Ending the Search for Hiking Boots


I bought my very first pair of hiking boots about two years ago before leaving for the Peace Corps in Paraguay. My friend at the time was a military veteran who had grown to hate boots (he now lives in flip-flops) but due to his strenuous training and ability to endure strange and unusual punishments, he came shopping with me.

After a super short search at an outdoor supply store, we selected a pair of Columbia Dillon hiking boots. The outsole seemed durable, the leather was comfortable, and he had great success with the brand in the past. It was my first pair of boots and I was freaked out about leaving the continent so I was just glad that they had purple accents and weren’t too clunky. 
He turned out to be right about the boots. To this day the boots are incredibly comfortable, waterproof, and quite willing to take a beating. I’ve worn them for hours hiking in the rain on uneven terrain and my feet weren’t even phased by it. I haven’t had the honor of wearing them while hiking the Alpes during a snowstorm or anything but the Dillons have performed beautifully in every test I’ve ever put them through. The boots run true to my street shoe size but I was encouraged to get half a size larger. This works perfectly when wearing thick hiking socks and my feet don’t feel cramped. NOTE: I think Dillon has since been discontinued on Columbia.com though you can still find them online elsewhere.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago and I was at it again, this time making a more informed search. My ankle-height, waterproof boots are great for hikes in cooler weather but during steamy Atlanta treks during the summer they left my feet feeling hot and unhappy. I wanted a shoe that was more breathable and stopped below the ankle. Durability was also a major factor as I planned to take on more challenging hikes in the future.

I decided that durability was my main priority so I asked around and did a bit of research for the queens of reliable soles. Though I hear great things about Vibram soles, my boyfriend has a pair of boots with Keen soles that are ten years old and still kicking butt so I decided to start there. I set my budget to $100 (nearly impossible, right?) and began the search.

The Keen Shasta caught my attention because of the design. The shoes’ breathability also ticked off another requirement on my list. The leather is water resistant nubuck and the rest of the upper is mesh. They don’t offer a lot of arch support, which was the only downside. I have low arches that seem to “fall” while walking long distances so I moved on.
The next two that caught my eye were the Keen Targhee II and the Keen Palisades. Both had low profiles, breathable mesh, yet the Targhee seemed like the less breathable of the two shoes. (It reportedly has a higher degree of waterproofing.) The Palisades felt lighter on my feet. They have the EVA midsole and removable metatomical footbed that feels quite comfortable and forms to my foot well. I liked the arch support. I made the purchase, in half a size larger than I needed like I had with the Dillons.

I wore the shoes around the house just to make sure that I still liked them. Immediately I sensed that they were too big. While the toe area and the ball of my foot felt cozy, the shoe seemed too large around the ankle and heel. I figured that once I put my hiking socks on they’d fit better. I was wrong. The rest of the shoe remained comfortable but I could still feel my heel shifting slighting in and out of the shoe as I walked. BOTTOM LINE: If you have thin to average-sized heels, don’t bother getting the Palisade a size larger to accommodate your socks. The shoe just gets longer, not any wider, with size.

I returned the size 8 shoes and have a pair of 7.5 coming in the mail. Even with the opportunity to switch out to another shoe, I like the Palisades so much I’m ordering them again.

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