Astonishingly enduring boots


in The outdoors, Travel

Back when I was in high school (before 2000), I was given a pair of Raichle hiking boots, purchased at Mountain Equipment Co-op (and also kindly mailed to me in Oxford before my first trip with the Walking Club).

The boots are excellent, with solid ankle support, a reliable ability to maintain grip in wet and slippery conditions, and excellent comfort. I hiked in them in the heat of Italy, Morocco, and Malta; on rain-covered rocks in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, England’s Lake District, and British Columbia; in ice-bound Tallinn, Vermont, and Helsinki; and tramping through the mud in Devon and Oxford’s Port Meadow.

I am glad the people at MEC recommended these leather boots over Gore-Tex ones. They essentially never soaked through, even after the occasional slip into streams, and were comfortable with wool socks in even very hot conditions.

They have also been my standard winter boots for five years in Ottawa and four in Toronto. In all that time, I haven’t even had to replace the laces — though I have tied them to fix breaks two or three times.

Yesterday, part of the rear right heel came loose. I will check into whether replacing the Vibram soles is possible and affordable. If not, I will be in the market for a new pair of hiking boots for the first time in an absurdly long while. Without a doubt, these boots have held up to at least twenty times as much use as any other pair of shoes or boots that I have owned. It makes me wonder what makes all the rest of my footwear so inferior, including Blundstone boots which cost only a bit less than the Raichle’s did but which only ever last a couple of years and Allen Edmonds boots which cost over twice as much and which have needed multiple repairs despite only being worn for formal occasions.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Pemberton January 11, 2016 at 8:07 pm

Good leather boots do last far longer than goretex if one takes care of them. I have a pair of leather Brasher boots that I bought before a hiking trip in Crete in 1996 that are still going strong even though my mum has hiked around bits of Vietnam, Cuba, and the middle East in them.

Milan January 12, 2016 at 2:06 am

Unlike all the more expensive boots which I wore during the lifetime of these Raichle’s, I never undertook any preventative care for them at all. They are sitting beside me coated with layers of mud from around North America and Europe.

I doubt the sole in this sort of boot is really replaceable, but these still stand out as one of the cheapest things which have helped the most for a surprising length of time.

Milan February 28, 2016 at 8:31 pm

I brought the boots back to MEC and was happy to learn that a company in Vancouver can replace the vibram soles in 4-5 weeks for about $150.

They told me that there is no reason to get all-new boots instead. Indeed, by replacing the soles instead I will be keeping the well broken in uppers which I have used all over North America, Europe, Turkey, and Morocco.

Milan April 18, 2016 at 12:38 am

I got back my re-soled Raichle hiking boots from MEC:

Re-soled Raichle hiking boots 1/2

Re-soled Raichle hiking boots 2/2

They seem to have done a good job on the sole replacement, though overall the boots are in worse shape than I remembered. The inner lining is worn through at the back of both feet, though they are very comfortable (if unfamiliar to walk in, without the distinctive pattern of tread wear which accumulates in all my boots).

Milan April 18, 2016 at 1:04 am

Re-soled Raichle hiking boots 3/3

konrad sauer February 17, 2020 at 8:35 pm

So glad I found this post. I think I have the same pair of boots and just experienced the same heel separation. I inherited mine from a late cousin, so don’t know how old they are. Will take them to MEC to see if they are able to re-sole them. Thanks!

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