Saturday, April 11, 2015

GEAR REVIEW: Vasque Breeze Hiking Boots

Hands down, these are the best footwear of any kind that I have owned to date. Shoes have always been a high-wear situation for me. Not only do I seem to have one leg longer than the other, but I've always been pretty tough on equipment. Not by intent, just by nature. Spring of 2014, when I was preparing for a summer of adventure I went to REI and spent awhile picking out a backpack, but I also wanted to pick up a good pair of boots. While the backpack selection process took some time finding the right fit, I found a great pair of boots right out of the gate with a little help from one of their sales people.

While some hikers are eschewing boots in favor of lighter trail runners shoes I've always had a rocky relationship with my ankles. I'm no stranger to twisting and spraining them so I definitely wanted a boot that would provide some support there in adverse terrain. Not to mention, having a pack on my back, and needing greater support because of that. So, I laid out my beginner status, and went over a few of the boot options and it was pointed out that the Vasque Breeze boots happened to not only fit what I was looking for and work well as an entry level boot but also they were on sale at the time. While I love the concept of the REI dividend, I always seem to be buying things there on sale, or using my 20% off coupon, and never really building up much of a dividend.

I donned a pair of wool socks and the Vasque Breeze boots, and wandered the store for awhile. Unlike my backpack, where I became certain that I would need another model, I rapidly became sure that these were the right boots for me. Between the padding of the wool sock, and the fit of the boot these were the most comfortable shoe I'd ever worn. I was practically in love with them, and all I had done was wander the store in them. REI even has a neat fake rock slope for you to traverse in your shoes, to see how they handle on something other than store tile and carpet. Bought the boots and a pair of REI Light Merino Wool Socks.

Since then, I've put them through their paces in all manner of places. I've been on multiple camping trips, from Van Buren state park in Michigan, all the way out to Flint Ridge in California. They served me in wandering Eugene, they even alleviated most of the damage I did trying to go down to tube on the river in a pair of bad sandals that left me with some really gnarly blisters. I took a day off my feet and the next day, between the padded wool socks and the boots, I was 90% mobile again, hardly even felt the blisters. I spent part of that trip on the oregon coast at Yachats with some friends and leaping from rock outcropping to rock outcropping really made me glad for the grippy vibram soles on those boots which did a most admirable job in giving me traction even on some sketchy moist stone surfaces.

They've been great closer to home as well. a recent trip to High Cliff State Park proved very, ah, muddy and moist. I started down a trail only to find it was far squidgier than expected and would have regretted forging on ahead if it hadn't been for these excellent boots and my trekking poles. Whether negotiating a muddy patch of trail or kicking through grass wet with morning dew, these boots have done a great job of keeping my feet dry. One thing you want to keep in mind, is to have a portion of your wool socks sticking up above the collar of the boot, so that they have a place to wick the moisture to. Otherwise the goretex lining that keeps that incidental moisture out, will just trap your own sweat in. As the "breeze" name hints, though they're water resistant, they're also vented. So, if you plunge your foot into a running stream for long enough I imagine you're going to come out fairly moist. Passing submergences, such as I've had on the high cliff trails, including one instance where the mud went up over the laces, and then another shortly after where I kicked through some running meltwater to clean the mud off, and my foot stayed perfectly dry. The mud came right off too, they're actually cleaner now than they had been before that hike.

Would I recommend these boots? ABSOLUTELY. I would heartily endorse trying them on yourself, to see if they fit your foot. Boots are one of the things that are such an intensely personal matter of fit that I can't say "Everyone should buy these" but I am entirely comfortable making a glowing endorsement of them and recommending that everyone should consider TRYING them.

With something like this, I strongly recommend buying them in-store after trying them on. However, if you're game to order and return in the event that they don't suit you as beautifully as they do for me, you can order them from REI here.

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