This post is intended for those with quite narrow heels, and wider than average forefeet - like a duck. After years of trying to shoe duckfeet, I want to share some of the trials and tribulations, and occasional successes.
It all began with much pain and suffering in store bought boots, until a pair of Limmer boots was custom made by elders of the Limmer tribe for less than one tenth of what their boots cost today. The boots weighed five pounds the pair, kept my feet dry 95% of the time, and were so comfortable, they doubled as camp shoes. So much for those who insist that one pound on the feet equals (pick a number between 1 and 10) pounds on the back.
After over ten years, and numerous resolings and repairs, the Limmers shrunk just enough to be too tight for comfort. All efforts to obtain equally comfortable replacements were unavailing. Store bought boots had become a little softer, but now felt like heavy socks glued to soles - no support whatsoever, except around the ankles, where the makers seemed determined to lock the foot up and throw away the key. All these boots, if not returnable, ended up on the consignment rack of the local gear shop, by the dozens, yielding maybe 10-20 cents on the dollar.
At about this point, a friend recommended Keen Targhees. Lots of room in the forefoot, almost no restriction on ankle movement, and with a good orthotic, they could be cinched up enough to usually keep the heels from sliding sideways in the boot, especially while traversing steep slopes. Despite the size of the heel box, something about the pulley-like band running from behind the heels to the lace hooks in front of ankles made for a snug heel box when sturdier laces were added and laced tightly.
Because the walls of the boot were higher than those of a trail or running shoe, they worked out a lot better for navigating the big muddies of the Northeast, and wet meadows of the Rockies. And the soles were very supple - you could run easily in them - while being quite comfortable and supportive. The weight - about 2.5 lbs the pair, in size 10.5 (US).
But they fell apart, almost before the eyes, and had to be replaced every 6 months or so. On the most recent pair, the edges of the outsole even when new could be peeled away from the uppers with little resistance from whatever glue had been used. It became a ritual to inject urethane glue around the soles to keep water out and prevent total delamination. Even the soles themselves, made up of different pieces of rubber, came apart. I used to reglue them carefully back together. On this summer's trek, I just tore the ends of the loose pieces out. And the mesh separating the leather pieces adorning the upper looked like something from a lingerie shop. Not that Keen is the only one doing this, but not so good in fields of scree, talus and boulders.
This summer, Backpacker magazine had a blurb about a new Vasque mid with a narrow heel and wide forefoot. But it was not so. Cavernous and mushy heel boxes again for the duckfoot.
Most recently, an Oboz mid, called the Yellowstone, seems to have very little ankle restriction, and is well made and rugged. Instead of a pulley strap, the heel box is reinforced with additional strips of leather. And the sole is very supportive, although unlike the Targhee, stiffer than a trail or running shoe. The heel boxes are just a bit too big, but maybe as the boot breaks in, the heels will snug more into the box when the laces are tightened. That was the way the Limmers worked. I can only hope.
The upper is made up of many strips of leather, and even though that leather, like most shoe leather these days, is probably split stuff without much water resistance, at least there is something there to water treat, along with the proprietary waterproof breathable membrane underneath. Unfortunately, all that leather brings the weight of a size 10.5 (US) up to almost three pounds the pair. But that is two pounds lighter than the Limmers were. Progress of a sort, I guess.
If you are also a duckfoot, and like something a little higher than running shoes to wade through the muck and mire, please share your successes and defeats. Maybe some progress can happen here. Thanks.