Where can I find some good, sturdy hiking boots?

This summer I am doing a field study on the big island of Hawaii. We will be hiking around all over the island including a trip in which we will get as close to flowing lava as is possibly allowed. I need really, really sturdy boots in order to do this. My professor told me to get “study boots with black soles that are stitched on because glues can melt and gum rubber soles will melt.” I have also been warned to only wear all natural fibers because synthetics can burst into flames and/or melt easily. I asked my professor for recommendations (he and most of the other individuals on the trip are much older than me and have done this sort of thing before) but he had boots that he bought 10 years ago. I went to REI but the help there said that they don’t make boots with the soles stitched on anymore. They said that most boot manufacturers remove the soles through high heat, although they were unsure just how hot they heat them before the soles come off.

I emailed and called my prof, asking for advice but he hasn’t gotten back to me. I need to buy these boots soon because I am leaving in a week and I want to have time to break them in. Has anyone done anything like this before? Or, do you know how hot the ground we will be walking on will get? Any suggestions for hiking boots in general? There will be a LOT of rain while we are there so I figure I need something waterproof.

Thanks for your time.

I don’t know if you’ll be doing this lava-walking on a regular basis, but in a pinch you could just buy several pairs of confortable walking shoes. If one of them melts, get another and don’t come so close to the lava next time. Your own fire-resistancy will probably be more limiting then your boots’s.

I’m saying this as a veteran of at least 2 pairs of expensive hiking shoes I bought and never wore because breaking them in was too much of a pain. Literally. I cold have gone on holiday crippled, but I didn’t really see the point.
If you have just a week to break them in, your feet will probbly be too sore too, to do much walking on the field trip at all.
In the end, I walked the Swiss mountains in just my regular old comfortable walking shoes. I had to tread careful around one or two rocky paths, and I did get wet socks once, but for 99% of my walking they were just fine.

Check Sierra Trading Post (www.sierratradingpost.com). They had previously advertised some Italian-made hikers that were sewn construction. They had two men’s versions available for +/-$125.00.

This fire-resistant stitched on Vibram Fire Compound #316 100F (“F” as in Fire) sole is the sort of sole that you might wish to consider: http://www.vibram.us/firecompound/index.html

For example: http://www.westcoastshoe.com/wesco/product_item.asp?tID=fir

I lived / went to school in Hawaii, as did my wife. She’s a geologist who went on a week-long field trip to Kileauea (toasted marshmallows over the lava and “made” a rock by dipping one of the hammers into the flow and shaping the drippings; you’re gonna have fun, but be careful!). She’s now got a pair of Vasque sundowners, full leather and stitched soles (I believe). Hold on, I’ll ask her for recommenations…

OK. When she went, she had a cheap ($35) pair of Candies boots (y’know, something close to your average Thom McAnns). She also said that she went more than once; another time, she was wearing a pair of her Mom’s boots. I bring this up because, in her words, having comfortable boots matters more than having really sturdy boots. She was miserable in her Mom’s boots; the Candies worked out well. She says that many in her group wore sneakers and had no problems, though you’d most likely not want to wear Chuck Taylors or the like, as the terrain is very sharp and might puncture them. Also that if there’s ever a situation in which the glue on your boots would start melting, either you’ve done a really stupid thing (hey – let’s stand in the middle of this flow!), your guide is being totally irresponsible and letting you do things you shouldn’t, or there’s been an act of God (in which case the glue on your boots is likely a small worry).

To finish this, I’d say it’s little use to worry about now. With only a week left, breaking in a sturdy pair of boots is pretty much impossible. Even if you do, your feet are gonna be so sore and blistered that anything you wear is gonna be unbearable. I got a pair of Vasques (see a trend there? I still have 'em and recommend them highly) a week before I went back-country backpacking back in '94; though I tried, there was no way to break them in in time and I ended up with blisters bigger than silver dollars on both feet. (Moleskin and duct-tape helped ever so slightly, but it was still bad enough that I had bloody socks.)

Going back and re-reading the OP, I now gather that you’re gonna be there for longer than a week. I’d say: look into getting a pair of Vasques and break them in as you’re able, but bring another (comfortable) pair for use until your new boots are ready for everyday wear. You’re gonna have a great time!

I missed this part before:

My wife says that yes, it rains a lot in Hilo and you should be prepared for that. She also says that the ground on which you’d be walking, being almost a “perfect black body”, will be heated more from the sun than from being molten at one point.

If you want to correspond with her, my email address is in my profile; I’ll forward your message. She was wondering if you’re a geology major, who your professor is, what school you go to, etc.

The class is from the 19th of June to the 26th and I’m staying on the island for a vacation until the 3rd of July and I plan to do a fair amout of hiking on my vacation as well. We will be getting close enough to dip things in the lava - or at least trying to. It is really safe to wear sneakers so close? What’s a good boot for the raininess of Hilo?

Email sent Digital Stimulus.