In Defense Of Hiking Boots In The City

Vasque Sundowners in the city 2 (1 of 1)

I’ve never been any good with witty comebacks. So I could only stammer out an honest reply, when the barista’s comment dribbled with sarcasm: “Going hiking today?”

“Nope, not today,” I said, following his glance to my new boots with red laces.

Carrying my americano back to my table and opening my laptop, I could feel my cheeks warming—and as always, too late—the comebacks started popping to mind. Apparently hiking boots should only be worn on the trail? To the guy behind the counter, I probably seemed like a poser, jumping on the latest trend of boots with colored laces, probably never even wearing them on a dirt trail. And to him, that was something worth talking shit about.

A couple weeks later, I was running late to meet a friend at a different cafe. Clasping a necklace around my neck and stuffing a slouchy beanie on my head, I busted out the front door of my building, in those same red-laced hiking boots. The sun sinking low and shadows starting to creep out onto Colfax, I strode quickly along the sidewalk. I’ve walked enough laps up and down that street over the years to know that all sorts of people will approach you with all sorts of conversations if you don’t walk with enough speed and purpose.

Vasque Sundowners in the city (1 of 1)

I checked my watch after a few blocks, stepping quickly around a group stumbling around with lit cigarettes outside a bar and then picked up my pace to catch the walk signal through the next crosswalk. I’ve had enough drunken slurs directed my way to opt for a quick, focused stride when I’m walking by myself. So, giving a wide birth to one stumbling, mumbling character and hopping up the next curb, I thought: Damn, I love these shoes.

I felt supported. I felt strong. I felt fast. I felt like myself. I even felt a little bit cool—without drawing undue attention from the people I was passing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also had a few (emphasis on few) moments in my life when I’ve also felt pretty powerful and cool in shiny, sky-high heels. There’s certainly something singular in the first moments when you actually feel confident and attractive striding along on four- or five-inch heels—the magical moment when you make the jump from awkwardly clopping along like you did in your mother’s shoes when you were small. But over the years, the kind of effort—and foot and back pain—that usually goes into hoofing along in tall heels has mostly lost its appeal. Who had I been trying to impress? Now, I’m not so sure.

I ducked into the cafe and slid into a table barely one minute early. Crossing my legs to the side, I thought back to the snide barista. What type of shoes would he think were actually appropriate for walking to the neighborhood coffee shop instead? Would he have had a sarcastic remark about heels? Flats? Running shoes? Having put them to the test, I’ve found hiking boots do a pretty damn good job. So no matter what the next barista thinks, I’m pretty psyched that right now, at least, boots seem to be kind of cool. Maybe you’ll see me in the mountains. Maybe just sipping coffee down the block—either way, I’ll take it. Poser or not.

14 Responses to In Defense Of Hiking Boots In The City

  1. will hawkins says:

    Most things are better in boots, or no shoes at all
    Good words!

  2. Gary Bowen says:

    Love my 30yr old 3/4 shank Jean Pellisier nor. welt backpacking boots…. trouble is…. can’t find a one of those 57 inch thick yellow boot laces anymore!!

    The only remote camp work I did was as a senior/lead field tech in Northern Ontario for 12 weeks.

    Nice article!

  3. That’s the problem with new gear; you look like a poser or a newbie. If you had shown up in scuffed up well-worn boots you probably wouldn’t have gotten that remark. Of course, all gear wears out, so even the most hardcore outdoorsperson wears new boots sometimes.

  4. Michael says:

    I’ve learned to handle snarky comments by fixing a steely stare at the culprit and saying not one word. It always makes the snark uncomfortable and swings advantage into your court. Snarky is an attempt at bullying, bullies are cowards who always back down when stood up to. Just found this blog, your no poser Hilary

  5. Abi says:

    In solidarity, I think I should get a pair just like them. Where d’ya get ’em?!

  6. Peter Leongini says:

    Boots and sandals. All the footwear you’ll ever need.

  7. nikita says:

    Late post, but my favorites to wear around town are official black SWAT boots: comfortable, supportive, and make me feel like a bad-ass. Well, or one of my six pairs of cowboy boots… 🙂

  8. Kirsti says:

    I come by my not love honestly.

    My favorite boots are my danner cascade lights. My usual response to snark like that is “yep.” & a smile. I think my obliviousness to sarcasm confuses the snarks.

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