Boots are yet another hot button topic. My attitude has changed somewhat over the past few years. I still love the Vasque Sundowners, but I have also come to appreciate that boot fit is probably more important than "Through-Hike The AT" quality.
The only general advice is to ensure that your boots provide proper ankle support, have a decent tread, and (most importantly) fit you properly. On the latter point, it is noted over and over: You can buy a $200 pair of boots, and suffer terribly, or buy a $30 pair and be perfectly comfortable (or of course, vice versa). I tell my Scouts to go to a store and get a pair of every qualifying brand of boot, and try them on wearing the socks they'll be using on the trail. If unhappy with all of them, move on to another store. People's feet are different, so no one brand is the optimum for everyone.
Gortex - some love it, others hate it. I use Gortex lined boots, but I'm not sure that it's doing me any particular good. I am currently wearing a pair of medium weight Asolo's for most of my hiking and backpacking, which are OK but I wish had a more aggressive tread (a Vibram lug would have been useful on many of the trails in the Swiss Alps this past summer, versus what I had - but I lived.) I'm actually about to replace the sole on them now. My previous favorite was Vasque Sundowners - still a hell of a boot, that will last for many years with proper care.
If your feet are tender, you'll need a stiffer sole to help defend you against rocky trails. If you're prone to ankle sprains, get boots that are a little higher on the ankle. If your feet sweat a lot, or you're prone to blisters, be judicious in your selection of socks. Proper socks (another hot-button topic) can compensate for many foot issues. Most importantly, break your boots in on real trail, not just walking around your block. If possible, still growing Scouts should buy their boots 3 months before hitting the trail, and again should wear them extensively to break them in.
Hope this offers some insights. - Dr. Bob
This Web page is maintained by Selden Ball
at Wilson Lab.
Please send any comments or corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org