Quality footwear on the range and in the field is necessary. Here are three boot options not to ignore — a trio that promises comfort, support, and durability.
by Jace Bauserman
I was the king of cheap footwear and couldn’t justify spending $300 to $500 on top-end boots. Instead, I would drop $75-$100. This plan proved to be idiotic.
I discovered that not only was I buying a new pair of boots yearly, but I dealt with blisters, wet feet, and general uncomfortableness.
Thank goodness, it hit me one day. I’m an ultramarathon runner, and every 500-600 trail miles, I purchase a new pair of trail shoes. I spare no expense because blister prevention is necessary, and I need the best fit to keep my feet comfortable and prevent injury.
How was I looking at my hunting/range boots any differently? As you can infer, I’m a slow learner. You’re always on your feet when hunting or at the range, and proper foot care is a must. Twice I’ve had to leave a backcountry elk hunt early due to improper foot care, which stemmed from having lousy boots.
Today, I own several pairs of top-tier boots, and I’ve discovered that spending money on excellent boot builds is money well spent. You get what you pay for, and I promise, your feet, shins, knees, hips, and lower back will thank you for not being a cheapskate.
No, it’s not only your feet that pay the price for choosing bad footwear. Stand on concrete pads at the range all day and your lower back and hips will ache. Hit the trail for a hunt or a day of hiking with a boot with a poorly designed midsole and terrible padding, and you’ll have blisters the size of a Coke can on your feet. Take off running through a 3-gun course with boots that don’t have a superb fit and feel, and you’re knees and shins will hurt.
You want good boots, and this trio won’t let you down.
Kenetrek Corrie II Hiker
Available in medium and wide sizes and tipping the scale at a mere 3.5 pounds, these lightweight uninsulated boots are ideal for early-season adventures in the backcountry, work in the yard, and any range mission you have planned.
The break-in period for these boots was me taking them on a high-country elk hunt. This is typically not good practice and a recipe for disaster, but I’ve worn Kenetrek’s Mountain Extreme Non-Insulated boots for years, and the pair required no break-in period for my feet.
The Corrie IIs followed-suit — no blisters, hots spots, or pain in either foot after a six-mile up and down trek. The comfort padding around the ankle and the K straps promise outstanding support and comfort, and you’ll quickly notice that even on hot days, the Windtex waterproof breathable membrane ups circulation. Make no mistake, though, this same membrane keeps moisture out. I have strolled through sopping mountain meadows for miles, and these boots keep water out.
The 5mm nylon midsoles provide outstanding support in less-than-friendly terrain, and the Grapon outsoles grab the ground, even unstable shale rock, and won’t let go.
The lacing system sucks the boot tight to the foot, and the ultra-durable build, which includes reinforced double/triple stitching in high-wear areas and rubber toe and heel guards, means these boots will last a very long time.
I use my Corrie IIs daily doing chores around the house, hiking with my pack while training for the backcountry, shooting at the range, and every activity in between. These boots are an excellent investment and are one of my more comfortable boots.
- 3.5 lbs.
- 7 in. tall
- Grapon outsole
- Windtex waterproof
Zamberlan 1110 Baltoro Lite GTX RR
I’m a Zamberlan fan, and the 1110 Baltoro Lite GTX has proved to be a warrior. This past spring, I wore these boots on a four-state turkey run in hopes of capturing my Grand Slam with archery tackle. I accomplished the mission; frankly, these boots were a big reason why.
The Baltoro quickly conquered each terrain, from the tick and snake-infested swamps of Florida to the steep Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to the river bottoms of Nebraska to the red-rock canyons of Colorado.
The boots proved comfortable, waterproof, and highly durable. Naturally, I wore the boots between hunts for daily duties around the house, on the ranch, patterning shotguns, et cetera. I love the flexibility yet sturdiness of the 3mm nylon midsole.
I appreciate the athletic fit and look; the slim design feels great on the feet. The boots are remarkably lightweight for 8-inch tall kicks, and like the Corrie IIs, when the lacing system is sucked down, they hug the feet well.
My hike for a Colorado Merriam took me on a 15-mile round trip through the broken, rocky, and cactus-dappled country. These boots delivered in spades, and the Perwanger leather uppers held up against abrasion and abuse from the terrain and elements. PU-coated rubber rands on the toe box and heel further boost boot longevity, and the Vibram Starlite outsoles showcase lightweight EVA midsoles and a StarTrek tread pattern that rips the terrain apart.
These boots create a fit and feel that is good enough to run a 3-gun course or wander off the beaten path in search of big-game nirvana.
- 1.367 lbs.
- 8 in. tall
Zamberlan 215 Salathe GTX RR
It’s not often I highlight a pair of products from a single manufacturer, but after wearing Zamberlan’s 215 Salathe GTX RR for several months, I highly recommend them.
These boots are part of Zamberlan’s X-Active lineup — a series of boots engineered to handle day-to-day wear and standout in daunting terrain — and they are a big win.
Under two pounds, these boots feel like a quality trail runner on the feet but provide solid support, and though I’ve beaten the crap out of them, they haven’t broken down in the slightest. I applaud the to-the-toe lacing system, which adds additional support while providing an excellent feel, and these boots have no tongue to rub uncomfortably on the top of the foot or slide awkwardly to one side or the other.
Instead of a tongue, the 215s feature stretch over-the-foot wraps that are well-padded and feel like a well-crafted sock on the foot. Not only does this boost comfort, but it reduces the chances of top or side-of-the-foot hotspots and blisters.
Zamberlan brands the boots as waterproof, and they are to a degree. The uppers are lined with a Gore-Tex flexible and padded membrane, and a rubber rand runs the entire length of the boot and comes up reasonably high.
While these boots don’t have quite the traction of the Corrie II or Baltoro Lite, the Vibram Pepe with Megagrip outsoles provide a solid grip, but it’s the sort of grip you’d expect from a lightweight hiker. When I hit the range, these boots find their way onto my feet often.
- 1.96 lbs.
One To Consider
I have yet to slip this boot on my feet, because it just arrived via UPS, but I have had great luck with LaCrosse footwear and decided to sprinkle one more boot into this article.
Like the Corrie II, LaCrosse’s Ursa MS stands 7 inches tall. I like the just-over-3-pound weight rating, and a 360-degree rubber rand circles the boots.
LaCrosse notes these kicks were four years in the making and underwent a hellish testing process via a group of top-end backcountry hunters. I will be sure to report on my findings, but all signs — the Gore-Tex liner, Vibram Mont outsole, and an upper made of SuperFabric — point to a great hiking/hunting/everyday boot.
- 3.1 pounds
- 7 in. tall
If you’re in the market for a great pair of boots, any of the above-mentioned will suit your needs well.