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  1. #1
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    Question Breaking In New Boots (Vasque St. Elias)?

    Hello,

    I have wide feet and so bought a St. Elias 9E via my local REI store. I currently have about 30 miles on these boots along with some around the house yard work.

    They initially were tight around my ankle bones but this has subsided. The main issue now are my toes. I can go about 4 miles before the tops of my toes start rubbing in a painful way. No blisters so far buy have been close to home. Currently using a thin REI hiking sock with/without poly liner. The liner seems to make it worse as well as a slightly thicker Smart Wool sock with the toe seam on top.

    So will these ever break-in? Any way to speed up the process? Is the toe box just too small for me? I was hoping that these would be like my 20 year old Sundowners but no joy yet!

    Thanks,
    Steve

  2. #2
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    I have St Elias boots also, and have been using them for about a year and a half. I do not have wide feet, and just bought the standard width. For me there was no break-in period. The boots were super-comfortable from day 1, and I havenít noticed any change over time.

    REI Is very understanding about returns. Iíd try returning them even though you have worn them a bit. Have you thought about 1/2 size larger?

    Hope you are able to resolve this. They are great boots.
    Formerly uhfox

    Springer to Bear Mountain Inn, NY
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    Quote Originally Posted by kolokolo View Post
    Have you thought about 1/2 size larger?
    REI carries no wide sizes in store so it is NOT easy to just try a larger size. As it was I ordered an 8-1/2 and 9 wide and decided to keep the 9's. They were a little tight but not bad. Another half size would have mostly extended the length and made them too long. The Sundowners definitely expanded over time to the point that they are almost too big. I didn't want this to happen with the St. Elias.

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    Those are leather boots and they will adjust to your feet eventually. The question remaining, will it be you to give up, before the boots give in?
    Cobblers and good shoemakers have a device that can expand a boot on some single spots by a tiny amount, which most likely would solve your specific issue.
    If you don't have access to such, it might also help if you grease the boots properly, stuff them with newspaper and put them to store in a warm place, trying to expand the sore spots yourself.

  5. #5

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    Some retailers may have leather stretching equipment that may be able to stretch the leather over the toes (very annoying issue). Eastern Mountain Sports used to have this equipment in some of their stores and trained employees on its use, but I don't know if REI has these at selected locations or other retailers in your area that do. Unless it's someone with a fair amount of experience in shaping leather, I would recommend finding a local cobbler who is likely to have this type of stretching equipment and may be able to provide some relief for a few dollars

    Another solution I found with a pair of boots I had causing similar toe knuckle contact was to change my socks to a thinner style. I went from a Smartwool medium to a Smartwool PhD sock which is thinner. It sounds silly, but just that wee bit of fabric solved a problem that required taping of several toe knuckles prior to a hike. If you are wearing a liner sock try removing that to see if the contact lessens or is eliminated as well. Sometimes its the smallest tweak that works best.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    Those are leather boots and they will adjust to your feet eventually. The question remaining, will it be you to give up, before the boots give in?
    This is sort of like the original Vasque of 20-30 years ago. Who gives up first? The user or the boot? Yes, the leather will expand. However, the wild card is the integrated rubber toe cap which won't expand at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    Cobblers and good shoemakers have a device that can expand a boot on some single spots by a tiny amount, which most likely would solve your specific issue.
    I just talked to the only real cobbler/shoe repair in the area and they wouldn't recommend manual stretching as its only temporary fix.

    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    it might also help if you grease the boots properly, stuff them with newspaper and put them to store in a warm place, trying to expand the sore spots yourself.
    Boot manufacturers are no longer recommending grease type products be used on leather boots. They are recommending products such as Redwing-Nature seal or Nikwax - Leather conditioner & waterproofer. It would be interesting to see just what is in these products.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traveler View Post
    Another solution I found with a pair of boots I had causing similar toe knuckle contact was to change my socks to a thinner style. I went from a Smartwool medium to a Smartwool PhD sock which is thinner. It sounds silly, but just that wee bit of fabric solved a problem that required taping of several toe knuckles prior to a hike. If you are wearing a liner sock try removing that to see if the contact lessens or is eliminated as well. Sometimes its the smallest tweak that works best.
    I took a closer look at my socks and the REIs don't have the toe seam whereas the Smartwools do. Looks like this might be an interim solution.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Sr View Post
    ...

