I wore my last pair of Vasque hiking boots for five years before they got to a point where they needed to be replaced. They were perfect from day one through day 1,825 (or so). When I headed into REI to look at new boots, I naturally picked out a pair of the Breeze 2.0 GTX hikers. I can happily say that I’m very satisfied with the performance of the new Vasques after about 20 miles of mixed hiking – despite getting off to a rocky start (I’m not talking about the terrain).
When I tried them on at REI they felt a little big. They were the same size as my last pair so I chalked it up to not wearing the right socks. I didn’t think anything of it; they’re Vasques after all, and I love Vasques. I brought them home, took more pictures of them than any other pair of shoes I’ve ever owned, and put them back in the box. I had to keep them clean until their first venture into the woods of course.
The following weekend came and it was time to test the new boots in the woods. There was still snow on the ground so I thought I’d get a good idea of how these boots would perform in different situations. Much like the tread on your car’s tires – I didn’t realize how bad the old boots had gotten until I put a few miles on the new ones. The boots performed great on the 6 mile hike – but my feet never got perfectly comfortable in them.
They still felt big – even with the right socks on. I stopped a few times to adjust the laces and make sure my socks weren’t bunched up – but nothing helped. My feet weren’t in pain but the boots just didn’t feel right. I wore them a lot that week around the house and doing yard work to break in the (break-in not required) boots. Still not feeling 100% about them – I decided to take them back to REI to see if I could swap them out for a different pair.
Sidebar – REI will accept returns up to one year after purchase as long as the item only has normal wear and tear. This is a pretty amazing thing that you won’t find in other retail industries – my boots were still dirty from the hike I had done, and they quickly offered to help me find another pair of boots, no questions asked.
I proceded to try on every boot that they had in the store – Merrell, Keen, Asolo, Oboz – nothing felt right. I tried on another set of the Vasque Breeze in a half size smaller and my toes were completely squished. Did something happen to my feet? Was this actually a “It’s me, not you” situation? I began to get really discouraged and thought about bringing my old Vasques to a pedlar to have new soles put on them.
I asked for the pair I had brought in to return back and decided I would try and break them in some more to see if that helped. Before leaving; my wife suggested that I try a different insole. I hadn’t really thought about it, and decided it was worth a try. I put a set of the Superfeet Green insoles in the new Vasques and took a few laps around the store. The toe box still felt a little big – but the boots were more comfortable. Knowing that I still had plenty of time to return the boots, and the insoles, if it didn’t do the trick – I proceed to checkout (with an armful of other stuff as well). I wore the boots that week with the new insoles to get used to the new fit. I still wasn’t 100% sure that this would fix my problem – but I wanted to give it a thorough test. Mt Tammany was that test.
The 3.5 miles of mixed terrain; steep ascends, loose rock, boulders, mud, and water proved to me what these boots can do when I’m not obsessing over how they fit. I didn’t feel like I was moving too much inside the boot and the insoles gave me great support. Having completed that hike, and a 7.5 mile trip the following weekend, I’m confident that this setup will keep my feet happy (and super) for the next few years.