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Shoe Stats

Purchasing shoes online can be a bit of a shit show. Sizing varies widely across – and even within – brands. I tend to wear a 9.5 US or 42 EU in most footwear, but, without trying the shoe on in meatspace, an online purchase is always a gamble.

Some years ago, shortly after I first braved the world of footwear e-commerce, I started logging which size I wore in every shoe I purchased. This helped immensely because it allowed me to compare sizing when reading reviews. When researching a new shoe model, I look for reviews that compare it against some other model that I may have a log entry for. If I can’t find that, but I find a comparison to some other model, I may try to find reviews of that model which compare it to something I know. It is like playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but with shoes. (The more you play the game the more you win.) Eventually I try to form a statement like “if you wear a 9.5 US in Shoe X, you should buy a 10 US in Shoe Y”.

I do not log widths because I always wear whatever a brand’s “standard” width is. If I ever purchased something the brand considered to be “wide” or “narrow”, I would note that.

A couple years ago I began tracking weight in the same file as the sizes. Many older shoes have no weight logged, but I find it useful for entries where I do have the data. The weights are all “as worn” – meaning they are what I measured after replacing shoe laces (probably with Lawson Toughlaces) or insoles. So my weights might be a couple ounces different from how the shoes ship from the factory.

I recently reformatted my log into a nice TSV file so that I could look at it with VisiData. I’ve thrown the file into a git repository and published it on GitHub. If you wear the sort of shoes I wear, perhaps it will be helpful to you.

This post was published on . It was tagged with footwear.

Sof Sole Athlete Performance Insoles

Last year I mentioned replacing the insoles in the Altama OTB Boots with Ortholite Fusion Insoles. The Ortholite insoles fit well in the OTB boots, and make the footwear zero-drop (or at least close enough to it that I can’t tell the difference). It is a lower volume insole that Altama’s default rubber one, and so requires tighter lacing. Unfortunately, the availability of this insole appears to be limited. I’ve also decided that it is a little too soft for my taste. I like a firm footbed. The Ortholite Fusion, while thin, allows my foot to sink into it slightly more than I would prefer.

When I bought my ranger green OTB boots earlier this year I could not find the Ortholite Fusion insoles in stock in my size. So I went looking for alternatives and ended up with the Sof Sole Athlete Performance Insoles. I bought mine from The Insole Store. I mention this because The Insole Store actually provides measurements for heel thickness, forefoot thickness, and arch height. This is critical information for making an informed purchase of an insole, and yet very few retailers or manufacturers provide it. The Insole Store also supports filtering by characteristics, such as walking and running insoles without arch support, which makes it easy to narrow down the wide array of options. This kind of stuff seems like it would be common sense for anyone selling footwear, but it isn’t, so I give my money to The Insole Store.

The measurements provided by The Insole Store for the Sof Sole Athlete Performance Insoles are:

  • Thickness at heel: 7.75m
  • Thickness at forefoot: 4.6mm
  • Arch height: 20mm

I’m happy with anything up to a 4mm drop. These have a 3.15mm drop, which is close enough to zero that I can barely tell the difference. I wasn’t sure about the 20mm arch height. That’s a 12.25mm climb up from the heel, which sounded high, but I ordered the insole anyway. When wearing them, I don’t notice any rise in the arch. They feel flat, which is what I want.

It’s interesting to compare these Sof Sole insoles to something like the Superfeet Carbon Insoles. This is what Superfeet markets for low-volume, minimalist athletic footwear.

  • Thickness at heel: 5.5mm
  • Thickness at forefoot: 2.75
  • Arch height: 30mm

The heel and forefoot numbers are great. Nice and thin, with only a 2.75mm drop. But the 24.5mm climb from the heel to the arch is ridiculous. I tried a pair of these once, and it feel like standing on a golf ball.