    Boot manufacturers are no longer recommending grease type products be used on leather boots. They are recommending products such as Redwing-Nature seal or Nikwax - Leather conditioner & waterproofer. It would be interesting to see just what is in these products.
    I have quite a history with leather boots/shoes, and after having used trailrunners for many years, I'm back to leather shoes/boots and am happy with it.
    I've tried everything to nurse my leather footwear that came at hands or got recommended. Every spray, grease, oil.
    The best so far was a mix of solvent and bees wax which got accidentially sprayed-on to my shoes while working on a plant spraying this stuff onto floor tiles. Those leather shoes got amazingly waterproof and durable.
    I still own a pot full of this stuff and wipe my boots every now and then, and it still works.
    I'm not sure if all those recommended stuff would do any better than the old grease, other than having a better smell and making the shop where you buy it happy.

    Just one thing I'm well aware is, if you're using old-style grease, you must not slather the rim of the soles, as the grease is containing some (mild) acids that may eventually dissolve the glue.
    An issue that might be none at the mentioned Vasques, as they look like being injection molded soles and not having glued ones.
    Last edited by Leo L.; 02-01-2020 at 09:41.

  9. #9

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    With 30-miles or so of use that should be enough to break in most any boot, there may have a more basic issue related to their discomfort. I presumed and should have asked if the new boots are a size larger (certainly a half size) than a regular shoe, which provides room for heavier socks in cold weather, reduce effects if not fully eliminate pinch points where the leather folds around the foot or over toes during use, and provides room for feet to expand during extended use. If not, this could be part of the issue. Some people find a half size larger is ample for hiking footgear. For me, I used to get a half size larger, which worked fine for a number of years. Then like a switch was flipped, I needed the full size larger.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traveler View Post
    With 30-miles or so of use that should be enough to break in most any boot, there may have a more basic issue related to their discomfort. I presumed and should have asked if the new boots are a size larger (certainly a half size) than a regular shoe, which provides room for heavier socks in cold weather, reduce effects if not fully eliminate pinch points where the leather folds around the foot or over toes during use, and provides room for feet to expand during extended use. If not, this could be part of the issue. Some people find a half size larger is ample for hiking footgear. For me, I used to get a half size larger, which worked fine for a number of years. Then like a switch was flipped, I needed the full size larger.
    Sizes these days seem to be all relative depending on manufacturer particular last geometry, etc. These boots are the same size as my original Sundowner boots. Although the company "name" is the same the company isn't the same being bought out by Redwing Shoes several years ago.

    I stuffed some wet towel rags into the toes of the boots and am planning on going out for a walk later this afternoon. The issue with these newer boots is that you have goretex on the inside and "waterproof" leather on the outside which makes it very difficult to get the leather damp and moldable to break-in.

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    Stretching manually a boot with a rubber toe cap does not work too well. Especially if that is the problem area. Leather is skin and it will revert back to the original overtime.
    Vasques are known for being on the narrow side in the toe area even the wides.
    Could try the old soak the boot completely, put two socks on and wear them till they are dry.
    Your old Vasque sundowners and these boots have very little in common except for the name. From what I have been told.

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    Quote Originally Posted by misterfloyd View Post
    Leather is skin and it will revert back to the original overtime.
    My leather Brooks Bike saddle would like to disagree with your assessment... I ride them bare when new until they break-in. Then I install a waterproof saddle cover to keep them from breaking-in any further. In this part of the country if you didn't do this they would stretch / wear out in short order from rider sweat.

    Quote Originally Posted by misterfloyd View Post
    Could try the old soak the boot completely, put two socks on and wear them till they are dry.
    First attempt at this didn't work out too well... Wet rags stuffed in the toes didn't do much. These are waterproof from the inside via the Goretex and from the outside due to "waterproof" leather. Might next try submerging the toes for a while and see what happens.

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    Wear them for a day hike in slush and they will be soaked, no matter how waterproof they are advertised.

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    Steve Sr,

    I know how much of a pisser it is to find a boot that you like but there is one thing wrong with it, it may be small, but over a course of miles it adds up. You already know this.

    With my feet I have to wear boots, trailrunner don't get it for me for various reasons.

    So what is the problem, the height of the footbox? the width of the footbox? I had the same boots but the older nubuck version so I not remember. Does the top of the toes feel the rubber, or the stiffness ?

    From where I sit (for what that is worth) the problem may be that rubber cap. So now we need to find a work around.

    I have gone to your original post and read that as well.

    Try wearing them with the thinnest sock and build up from there. Write down how it feels with each thickness. Experiment. Have you tried different lacing patterns, bunioun lacing, window lacing? Each of those will give you a little bit of wiggle room perhaps. You can google them to show what they are. There are a few other thing you may try as well.

    If you are dead set on these boots it will take some work. If not take them back and get something with a wider toe box.

    Let me know what works or does not.

    I have two feet that are much different than each other so I have had to go through ALL of the above that I mentioned.

