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Editors’ Choice 2009: New Balance 1500 Rainier Boot

Bring us your narrow feet, your wide feet, or the freakishly long–these boots are the answer.
Editors Choice 09 New Balance 1500 Rainier 445x260New Balance 1500 Rainier (Julia Vandenoever)

When it comes to hiking-boot comfort, fit is always the first priority. That’s fine for people with average-shaped feet, as there are plenty of great shoes made for them. But for the many hikers with, um, uncommon feet? Normally, you have to buy expensive custom boots, or suffer. Until now.

This full-grain leather midweight changes everything for the hard-to-fit crowd. The 1500 comes in four widths for men and three for women, with sizes up to a men’s 15 and women’s 13. Whether your feet are long and narrow, short and wide, or any other combination, the 1500s are simply the closest thing we’ve found to off-the-shelf custom boots.

All-around performance makes it a classic midweight, ideal for backpacking with moderate loads and dayhiking in rough-and-wet terrain. One tester carried a 40-pound pack across Snowdonia’s scrambly ridges and tippy tussock grass and reported plenty of support from the stiff polyurethane midsoles. Even during the sloppiest moorland hikes in Wales–some of the most challenging wet conditions we’ve seen–the 1500s never leaked a drop, thanks to a Gore-Tex liner. The lugs got slick on wet rock, and the asymmetrical tongue needed some break-in before the ankles snugged firmly, but those quibbles were minor compared to the “ahh, finally” comfort one wide-footed tester got from his EEEE pair. Bonus: Hikers in retail-challenged areas can order them online (newbalance.com) with a “perfect fit” guarantee. Even the shipping is reimbursed if they don’t work. $170; men’s 7-15 in B, D, EE, and EEEE widths; women’s 6-13 in AA, B, or D widths; 2 lbs. 11 oz./pair (men’s 9); newbalance.com

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