I’ve been very happy with the Sof Sole Athlete Performance Insoles. I ended up buying a second pair. They are trim-to-fit, but the Men’s 9-10.5 size slid perfectly into my size 10 D Altama OTB boots without any trimming. They are thicker than the Ortholite Fusion Insoles, but firmer, which I think allows for better energy transfer. The higher volume translates to a fit that is much more similar to Altama’s stock rubber insoles, but with a material that makes more sense if you aren’t planning to take the boots under water. I’ve tried wearing one Sof Sole insole in one boot and one Altama rubber insole in the other, and the fit feels nearly identical. I recommend the Sof Sole insoles if you’re unhappy with the breathability or tackiness of the insole that came with the Altama OTBs, and I think they are worth consideration for other footwear in the lightweight hiking category. They are likely too thick for minimalist running shoes.

Tightening the Bedrock Cairn

I bought a pair of Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals when they were released back in 2016. They are my favorite sandals. In addition to being great everyday and hiking footwear in the warmer months, the Cairns are my preferred running footwear year round.

Bedrock Cairn Running

My only complaint with the Cairns was that the adjustable strap would occasionally slip, loosening the sandal. The webbing would only slip a couple of millimeters over a handful of miles. If walking or pedaling I wouldn’t notice it, but when running this allowed just enough movement of my foot across the bed of the sandal that I would eventually develop a hot spot if I didn’t reach down to tighten the strap every 6 miles or so.

I mentioned this in one of Bedrock’s customer surveys. They reached out to me and suggested that when tightening the strap, rather than keeping the loose end of the webbing inline with the part connected to the wing, I kink the webbing slightly forward. This allows the buckle to get a bit more bite. The added friction from this adjustment has eliminated any loosening of the sandal on my runs.

Bedrock Cairn Webbing Angle

I subscribe loosely to the idea of a daily uniform.

Loosely because I own more than one style of shirt, jacket, and pants. But I do try to keep things paired down, and standardizing on the color black means everything goes together and is largely fashion-agnostic. The approach reduces mental taxation.

I am more firm in the area of socks. Darn Tough makes the best socks, and the Tab No Show Light Cushion is the best Darn Tough sock. I bought my first pair in 2009. Over the subsequent years I have added a few additional pairs to my collection, but those original socks continue to be in regular rotation. I maintain a small number of other socks in my arsenal for specialty purposes – a couple pair of boot socks for those rare occasions when I wear tall boots, a couple pair of toe socks for augmenting huarache style sandals, and a pair of waterproof socks I bought to experiment with – but for almost all of my sock-wearing days each year I have the Tab No Show Light Cushion socks on my feet.

Tactical Chucks

The Altama OTB Maritime Assault Boots are a great pair of everyday footwear. Modeled off of Chuck Taylors, they’re a fairly simple concept: a 1000D Cordura upper, large rubber toe cap, and low-profile outsole with minimal lugs.

Altama OTB Maritime Assault Boot

The boots provide excellent grip on wet and dry concrete. Altama claims to use some sort of special sticky rubber, though it feels like typical shoe rubber to me. It is not noticeably sticky, like Five Ten’s rubber. The lug pattern is not ideal for dirt and mud, but for an everyday urban shoe I have no complaints. After 6 months, my boots shoe a reasonable amount of wear.

I bought them in a size US 10 / EUR 43, which fit me perfect. In most brands I alternate between a US 9.5 or 10, which usually translates to a fairly consistent EUR 42. They tip my scale at 29.3 oz (832 grams) for the pair.

The laces that come with the boots are ridiculously long. Unless you tuck them into the boot, they’ll catch on things. They constitute a hazard on the bike. I replaced them with Lawson Toughlaces, laced in a double helix and tied in a bowknot. Lawson’s laces are just heavy pieces of Technora with metal aglets on the end. Abrasian resistant, fire resistant to 932 degrees Fahrenheit, and with a breaking strength in excess of 1,000 lbs – you can saw through restraints all day with the Toughlaces and they will still probably last until the heat death of the universe. I have them cut to 58” for these boots.

Altama OTB Maritime Assault Boot

Altama ships the boots with removable polyurethane insoles. This material makes sense for the intended water application of the boot, but I worried that they would be hot and uncomfortable for my more pedestrian use. So far I’ve not found that to be the case, but I’ve only had the boots since the end of September, so I can’t comment on their comfort in hot weather.

