Hi Tec hiking boots may not be the most expensive boots, and they may not even be the most "high-tech" hiking boots available, but they are reasonably priced and surprisingly rugged, based on our own experience.
DAVE: When I was beginning to accumulate equipment for a major-length backpacking trip in 2006 (the first big trip Dan and I had done), I went shopping for new boots because the old ones I had bought at a yard sale were literally falling apart (the soles were splitting and breaking apart).
So I went to a local store, bought some good, thick backpacking socks and liners, put them on, and then started trying on boots. After trying several different brands in various sizes and finding my feet uncomfortable in each one, I finally came to some size 11-1/2 Hi-Tec Altitude IV hiking boots. I immediately fell in love.
The Hi Tec hiking boots felt "just right" on my feet as I walked around the store and since the price was very reasonable (about $70 on sale at the time) I decided to buy them and test them on our upcoming practice hikes.
I haven't used anything else since.
First, the fit of these boots was ideal for the shape of my feet. I was very surprised that the correct size for me was 11-1/2 because I wear size 10-1/2 shoes, but with the heavily-padded backpacking socks and liners, the extra space was needed.
Second, the break in period seemed surprisingly short with these boots. I've listened to other hikers complaining about how their boots are too stiff and can't be broken in easily, and I'm aware of the common sense advice to walk at least 50 miles in a new set of boots before you leave for an extended backpacking trek of several days. However, the Hi Tec boots seemed to give my feet very few problems at all, even during the first 10 miles I hiked in them. Maybe it was the combination of the fit and the well-padded socks, but I was very impressed.
Third, backpacking or hiking for more than a few miles puts considerable stress on the soles of your boots, especially if you're using trails that are very rocky, as we did in 2006 at Philmont Scout Ranch in the New Mexico mountains. Prior to that trip, I hiked and backpacked in these Hi-Tec boots for about 75 miles, and during the trek I added another 65 miles in sometimes very rocky conditions. No problems whatsoever with the sturdy construction of these boots. I'm still using the same pair today, in April 2009, and planning to use them for another Philmont Trek this summer.
UPDATE! I put close to 70 more miles on the same Hi Tecs during our June 2009 Philmont Trek, and they're still in great shape. Absolutely amazing for such an inexpensive set of boots.
Fourth, they are marked "waterproof" on the side and although I didn't intentionally go wading in them to test the claim, I haven't had any water problems when I've walked through small puddles on the trail or when hiking in the rain.
Based on these personal experiences, I heartily give the Hi Tec Altitude IV hiking boots my personal endorsement. There may be better boots out there, but I don't care. I'm in love and I see no need to make a change from a set of hiking boots that have taken care of my feet so well.
Hi Tec hiking boots might not be the best for you, but don't pass them over just because they seem to be too reasonably priced. This company is doing something right, based on my experience.