When I started out van dwelling a little over a year ago, I loaded up some of my sneakers and a pair of rarely worn medium height Hi-Tec boots. When I put on those boots this past winter I remembered why I hadn't worn them much before. They didn't fit correctly. The toe box was too small. The sides of my little toes and the tops of my big toes rubbed. The boots ended up in a donation bin. With luck, someone else is happy with them now.
While I was building out the Rolling Steel Tent, and for the first few months on the road, my every-day shoes were some old Nike ACG running shoes. There was little tread left. There were paint and adhesive spills on them. I tossed them when the soles started to come off.
Rack Room Shoes. (I saw an identical pair, with a different brand name, at Bass Pro Shops. Some off-shore factory must have had a your-name-here deal going.) They fit great! Nice roomy toe boxes. They became my new everyday shoes. But $27 shoes aren't necessarily the best made. The soles have worn down surprisingly quickly and parts have started to come unstitched. I still wear them time to time, especially in hot springs—which might be hastening their demise.
I started thinking, "You know, maybe running shoes aren't the best thing to be wearing all the time. I should probably get some proper hiking shoes. Low tops, because I can't stand shoes rubbing my ankles."
So I went on a quest. I drove to Las Cruces yesterday. First stop, Dick's Sporting Goods. There was a big selection, but the first problem was a shortage of size 11 shoes. Plenty of 10.5s and 11.5s, but not 11s. Either there are a lot of size 11 guys in Las Cruces buying up shoes, or there are so few size 11 men in the area that stores don't bother stocking that size.
The second problem was the old toe box thing, and the fact my feet aren't perfectly symmetrical. The top of my right big toe kept rubbing—with Keens, Merrels, Solomons, Timberlands, Hi-Tecs... Some had internal seams that rubbed the sides and/or tops of my feet.
So it was off to Big 5. All their hiking shoes were suspiciously cheap—$15 to $29. I know what happens with cheap shoes. Besides, there was no sign of a clerk in the shoe department. Bye-bye.
But, surprise, there was a Rack Room Shoes in the same strip mall. I didn't know they had stores in the west. I tried on all the hiking shoes they had. None fit properly. I even tried some steel-toed work shoes (hey, at least the thick soles would last, right?). No luck. No happiness.
But, over among the running shoes, these off-road Asics were calling my name.
I'll still keep search for hiking shoes. Maybe in Phoenix, where there's a Cabela's and a Bass Pro Shop. Or maybe I just need to become a cowboy boot guy. It's a good look with cargo shorts.