toes if subjected to a heavy impact has been quite thoroughly busted. Google the subject for yourself if you don't believe it. At some point in time, a very heavy weight will do severe damage or crush your foot no matter what you are wearing.

Secondly, a number of quarries I have been in over the years require steel toed boots. Another reason to invest in good boots. Conditions in quarries are really tough on any boot. Work safe. Replace worn boots before they fall apart. That may be more important than the cut your toes off myth. May be? :-}

16th Mar 2018 13:36 UTCLuca Baralis Expert

Just some thought:

waterproof is usually also sweat-proof, so,unless you have to work in spills or creek, it is better not to go too far in this, expecially if you dig in a hot weather

if you dig and walk in an impervious environment, common plastic/rubber waterproof boots don't support enough you ankles; nor safety plastic/rubber waterproof boots do. It's not safe

In my experience, the most of safety shoes and boots don't give a good grip on the natural ground: much better an hiking boot. May be you can find better ones, anyway.

Last, steel toed boots and steel soles makes your boot heavy and less flexible. So you will have to struggle in walking on long paths.

16th Mar 2018 14:44 UTCWayne Corwin

I would have no toes on my right foot, if not for steel toe boots.

I worked at quarrys for most of my life, one place I had a 6 ton rock split and slide down on top of my foot.

I ws trapped for over 2 hrs till I could dig and chip my foot out from under that rock.

I would have lost my toes and 1/2 my foot had the steel toe in the boot had not kept the rock from crushing it.

So let that be a lesson to all who say they are bad.

If the steel toe would cut off your toes... well, you would have lost them anyways!

16th Mar 2018 15:27 UTCKeith A. Peregrine

Great observation, Wayne. While I've never been in your dire situation, I've had numerous rocks roll onto my feet. Fortunately, less than 50 Kgs!

16th Mar 2018 15:33 UTCScott Rider

I'll have to agree with you all re the steel tip shoes. After research it seems it all boils down to "you get what you paid for..."

I'm thinking I'm going to buy 2 pairs, one with steel tips and ones without. My reasoning is that I can use the non steel tip on my long hikes prospecting and when I'm doing serious digging I'll use the steel tip ones.

I've already bought a pair of Keen Pittsburg that the army surplus had for half off as the didn't have a box but the appear brand new. They are super lightweight, got them for $80 but I'm thinking about Danner and Carolina work boots with steel tips as the alternative. The guy at the surplus highly recommends the Danners. I'm not familiar with that brand but they have very good reviews online. And the surplus has lots of 14s for that brand...

Thank you all for your input. Anyone have any experience with Danner boots? The one thing I've read is that they aren't too wide even on the wider ones... I will go back and try them on...

16th Mar 2018 15:58 UTCPaul Brandes Manager

Another thought concerning "steel" toed boots.

Many manufacturers now have boots with a composite material for the toe and shank that has the same ANSI ratings as a true steel toe/shank, but the weight of the composite is much lighter than steel, thus making the entire boot less weight. As you're thinking of Scott, I have a pair of non-steel and steel (actually composite) toed boots. The composite toe are the Wolverine Durashocks I was mentioning earlier and they are extremely comfortable for all day hikes and serious digging. The non-steel are Red Wing hikers and have been very good as well. Both boots are not cheap, but the RWs have lasted through almost five years of everyday use and other than a couple scuffs on the outside, they still perform great.

16th Mar 2018 17:01 UTCScott Rider

I think I'll see about those Wolverines and Red Wings. I'm keeping the Keen's as they were a steal and super comfortable. But the composite vs the steel toe was something I was thinking about as well. I'm heading back to the surplus after work, they had Wolverines, but I don't recall seeing the Red Wings. I'll give the Wolves a try though.

So far, the Keen Pittsburg boots are very comfortable. Granted, I'm at work and sit at a desk the whole day so I can't attest to their walkability when it comes to outdoors, but they excel for normal walking. Really supportive around the ankle and heel, and tons of side room as well. My feet are long and wide!

I am going to Salida tomorrow, going to hunt for some hessonite. I'll report back what I find. Maybe this tread will be useful in to others in the future!

19th Mar 2018 15:27 UTCScott Rider

Update to the Keens... They are quite good! I used them for my digs this weekend in the Turret District in Colorado. First location was a garnet prospect, with lots of jagged and sharp rocks. Dug there for about 5 hours and had ZERO foot fatigue, no toe pain and the grip is amazing!!! I don't slip on rocks anymore, these things are like glue!!! I was worried about the jagged rocks tearing the sides apart but there is barely a scratch!! I found my boots!!!

