by Ron Spomer
I confess. I sometimes walk around the office in my LOWA Hunter Extreme boots. Stiff and 4.5 pounds, they aren’t nearly as comfortable as street shoes. But they’re way more exciting.
Boots tug at my emotions much the way canoe paddles do. I see a light, sleek, curved cedar and maple canoe paddle in a garage and I immediately hear lapping water, see rocky shores and recall the whir of a spinning reel in the Boundary Waters. The paddle is an inspiration and touchstone. So are my boots.
Just seeing those lug-soled vehicles transports me outdoors. The hum of traffic beyond the office door quiets. The perfume of worn leather conjures memories of mountain meadows. When I lace those boots, the feel of stiff soles carries me back to the fir forests, to the crunch of needles underfoot, to the soprano whistle of a rutting elk.
Dreams and memories, however, are not the only reason I put up with 4.5-pound boots in the office. There is a practical side. Acclimatization. Getting in shape. Getting comfortable.
Back in the dark ages, it was standard procedure to strap on new leather boots, soak them and walk them dry. This was to help them conform to one’s foot. Today’s LOWA boots fit so well right out of the box that I can strap them on and hike 12 miles with nary a rub. But my legs might not like it.
As any mountain rambler knows, tall, stiff boots are powered by slightly different muscles and tendons than lighter, short-topped shoes. Less flex in the sole necessitates a subtly different style of walking. And that’s what I’m training for at work and home. As few as 1,000 steps a day are enough to train those muscles — gradually and without pain — for the serious out-of-office hiking to come. A month of now-and-then casual wear gets me over the hump, prevents major muscle pain later — and soothes my spirit each time I consciously feel the heft at the bottoms of my office legs. Boot magic. Who knew?
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