Neither the insole nor the boots themselves have any arch support, but they are not zero drop. There’s a heel to toe differential that feels like it is probably in the 6mm-8mm range. All of this lift, however, comes from the insole. After replacing the laces, my second modification was to purchase a pair of Ortholite Fusion Insoles. These are completely flat. The size 10 insole fit perfectly in my boots without any trimming, transforming them into zero-drop footwear. Unfortunately, the boots really want a slightly higher volume insole. With the Ortholites installed, I get a small amount of heel slippage that cannot be addressed by lacing. This is not an issue for my typical everyday wear, but would become problematic if hiking.

Altama OTB Maritime Assault Insoles

I still find myself switching between the stock polyurethane insoles and the Ortholites, but I lean toward the Ortholite being a more comfortable choice. It’s worth experimenting with them if you find high heels uncomfortable.

The Altama OTB Maritime boots feel like they come out of a latter Gibson novel. Black, minimal branding, fairly gender-neutral, and able to be worn, to a general lack of comment, during any year between 1945 and 2000.

This post was published on . It was modified on . It was tagged with gear, review, footwear.

Gear List

I’ve had a few requests to do a gear list for some of my recent trips. Since it’s been over a year since the last one, I thought I would acquiesce. What follows is the list from my recent journey to the Goat Rocks. Though that was a short trip, my gear has varied very little on any trip this year. I’ll take warmer clothing earlier (and later) in the year, and of course the amount of food varies based on the length of the trip, but most everything else remains static. This is quite the change from even just a year ago, where it seems like my gear would change drastically from trip to trip! Perhaps I know what I’m doing a little better now.

Some of the gear is light, some of it isn’t. Regular readers know that I always struggle to find a balance between lightweight, functionality, and durability. Certain items that I carry – like, say, the saw – are not likely to be found in the pack of an average backpacker, but are suited to my method of travel. In all, my base weight for this trip was right at 20lbs. I’m not too ashamed of that. In fact, considering that my pack alone weighs 6lbs when empty, that base weight is pretty darn good.

If you have any questions or comments about the items, feel free to get in touch.

Packed

  • Kifaru ZXR
  • Kifaru Longhunter Lid
    • Shoulder strap
    • 1 quart ziploc
      • Toilet paper
      • 1 oz Hand sanitizer
    • Emergency fire kit
    • First aid kit
    • Kifaru Ultralight Pullout (small)
      • REI Keychain Thermometer
      • K & M Industries Match Case
      • Croakies Glasses Retention Lanyard
      • Jetstream ballpoint pen
      • Sharpie
      • Highlighter
      • #2 Pencil
      • All-Terrain Lip Armor (SPF 25)
      • 4x safety pins
      • Duct tape (length unknown, .75" diameter roll)
      • StickPic #3
      • Badger Healing Balm
    • Sea to Summit Headnet
    • Petzl Tactikka headlamp
    • Tyvek Stuff Sack
    • Rite in the Rain No. 393-M
    • Large garbage bag
    • 1 quart ziploc
      • 3x Green Trails maps
    • Plastic vial-type container (found on street)
      • 16x cotton balls w/ petroleum jelly
    • Hard glasses case (unknown brand/model)
      • Oakley soft lens cloth bag
      • Julbo Micropores (Rx)
    • Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack (2 liter)

On Body

(I do hope that I haven’t forgotten anything. If you notice anything conspicuously absent, please let me know!)

Obenauf's Skin Care

I’ve been using Obenauf’s products on my boots and other leather products since last spring and have been constantly pleased with the results. Though I’ve replaced their White Jaguar Leather Cleaner with my standard Dr. Bronner’s soap that I use to clean everything else, their oil and leather preservative are great products.

A couple days ago, I read an article which mentions that some people use Obenauf’s leather preservative as a skin care product. I was a bit shocked at first, but it makes perfect sense. All the LP consists of are “three different natural oils… suspended in Beeswax and Propolis.” And what makes a standard skin care balm? Beeswax, olive oil, and your minced up dried herbs and/or essential oils of choice. LP is pretty much a balm without the herbs. That may make it inferior to products that include the healing power of herbs, but LP is designed to protect skin – dead skin that you wear on your feet, but skin none-the-less.

