Wearing Out Firefighter Boots

I mentioned in my most recent post on this blog that I received a new pair of Chippewa Firefighter (27422) boots. I have raved about these boots since I discovered them in 2007. Their comfort, design, style, durability, and performance for wear while operating my big ol’ Harley is second-to-none, in my opinion.

These have been the first pair of boots of the some 250+ boots that I have owned that I have ever …

…worn out. Yep, you read it right. I wore out the pair that I bought in 2012.

I have said that these are my first choice, or “go-to” boots when I boot up to ride my Harley. Yes, I own and wear a number of other motorcycle boots, but if I ride seven days a week, these are probably on my feet more than half the time. (I actually do not ride that much, as much as I would like to do so. But the scale-back on riding is for another post.)

I usually avoid riding in the rain, but there have been times that I have been caught by a pop-up storm while wearing these boots. While the manufacturer makes no claims about these boots being waterproof, they have not leaked or the leather gotten soaked. Water runs right off and doesn’t soak in, primarily because the plastic top coat that makes these boots so shiny resists water penetration.

So how did I wear out these boots? Isn’t it usually the sole wearing down that triggers a repair?

Well, in my case, the sole of my boots — a Vibram 100 lug sole — continued to perform and hold up fine. No damage, very minor tread reduction from wear.

The threads holding the boot parts (sewn vamp, heel quarter, shaft) together remained intact.

And while I use a thin additional insole, what wore out in these boots was the manufacturer’s insole that composed the footbed.

A few days before taking off for my Crazy-Awesome Harley Adventure in Utah, I noticed that the boots were “feeling funny” on my feet while on a motorcycle ride. When I removed the boots after I got home, I noticed some small whitish/tan small “rocks” attached to my socks. It’s like my boots suddenly were filled with pebbles.

I pulled out the thin added insoles, thinking they had worn and was time for replacement, when I noticed that the footbed of the boot was crumbling before my eyes. I reached in and felt it, and the footbed crumbled more and made more of these small, hard rocks, as I touched the footbed. I quickly checked the other boot and the same thing was happening.

I emptied out the crumbles. It was like pouring sand out of a bucket.

I cleaned the boots from the inside out, and tried inserting new thick gel insoles. I pulled the boots on and walked a little bit, but both of my feet were hurting. It felt like the remaining footbed was poking up through the insole into the most sensitive parts of my feet. I took the boots off, bewildered and disheartened. I put the boots aside and pulled on my smooth-soled version.

At a meeting at the firehouse later that same day, I mentioned this situation to a buddy who said that he wears the same boots and has not had a problem. But he admitted that he only wears the boots while working at the station and, of course, removes these boots when donning turnout gear (including protective rubber fire boots) when responding to a call. He does not ride a motorcycle, so he has no experience using these boots on a bike.

I went on my Utah adventure and when I got back, I decided that with regret, that I would have to replace these favorite “go-to” boots. I mentioned that at a meeting at the fire station when the BChief said that it’s been about five years since I was selected for Life Member status and issued a uniform. I am eligible (and overdue) to get a full replacement uniform, including boots. So I placed the order and soon enough, a new pair of boots were shipped to me (along with cool new shirts, slacks, and outerwear that fit me better and do not look as worn. Just in time for Senior Safety Saturday coming up in October!)

I am happy with the new uniform and boots. My Spouse likes the look too. As I was modeling the new uniform to him, he sidled up next to me, held me close and whispered in my ear, “I love a man in uniform.” (LOL). But then the Spouse said, “now, are you throwing away those old boots and torn/worn pants?” That’s my man! — volume in equals volume out. No accumulation or pack-ratting allowed!

I will write in a future post just what a guy has to go through when lacing up a new pair of Chippewa Firefighters and breaking them in. (Meanwhile, if you can’t wait for these instructions, find them and a video here on the boot wiki.)

Life is short: wear boots — really WEAR them! (New boot photo below)