    Floyd

  15. #15

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    Mister Floyd probably has the best remedy. You purchased the boots at REI, after 30+ miles they do not fit properly, which may indicate problems for the life of the boot and should be returned before putting too many miles on them or slipping past the returns deadline. In my experience, poor fitting boots do not get better over time, if anything they get worse over time and it's usually best to retreat and look for something different.

    It may depend on the store, but many REI locations have various brands and foot sizes that may have been missed on the first purchase period. Now that you have a better idea of what to look for, you can make a proper comparison of the fit as you try new boots. Being near a large metro area like Charlotte, there is a good chance you can find a retailer supplying larger boots big box retailers won't stock.

    If patience, time, and money are not at issue, having a pair of custom made boots may be the best solution. John Calden Boots (Estes Park CO), Esatto LLC (Vancouver WA), and Limmer (Intervale NH) produce handmade boots. Though prices range, custom boots will run a few hundred dollars more than the higher end boots many retailer carry. The buyer needs to travel to the maker for fitting purposes at least once, which adds to the cost a bit. But, several owners I have met over time speak glowingly of their custom boots, how they fit, and most importantly how they perform.

    There are also thermal customized boots that use heat to mold to your feet like the Tecnica Forge GTX, which can only be done at one of their retailer locations. These may prove to be somewhere in the middle of the cost spectrum, but does require traveling to an authorized dealer. There may be other customized boots like these, but this is the only one I am familiar with.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterfloyd View Post
    Steve Sr,

    I know how much of a pisser it is to find a boot that you like but there is one thing wrong with it, it may be small, but over a course of miles it adds up. You already know this.

    With my feet I have to wear boots, trailrunner don't get it for me for various reasons.

    So what is the problem, the height of the footbox? the width of the footbox? I had the same boots but the older nubuck version so I not remember. Does the top of the toes feel the rubber, or the stiffness ?

    From where I sit (for what that is worth) the problem may be that rubber cap. So now we need to find a work around.

    I have gone to your original post and read that as well.

    Try wearing them with the thinnest sock and build up from there. Write down how it feels with each thickness. Experiment. Have you tried different lacing patterns, bunioun lacing, window lacing? Each of those will give you a little bit of wiggle room perhaps. You can google them to show what they are. There are a few other thing you may try as well.

    If you are dead set on these boots it will take some work. If not take them back and get something with a wider toe box.

    Let me know what works or does not.

    I have two feet that are much different than each other so I have had to go through ALL of the above that I mentioned.

    Floyd
    Sorry for the delayed response but I have been nursing a bad case of spring fever. Spent a day doing trail maintenance and several more on the bike.

    I have one more thing to try before giving up. Contrary to what I was told by Vasque customer service the leather in these boots is NOT the least bit waterproof! I stuck the toes in a bucket of water and the leather soaked it right up! I was intending on going on a hike that day but ended up doing a chainsaw trail workday so used my old boots.

    While these were still wet I stuffed some very stiff rubber sponges in them to try to hold the expanded shape of the toe section. My next step is to soak them again, put tape on the 2 little toes of each foot, sock liners, and the troublesome Smart Wool socks and go out for a hike to dry them out and see what happens.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traveler View Post
    Mister Floyd probably has the best remedy. You purchased the boots at REI, after 30+ miles they do not fit properly, which may indicate problems for the life of the boot and should be returned before putting too many miles on them or slipping past the returns deadline. In my experience, poor fitting boots do not get better over time, if anything they get worse over time and it's usually best to retreat and look for something different.
    I still have about 6 months on the return window so I have some time for experimentation.


    Quote Originally Posted by Traveler View Post
    It may depend on the store, but many REI locations have various brands and foot sizes that may have been missed on the first purchase period. Now that you have a better idea of what to look for, you can make a proper comparison of the fit as you try new boots. Being near a large metro area like Charlotte, there is a good chance you can find a retailer supplying larger boots big box retailers won't stock.
    The main issue with REI (and other local outfitters) is that they do not even carry anything is a wide width to even try on. I had to order two pair of these just to have something to try on. So this is why I am stuck. BTW, I am not near Charlotte, bur Raleigh which is considerably smaller.

    The only other boot place that I can think of are industrial work boot sellers like Red Wing. However most of these boots are not intended for hiking, are usually considerably heavier and have a steel toe which adds weight and is not needed.

  18. #18

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    Raleigh isn't too far from Franklin, Outdoor 76 is located there and may be a retail source that can hit your foot size.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traveler View Post
    Raleigh isn't too far from Franklin, Outdoor 76 is located there and may be a retail source that can hit your foot size.
    Sorry, but Franklin is about 6 hours one-way from Raleigh but I'll keep them in mind if I am ever in the area.

  20. #20

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    Sorry, for some reason my mapping system shows two Franklins in NC, one in the western part of the State, the other just north of Raleigh.

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