(Arguably, this lack of herbal material in the LP could be a benefit: it means that the product has no strongly identifiable scent (a useful trait in the woods). If one did not care about the scent and wanted to add something extra to the LP, it would be a simple matter to melt it and put a few drops of essential oil in. Though that’s fine for skin care, I’m not sure I want my boots smelling like tea tree or lavender oil.)

I decided to experiment. This morning I cleaned out a small tin from a commercial balm and filled it with LP (by heating the LP until it liquefied, then pouring it into the smaller container). Now I have a convenient way of carrying the LP around with me, which should encourage me to try it on a regular basis.

Obenauf's Skin Care

I always carry some sort of skin balm with me, both in my urban EDC and in my wilderness gear. Usually, I opt for Badger Healing Balm or Burt’s Bees Res-Q Ointment. I’ve made my own herbal balms in the past, but, as with home-made soap, I have never felt that what I made was in any way superior to store-bought products nor that there was a significant financial savings by making my own stuff. If I decide that I like the LP product, I’ll probably end up carrying it in my larger rucksack in lieu of a normal balm. That would give me the ability to treat not only my own skin, but also take care of my boots in the wilderness. More functionality than what I have now, and it seems a good plan.

This post was published on . It was modified on . It was tagged with herb, health, footwear.

Rope Sandal Hike

Today was forecast to be 65 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny. Of course, that meant I had to go on a hike. To celebrate the weather, I decided to do the hike in my Nomadic State of Mind JC rope sandals, which I’ve previously mentioned elsewhere.

I was given the sandals a few years ago and always toss them in my pack when traveling in warmer climates. They’re light enough to not weight down the pack, and function as excellent camp shoes at the end of the day. I’ve never done any serious hiking with them though, and I wanted to see how capable they (and I) were.

Nomadic State of Mind

I ended up doing a 15 mile hike. Towards the end, the balls of both my feet felt a little sore. They feel as if they’re developing a new callus (good thing) rather than a blister (bad thing).

I think it’s a healthy habit to do a hike every now and again with minimal-to-no foot support (such as barefoot, or with sandals similar to these). We all know that shoes are supposed to be bad things. If you’re the type who wears 6” or taller boots everyday, it’s especially important. Combat boots provide so much support for the foot and ankle that the muscles and tendons don’t have to do any work. They waste away. Walking with less supportive footwear will allow your feet to develop to a more healthful level.

For myself, I was surprised to find that the muscles in my lower back seemed to get the greatest workout. I usually have very bad posture, but walking with the sandals, for some reason, forced me to stand straighter than usual.

I decided to bring the Kifaru E&E instead of my normal EDC pack to cut down on weight. Here’s what I carried in it:

  • Joby Gorillapod
  • TAD Gear BC-8 pouch
    • Canon Powershot SD1000
  • Klean Kanteen (40 oz)
  • Possibles pouch
  • Challah (1/2 loaf)
  • Grimloc Carabiner (2x)
  • Bushcraft Northwest BCNW-O1 knife
  • Filson Tin Cloth Packer Hat
  • Minimalist Self-Aid kit
  • Buff
  • The Wilderness Tactical Halfway-Decent Glasses Case
    • Julby Micropore
    • Glasses strap
    • Lens cloth
  • TAD Gear BC-8 pouch
    • Silva Ranger CL compass
  • Trail Mix
  • Pendleton Western lightweight wool shirt
  • Nature and Walking, Emerson and Thoreau

Nomadic State of Mind

...most of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as I do, but they cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence, which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from heaven to become a walker. You must be born into the family of the Walkers. Ambulator nascitur, non fit. Some of my townsmen, it is true, can remember, and have described to me some walks which they took ten years ago, in which they were so blessed as to lose themselves for half an hour in the woods, but I know very well that they have confined themselves to the highway ever since, whatever pretensions they may make to belong to this select class. No doubt, they were elevated for a moment as by the reminiscence of a previous state of existence, when even they were foresters and outlaws. Henry David Thoreau