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Hiking boots or trail shoes?

For the last 20 years or so, I have walked in leather Brasher walking boots. I have found

them comfortable and long-lasting, even though I'm not very good at looking after them, as you can see from this photo. Although I have not measured the miles covered, each pair has lasted around 10 years.

But last year, as I set out first to walk 630 miles on the Malvern Hills and then the same distance again on the South West Coast Path, I wondered whether I really wanted to carry something that heavy around on my feet. I had already done a bit of running wearing barefoot trail shoes and loved being able to feel the ground beneath my feet, so I started walking in them instead of my boots.

It was totally liberating! I spent the whole of spring and summer in my Vivobarefoot trail shoes, even when I started walking with a backpack. My feet enjoyed the freedom of proper movement, the thin soles provided enough protection from the ground, and the big lugs meant that they were great for grip in muddy conditions. Unfortunately, because the soles are thin, they only last for a few hundred miles, but I do love wearing them.

They are not waterproof shoes, but during the summer, my feet dried quickly. When I was backpacking in the autumn, I wore waterproof socks to protect my feet from the rain, and this combination worked well until it started to get cold. Even when my feet were dry, they did get cold when I was walking through cold mud and rain in October, so for the last 100 miles or so of the South West Coast Path, I switched back to my trusted old Brasher hiking boots.

Sadly, they have now reached end of life - in places, the soles are almost smooth. It took me a long time to decide what to do about replacing them. I tried a new pair of Brashers, but they pinched my toes. I tried Vivobarefoot's walking boots, but they didn't fit my ankles. I tried a pair of lightweight 'waterproof' boots, which proved themselves to be neither comfortable nor waterproof.

After all of that, I was beginning to despair. Would I ever find a pair of boots that were comfortable? So, I was delighted when I found out about Alt-Berg. They make hiking boots in Yorkshire and offer different width fittings. Even better, they also offer a re-soling service once the soles have worn - provided you have looked after the leather.

So, I am now sporting a pair of their boots. They are very comfortable and have performed well in the muddy conditions I have walked in so far. I will do my best to look after the leather so that they have more than one life.

After much consideration, I think that trail shoes and hiking boots both have a place in my life, the former for warm and dry-ish conditions, the latter for cold and wet conditions.


I have no affiliation with Alt-Berg, I just love their product. Check out their website here:

If you're interested in Vivobarefoot, you can get 20% off if you follow this link. If you do that, I will also receive a discount on the next pair I buy. If you're not sure whether you will like Vivobarefoot shoes, they offer a 100-day no-quibble guarantee, however much you have worn them.

Vivobarefoot also has a shoe return and refurbishment service. This is where I buy most of my Vivobarefoot shoes now. They are almost good as new, and cheaper than the new ones.


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