Imagine, for a moment, that you are deep in the mountains and far from your destination.  Your “water proof” boots are saturated with water, you are nearing exhaustion, the path before you is a minefield of roots and rocks, and you have no provisions to make camp.  This scenario is what I faced in 2012 while hiking in West Virginia.  Each step became a labored experience due to the weight strapped to my feet.  The equipment that is supposed to be providing me safe support instead is becoming the instrument of near failure.  Roots became trip hazards due to the added water weight in each boot and the stones silently waited patiently for the opportunity to cause me to roll my ankle and fall.

While growing up, I was always barefoot or wearing sneakers.  I never liked the feel of high-tops, boots, roller blades etc.  I always felt they limited my agility and speed.  When I began venturing off of the pavement and into the woods, it was my understanding that boots were the only option.  I purchased a pair of hiking boots and started wearing them around the house and for small walks to begin getting used to them.  I found that my ankle would usually feel a little bit stiffer, but I decided to start hiking with them anyway.  The first few hikes were very short.  3-5 miles was about all I could muster with boots.  It was a strange sensation walking around with heavier feet and stiff ankles, but my wise friends all reassured me I would get used to them.  I never did, and after the events in the first paragraph came to a conclusion, I made the decision to find other options.

I started asking long distance hikers what boots they wear.  I was looking for lighter weight and boots which allowed more flexing of the ankle.  Nearly all told me to buy hiking shoes, and with my new found knowledge, I went back out with boots again.  Before I completed my first mile, I rolled my ankle and had to abort the hike.  Could the argument be made that the boots protected me from a healthy sprain?  Yes.  However, I believe it would never have happened if I did not have the boots.

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