An Epic Boot Failure

boot failure

This morning my wife and I decided to go for a four-mile hike.  Now this is a trail that we hike on regularly and normally have no problems.  Lately my wife has been complaining about her ankles and so she decided to wear boots instead of athletic shoes.  This led to a major boot failure.

About four years or so ago, she had put a pair of boots in the trunk of her car with her get home bag.  Now she checks her bag a couple of times a year and that includes the boots.  So today, she thinks I will wear those boots because they will give my ankles more support.

She gets them out of the car and they look fine.  Now these boots had leather tops and rubber soles and were fairly expensive when we got them.  Unfortunately, we can’t remember the brand and there are no names left on the boots. A great comment below pointed out that the boots are actually Wolverine brand boots.

boot failure
The boots from the side, when she started walking the soles were a bout 3/4 inch thick.

Well we start up the trail and everything is going fine.  After about a mile and a half, she says her feet are hurting her.  So she stops and takes a look at her boots.  Then does she get a surprise.  The tread and most of the rubber are gone.  The soles of her boots had disintegrated as she hiked in and we had a boot failure

So now here we are about a mile from the closest place I can get a vehicle too.  So she had to hike out and got a nasty blister.  Looking at the boots you can see that if she had gone much further she would have been walking on her socks.

The bottoms of the boots after we got home.  You can see one of the metal arch supports fell out and just the insole was still intact.
The bottoms of the boots after we got home. You can see one of the metal arch supports fell out and just the insole was still intact.

The only thing that we can figure out is that the heat from being in her car had damaged the rubber.  Approximately a ½ inch of rubber was just gone and it just disintegrated into almost powder.

This is another reason that you should use your gear regularly.  In a real emergency, a boot failure could have been a matter of life and death.  We will be buying her new boots and checking some others.

6 thoughts on “An Epic Boot Failure”

  1. maybe have two pair of boots. one pair in car & i pair in house . then the first of each month rotate them. that way you can visually inspect them each month.

  2. US military leather boots are built on a Munson last, and assembled with a Goodyear welt construction in which the outer sole is both glued and sewn to the upper, with nails being used to reinforce stressed points at the heel and toe. A good primer on boot construction is here:

    Cementing is a cheap, quick way to attach the sole, which affects the durability of connection between the upper and the sole and precludes any possibility of resoling. Once the upper begins to separate from the sole or the sole itself is damaged, the shoes must be replaced, rather than repaired. Exposure to high temperatures in the trunk of a car will destroy boots of cemented construction in a single season.

    Goodyear welting dates from the First World War, and is still the method of construction specified by the US military. It is the most labor intensive, and durable method of construction. It can be done either by machine or by hand and involves multiple steps. First the insole is prepared for by creating a perpendicular “rib” that runs across the insole. In US military boots the rib is crerated by cutting and sculpting the insole, while other makers do so by using a supplementary material like linen tape.

    Next is to “last” the shoe, which is done by stretching the outsole over the last and attaching it, along with the insole, to the last. US military boots are constructed over a Munson last, patented in 1912 by Dr. Edward Munson, Medical Corps, USA. The Munson last was one of the earliest shoe designs to incorporate a natural toe box, making it ideally suited to the contours of the foot (not to mention much more comfortable).

    Final construction is the actual welting in which shoe-specific thread is sewn through the welt, the upper, and the insole rib. Through a separate stitch, the welt is then attached to the outsole. Through both stitching points, a lockstitch is used – meaning the chain won’t unravel if it breaks down at any particular point in the shoe.

    This two-level stitching makes it incredibly easy to resole a Goodyear welted shoe. Because the welt acts as a buffer between the insole and the outsole, removing the old sole and attaching a new one can be done by machine or by hand and without a specific machine. The extra layers make the shoe more water resistant and supportive.

    Because of the additional materials and labor required, a Goodyear welted shoe is more expensive and the extra layers which provide more structure and ankle support, necessary for mountaineering and paratroop purposes come at the cost of weight and flexibility. However, the Munson Army Last allows the freedom of movement and encourages a correct heel to toe walking process which is important on long marches.

    Redwing, Corcoran, Danner and Dehner are US suppliers to US forces.

    1. This is a very detailed post, but your information is now somewhat outdated.

      The goodyear type welt is rarely used on boots now, for either military or mountaineering. Many boots are quite rugged without having a goodyear welt, and in fact that type of construction is disliked by many.

      Look at footwear made by a reputable company, and look at reviews.

      Spend twice the price on a good pair of boots or shoes- and they will likely last much longer than two pairs of cheap footwear.

      While a proper glued and sewn welt is likely to mean quality- the lack of one does not mean a lack of quality.

      While the companies mentioned are all reputable brands, Lowa, Asolo, Meindl, and Hanwag are European companies with a solid repuation for quality.

  3. Crespi of Italy manufactures military boots, based upon the US military approved designs, which are used by the Carabinieri, Italian Army and several NATO militaries. Crespi boots are sold in the UK and Euro-zone, as well as being stocked in AAFES exchanges in the UK and Europe.

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