I’m looking for a good pair of boots for backpacking along the AT and similar trails. I find that I’m getting bruises on the soles of my feet with the boots I currently have (Merrell Zion) when carrying my pack along rocky trail sections. I try to keep my pack weight between 25-30 pounds, but tend to go a bit heavier in cold weather. I’d like to find a boot that is sturdy, waterproof but still breathable, and has a rock plate. Obviously, I’ll accept a bit of weight trade off for these features. Any suggestions?
I would recommend you look at the brand Zamberlan (https://www.zamberlanusa.com/). I have two pairs of boots from them. The one I use more for backpacking, they unfortunately no longer sell, but I absolutely it. I used it on Mt. Kilimanjaro and plenty of other hiking/backpacking trips and never had a problem with them. My sister and her husband used their boots on Mt. Everest base camp trek and they both were amazed at how comfortable their feet were during the trip.
The second pair I have from them is the 1014 Lynx Mid GTX (https://www.zamberlanusa.com/product/10094972/1014-lynx-mid-gtx-r-men-s-hunting-boots-camouflage). I use this pair really just for hunting, but there's no reason why you couldn't use it for hiking or backpacking (with a low weight pack). It a very comfortable boot.
I like this brand because they are a serious outfit that makes great quality boots. Their boots are Made in Italy.
Also, if you are looking for a boot for severe cold weather and snow, check out the 655 Extreme Cold Weather Waterproof and Insulated Boot by Belleville Boots (https://www.bellevilleboot.com/shop/index.php?l=product_detail&p=153). I have this pair and it is by far the warmest boot I own. My feet get cold easy, but I have never had an issue when I where these (even when I'm not moving around much). The boot is really good quality as well. I have been using for several years now and have not had any issues. The boot is Made in the USA. If you are interested I would search around the internet a bit because its usually cheaper to buy from one of their vendors. Oh and their sizing is a little weird…for example, I normally take a 11.5 in boots, but with Belleville I have to get a size 11.0.
Good luck shopping!
@Theodage often bruised soles result from boots that aren't quite stiff enough for the terrain, distance and weight you are carrying, meaning your feet are absorbing more of the trail impact. We'd recommend looking at something a bit more rugged. Depending on how they fit your feet, you might consider the Zamberlan Viox, Asolo Finder or TPS 520, or the Lowa Camino/Mauria. With that said, because fit is so important and so personalized, we recommend either visiting an REI store for a boot fit or setting up a free virtual outfitting appointment. Hope this helps!