backbacking boots

11:35 p.m. on June 29, 2004 (EDT)

Has anyone tried the lightweight backpacking or trail running boots? I have a pair of Vasque Zephyr GTX that weigh 3 lb 4 oz. My pack weighs 16 lbs before food and water. These boots seem like overkill for the weight of my pack. Do I really need that much foot support? The boots fit well and are waterproof, but are heavy. I'd like to change to a fast lightweight boot like the montrail storm or north face's adrealine. I still want something that can go through mud or a rainy day. Are there any problems or disadvantages with a light boot? Thanks.

10:46 a.m. on June 30, 2004 (EDT)
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Light footgear

I usually use trail-running shoes, even on rough trails or cross country, when carrying a load lighter than 20 pounds or so. But then my ankles are pretty flexible (even at my ancient age, mostly thanks to continuing to do lots of "en canard" cramponing in the winters and smearing when rock climbing. If you have weak and/or non-flexible ankles, you need the ankle support of higher-top, stiffer boots. During one of the outdoor safety courses I help with, we had a woman crosscountry and distance runner step on a small branch which rolled, ending up with a broken ankle. If she had had high-top supportive boots, she would not have broken her ankle and we would not have had a very probelematic evacuation.

One way around the weak ankle problem is to get ankle supports. There is a very supportive one made that used to be in a lot of runner's shops (or on the web, like Road Runner Sports), but I think you have to go to the manufacturer these days. Can't remember the name right now. This was a stiff support, not the neoprene soft elastic type. They are quite lightweight, and a lot of the competitive orienteers around here use them.

Basic rule is that heavier load needs more ankle support. Obviously, that has to be modified by how strong your ankles are. If you have a tendency to twist your ankle on rough terrain or loose rocks on the trail, at least get high top shoes or boots. But you may need full leather boots.

One other problem with the light shoes and boots - they often have a mesh fabric over much of the top. These are not waterproof, or even water repellent. Supposedly this (and the Goretex liners) is to allow the foot to breathe. However, it allows dust to enter. Not only does this get your socks filthy quickly, but the dust gets onto your foot and between your toes, which can quickly abrade your skin, meaning blisters or raw spots. Goretex does not completely keep the dust out, for some reason, although you would think it would. A full leather boot, on the other hand, works better at keeping dust and water out, while still breathing off the sweat to some extent (use wicking liner socks with a good heavy sock, like SmartWool or Thorlo).

11:14 a.m. on June 30, 2004 (EDT)
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1,261 forum posts
toss them heavy suckers into the closet till the snow falls.

I recently bought myself a pair of Vasque Talus GTX mid height trail running boots. I absolutely love 'em. Feels like I'm wearing a waterproof running shoe. Bought 'em thru Sierra Trading Post for about $69.00.

I backpack in flat as a pancake south east Ga and I use them when hauling my 45 lb pack.

Oh, the Talus' are replacing a pair of Vasque Vista GTX boots. No more heavy trucks for me.

6:27 p.m. on June 30, 2004 (EDT)

Re: Light footgear

I have no ankle problems. I will play soccer about once a week just for fun. I can keep running for the 2 hours. Hiking for 2 hours (8 miles distance) made my legs sore. I felt like I had 2 buckets of sand around my feet. The boots took away all feeling of the earth beneath my feet as well. Soccer boots let your feet feel the soil move under them as you run. Of course I'm going to use my soccer boots for hiking, but I want something that lets me move fast.

I think the mid high hiking boots may work for me. They should keep dirt and rain out better than the low cut runners.

7:23 p.m. on June 30, 2004 (EDT)
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Re: Light footgear

While I realize you had tongue firmly in cheek when you made the comment about the soccer shoes, it turns out that many orienteers use soccer shoes, softball shoes, and such for running orienteering events, even on Blue and Red courses (the most advanced courses, which are typically around 15-20 km in length and 500+ meters of climb, typical time 90-120 minutes, all off-trail) and on rogaines (which can be up to 24 hours continuous). Of course, the "elite" runners tend to use purpose-made orienteering shoes (cheapest are around $120, and go up from there), but those of us who are cheap and not among the elite find soccer and softball shoes work just fine. We do wear gaiters and duct tape to keep the sand and dirt out of the tops of the shoes, but we just run through the marshy and swampy areas, as well as streams. The gaiters have a plastic plate in the front to protect the shins against branches and thorns, which is probably unnecessary for your hiking.

(hmmmm, I expect Jim S to jump in here - he can tell you about off-trail orienteering, since he broke his leg horribly in an orienteering event. Can't remember what footgear he was using).

It helps a lot to wear gaiters when hiking off trail, or even on sandy, gravelly, or just dusty trails, no matter what type of shoe or boot you are wearing. Scree has a way of getting into even high top boots in huge quantities without gaiters.

If you don't have ankle problems, try a few 10-15 mile dayhikes with running shoes (plus gaiters). And if that works for you, try a 35-50 mile day hike. I find that I can't do more than about 35-40 miles in a day if I am wearing even light boots (e.g., the Skyline to the Sea trail or the long Henry Coe Park loop, both of which are about 38 miles), but have no problem with trail running shoes. There are "hiking boots" that are really just high top trail running shoes, hence are pretty light weight. Adidas and Nike both make these.

10:01 p.m. on July 3, 2004 (EDT)
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749 forum posts
Re: Light footgear

""While I realize you had tongue firmly in cheek when you made the comment about the soccer shoes, it turns out that many orienteers use soccer shoes""

Yeh sure Bill, now you tell me... (:->)

I have a pair of HiTec light weight hiking boots. They come above my ankle and offer a lot of support and they weigh 2.5 pounds. I personally do not wear lighter footgear than this even for summer backpacking because I hike cross country in the sierras, often alone, and I cannot afford to damage an ankle on a loose rock. If I were staying on the trail and carrying a light load I might wear even lighter boots that still come above the ankle. If it was easy going and I was with other people I might actually wear cross trainers. BUT if I was going into the high Sierras and planned to be on class four rock, I would wear my LaSportiva Makalus, because of their "edge".
Jim S

April 25, 2018
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