My REI dividend (all $11 of it — see what a careful consumer I was last year?) was burning a hole in my pocket, and the added incentive of the annual 20 percent off sale was enough to get me off the couch in search of a new pair of hiking treads … turns out the the shoes I mentioned last month are no good for long distance on hard ground, though they’d be fine for standing in line 12 hours for Stones tickets.
I headed over to the new Mountain View REI with the idea of getting some over-the-ankle boots because all the discussion we had the other day convinced me boots are worth a look even if they are a bit heavier.
I had my sights set on the Montrail Torre — a really rugged boot with a rubber lining around the bottom — but I couldn’t find a size I liked; either they were too tight around the toes or too floppy. While I was trying on about a half-dozen of these things I overheard the shoe salesman telling some folks they really should avoid Gore-Tex and other so-called waterproofers if they planned to hike in temperatures over 80 degrees, which is about half the year in the Bay Area. Hearing that got me thinking the big tough Torres were overkill for 99 percent of the hikes I go on.
I went back to the salesman and explained as much; he disappeared into the back and showed up several minutes later with a shoe I hadn’t asked for: the Keen Targhee Mid II. These shoes look a bit odd because the toes are almost square, but the fit is superb: no rubbing on the sides, nice arch support, just-right cushion. Also: EVent, which is supposed to be more breathable than Gore-Tex. Note: my normal size is 9 EEE; these were a 10.5 regular. I did the standard two laps around the store to check the fit and the clambering over the fake rocks. It took me at least an hour, and I was fortunate that the salesman seemed to understand the shape of my feet.
Take-away lessons: hold out for the right fit, no matter how long it takes; keep an ear out for useful information; and go on a weekday when the crowds are small and the most veteran sales people are working — they’re the ones who have the “don’t wear these in the tropics” tips you might not get from the college kids working nights and weekends.
One of the nice things about REI — which almost makes up for the high brand-name prices — is that they take back just about anything if you don’t like it. Much less chance of buyer’s remorse. I’m no longer moved by the dividend deal; these days I pride myself on keeping it small, because there are almost always better prices somewhere else and besides, we should throw at least some of our money at home-grown retailers.