New Balance Men’s Country Walkers
Pros: Attractive, earthy look is non-trendy classic. Size-appropriate – my size thirteen, triple-E feet are pleased. NB’s overall stability, Abzorb cushioning and otherwise comfy fit suited to uneven terrain, gravel, grass or concrete. Non-marking soles grip without tracking-in excessive muck.
Cons: Longer than expected break-in. Stiff cushioning in Achilles area takes some getting used to. A bit over-insulated for mid-summer wear.
I harbor no shoe fetish. The footwear shelf in my walk-in closet features steel-toed Timberlands, Merrill winter boots and hikers – and dress shoes in brown and black.
One fateful day, the local LL Bean outlet had a lone pair of New Balance Men’s Country Walkers on the triple-discount rack – in a wide size thirteen, to boot! Suddenly, I was channeling former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos – while I could never match her historic footwear collection, the Country Walkers that enabled my comfortable stroll around the store would soon join my otherwise conservative collection.
My first set of Merrill footwear was so totally comfortable, they appeared to be custom made. Previous treks through the city in a variety of brands would result in pain due to lack of support for my high arches. My long-term concern with the New Balance Country Walkers in this regard was unfounded – the support is similar to the Merrill hikers. NB‘s Abzorb technology and the Merrill‘s cushioned Vibram soles both make long walks pleasantly pain-free.
The best footwear acts as an extension of the foot itself. Both brands offer a snug, stable stance. Early on, my biggest beef with the New Balance Country Walkers was a stiffness in the cushioning above the heel. If they weren’t tied tightly, my Achilles tendon would experience a slight chafing from the foot’s vertical movement. Fortunately, mileage logged during the initial break-in period has resolved this issue.
Not one to appreciate flash, my attraction to these tan-on-brown triple-E tugboats is steadfast. Conservative is cool – when you have size thirteen feet, there’s no need to draw attention to same with flashing lights and fluorescent grape trim. The NB‘s Ndurance rubber outsole and midsole C-Cap support is the bling within. Their style tops the Merrill‘s muted orange-and-brown motif by a country mile.
Weighing-in at just under a pound each, my New Balance Country Walkers have endured a couple of year’s wear with no sign of failure. While trekking through the Maine woods has given them character, the suede uppers and associated stitching all remain intact. The soles are sufficiently aggressive to insure stability while tracking-in a minimum of nature’s outdoor debris.
Though it appears the triple-mesh in the upper design would provide adequate cooling, these are not the best mid-summer shoe – here the lighter, more flexible uppers installed in the Merrill win outright. And northern New England has a mild summer compared to most of the New Balance market territory.
Successful products continue to evolve – I see that the latest update includes a common-sense pair of sturdy loops at the rear. When my New Balance Men’s Country Walkers finally wear-out, I will likely buy another pair. They’re attractive, comfortable and, while stylishly shod, I can work all three pedals in my 6-speed Jeep JK unencumbered – which is no small feat while sporting such a pair.
New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc.
Boston, MA 01235