My hiking boots died today. I’d like to observe a moment of silence to mark their passing.
It’s a sad, sad thing to have to retire a pair of boots. For those of you that don’t backpack or hike, I’m not sure you can really understand just how sad it is. You bond with your boots. They see you through mud, water crossings, gravel, snow, ice, sand, dust and whatever else the trail throws at you. They protect your feet, keeping them warm and dry, and once they’ve really been broken in, they become one with your feet, molding to the shape of your foot and your own walking style. It takes miles and miles to really break in and bond with a pair of boots. You take care of the leather, cleaning them with a brush and lovingly rubbing Sno-Seal (or other wax-based conditioning and waterproofing products) into them before and after each adventure, keeping them supple and waterproof. Eventually you can wear your boots and they are so comfortable you may as well be wearing slippers.
I’ve had this particular pair since the early 1990s, circa 1992 I believe. Yes, that’s about 15 years. I’ve put somewhere around 300+ miles on them over those years, doing both general light day hikes and extended backpacking trips. They’ve supported my feet and arches when I’ve carried around a pack weighing 65 pounds on my hips (any good backpacker knows the main weight of your backpack should rest on your hips, not your shoulders and back) on a 10 day, 100+ mile trip. They’ve done double duty as my snow & ice, and general nasty/vile weather shoes. And they have become as comfortable as a pair of slippers, only better because they have arch support and my slippers don’t.
This morning I discovered that, in the middle of a bout of nasty weather consisting of snow and freezing rain, the sole has decided to begin disconnect itself from part of the heel on one of the boots. This is not something that can be repaired without resoling both shoes however, because the sole itself is also disintegrating. So it’s time to retire them.