On Sunday, however, I went to Calumet to dig. Got bored, as I found what I usually find there so I went on an adventure. Well I took the wrong turn onto a terrible road. I ended up going up a road that had no where to turn around and when I found a small area to try to turn around, I ended up getting stuck in a rut. It was a flat area and looked like a parking spot, boy was I wrong.. I had to spend 3-4 hours digging myself out. My entire body was totally soaked as I had to dig below and around my car to get it out... But my feet were warm and dry, so I can attest that these things are waterproof considering I was in about a foot of snow at times in that horrible rut...

A little snow went down the sides, but if the laces are tied properly, dirt nor snow can enter the boot!! That is another huge advantage, stuff doesn't get into the boot easily... Anyway, I highly recommend the Keens! Great boots indeed!

19th Mar 2018 17:18 UTCDaryl Babcock

I wear 14s as well and finding anything that works is expensive and painful. Then add in that I spend as much time as I can climbing around the Thomas Range and its rhyolite I go through boots quickly.

Like you I find the more expensive boots look nice and initially fit and feel nice as well, but fall apart quickly in real world conditions. Almost always it is the expensive synthetic soles that give out even just walking desert sand.

I am currently using Timberland Men's White Ledge Mid Waterproof Ankle Boot,Black,14 M US on Amazon at $60 last year, $80 this.

They are the only boots so far to make it more than 90 days with me and these are over 5 months old and still have a full good sole.

For me I will never buy boots with a synthetic sole again, rubber or nothing!

19th Mar 2018 19:12 UTCRachel Cesana

Hi Scott

I've had good luck will with L.L. Bean Gortex Cresta boots. They are waterproof and sturdy and they breath for summer heat. I've had mine for 5 years and love them. They go up to size 15 so you should be able to find your fit. they are a bit pricey at $249.00 but you get what you pay for.

Rachel Cesana

19th Mar 2018 19:41 UTCBrian Gray

I have a pair of Georgia Boot Co. boots with carbon fiber toes instead of steel. Much stronger, lighter in weight, and not as cold in winter. I heartily suggest carbon fiber toes.

20th Mar 2018 00:06 UTCcascaillou

I'm using AKU Superalp Gtx:


My criterias:

-not too rigid (which would be uncomfortable for long walks), but not too flexible either (as that wouldn't be suitable for rocky environment such as screes, especially with a heavy backpack)

-high profile: protects your ankle (good to prevent sprains or snake bites), and suitable if you plan to walk through shallow streams, or in snow during winter

-gore-tex lining: air can penetrate but water can't (allows your feet to breathe while still allowing you to walk in water or snow without your feet getting wet). Note: you should still apply waterproofing spray on the leather from time to time.

-vibram sole: provides good grip, and comfort for long walks

-a wide black rubber rand all around the shoe which makes it more durable against rocky environment (such as screes)

-not too narrow at the point so to provide room for the toes

-versatility (indeed I wanted a single set of shoes that I could use both in summer and winter, and that would do fine both for trekking and mountaineering)

1st May 2018 22:12 UTCScott Rider

Just in case anyone is wondering what boots to obtain, I still hold by my recommendation to get a pair of Keens. The Keens have withstood the test of probably 10 plus days of digging (5-6 hrs each day), and also withstood pegmatite quartz shards, which are notorious for destroying shoes. The sharp edges can just cut through rubber and textiles, and until my Keens, none could withstand the abuse .

One thing to think of, my boots are not waterproof. They have numerous "vents" on the sides of the shoes to allow venting. That works wonderfully, my feet have not been soggy or stinky! I also think it helps with the dexterity of the shoe. When I am in a hole, the shoes are bent and twisted while I move around. And the soles tend to start coming apart right at the part of the shoe that bends near the toes.

Shoes that are entirely leather or other material, without the "vents" seem to peel off at the soles more than with the vents. My theory is that the sides of the shoe are more flexible with the vents, so there is less stress where the sole is adhered to the rest of the shoe. And because I'm in a funky position for hours at a time, I have not seen degradation on any part of the sole.

In any event, there are scuff marks all over the boots, but no tears, the sole is still attached with no indications of failing there, and the shoes don't stink yet (hot summer may change that).

The image is the same boot I have. The vents are the gray areas.

15th Aug 2019 23:58 UTCScott Rider

Another follow-up to the Keen boots in case anyone else is shopping for good hiking boots.  They are finally falling apart.  The soles are tore to shreds, yet they still have excellent grip somehow.  They've lasted about 3 dozen trips (maybe even more) to the mountains so they've certainly met my expectations but didn't exceed them as I did only buy they in March, 2018.... I've probably hiked hundred plus miles on these suckers... I only paid about $80 for them so I am not too saddened...  I'm looking into a work boot with a steel tip this time around, in the hopes they last longer.  

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