Why compromise?…don’t compromise, really…don’t compromise on footwear and the layer between your feet and that footwear. I have paired up three of my regular wear shoes with three different socks to lay out the fit/form of each match up. If you aren’t in the military anymore…stop lacing up your jungle boots(or your issued Danners/Bates/ETC)  and low bidder poly/wool socks…you don’t have to live like that anymore…or you do…in such a case…I will have another article on grinning and bearing before the holidays are over.


My Specs


170Lbs - Athletic

10.5 Shoe Size  - Normal Arch - Regular Width

My environment – Central Alabama/Southeast. Hot/Humid summers, warm springs(heavy rainfall), cool(not cold) fall season, and moderate winters(heavy rainfall).


Shoe – Merrell® All Out Blaze Aero Sport –

Fit- True to Size 10.5

Sock – Darn Tough® Hiker Micro Crew

Fit- True to Size 10.5(Large)

Shoe Wear – The lugged Vibram™ TC5+ outsole has shown little wear over 200+ days of use at work, on the range, hiking, and hopping around town. The footbed/midsole has retained elasticity and has held up well to abrasion, thorns, and sticks. The Merrell® Omni-Fit™ lace system holds to its claims…the shoes fit like a pair of well-made gloves. I am on my second pair in two years…only because my first pair developed a squeak after interacting with some A/B compounds at work.

Sock Wear – Merino wool construction with wicking technology these socks hold true to the DarnTough saying “PUT IT ON, FORGET ITS ON” You will feel the same way. Paired with Merrell’s Omni-Fit™…your feet couldn’t be happier. These SOCKS CANNOT BE BEAT!  I have six pairs and I can’t kill them. I have hundreds of miles on a single pair and I still wear them. There are some signs of wear…but no holes and they still fit well.

Seasons for wear – These are optimal for hot/dry or hot/humid days without rainfall/precip. Avoid Rainy days if you plan to be in your shoes all day, they dry well and quickly but soggy shoes aren’t a good combo if you have to function 100%. I will wear this combo into the fall and early winter as long as temps aren’t dipping down below 50F.


Shoe – Salewa® Firetail 3

Fit – True to Size 10.5

Sock – Smartwool® Hike Medium Crew

Fit – True to Size 10.5(Large)

Shoe Wear – The lugged Vibram™ Reptail sole with Megagrip Combound is a sticky and durable rubber compound that is used in rock shoes but blends well for this approach shoe and hasn’t shown any significant signs of wear with 40+ miles of walking/shooting/hiking. It’s a little flat for my tastes and took some time to break in but the fit is perfect. I would certainly trust this shoe while scrambling or moving up slick shale.

Sock Wear – A little loose of a fit but true to size. Its soft and a bit thicker than the DarnTough® but it also adds a bit of cushion for a shoe that isnt as forgiving as the Merrell® All Out Blaze Aero Sport. It’s a great addition to this shoe and rounds out the paring or package.

Seasons for Wear – Cool Summers, Springs, and Fall would be optimum…but I would avoid soggy days with any level of precipitation. They breathe decent…but not well enough to call them a quick dry shoe. Temps shouldn’t be an issue above freezing If you pair them with the smart wool Medium or even the Heavy Weight Hiker for cooler temps.


Shoe- Salomon® XA PRO 3D GTX

Fit - .5+ Size different from normal wear of a 10.5

Sock- Thorlo® Moderate Cushion Light Hiking Sock

Fit – True to Size 10.5(Large)

Shoe Wear – The Contagrip® outsole is built like an offroad tire. It sheds mud and debris well and doesn’t wear bad enough to complain about it. Its sticky on damp surfaces and doesn’t react poorly to beating the pavement.  Salomons 3D Advanced Chassis™ gives added stability when you want to up your step and move with some speed. A heel cup and toe cup also keep your toes safe from thick brush tears and hard rocks. These are my GOTO shoes for the gun range, hunting trips, and beating around the trails. Being that this shoe is GTX(GORETEX) it’s going to breathe decent but your feel will have the added protection from precipitation/moisture. These shoes perform just as well in the non GTX versions(Salomon offers a CS Waterproof version for a few bucks less).  I own/have owned 7 pairs of the Salomon XA Pros in GTX, CS, and non-Waterproof and I will keep wearing them into the future.

Sock Wear – The Thorlo is a good fit, but not as secure of a fit as the Darn Tough. Cushion is about on par with the Smartwool and makes up for the sizing difference of the Salomons compared to the Salewa and Merrells. Combined with the GTX Salomon…your feet with stay dry and cushioned on the trail, commuting, or slapping plates with your primary weapon.

Seasons for Wear – All Season for the Southeast. This shoe works well for me in any season ive experienced down in Alabama for the past 20+ years. HOT and DRY summers are a NOGO. I would transition yourself to the NON-Waterproof versions of the same shoe if you plan to hike, run, Run and Gun, or commute in hot dry climates.