Trail shoes vs hiking boots

9:47 p.m. on January 8, 2008 (EST)
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My wife and I just got back from visting Oak Mountain State Park in AL. While at the park we discovered backpacking and hiking trails. My question is should we buy trail shoes or hinking boots? Which shoe company is the best for trail walking?

12:42 a.m. on January 9, 2008 (EST)
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My vote is for the shoes. Asolo and Garmont shoes seem good, though in my experience at least, not extremely durable. Other major brands probably also fine. To me, they're all over-priced.

Seems like off-brands maybe have recently improved, but dunno. I owned a couple of pair, some years ago, from the likes of Wal Mart; sole and toe protection was a bit unsatisfactory.

12:05 p.m. on January 9, 2008 (EST)
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house (you aren't related to the Chuck House I went to college with by chance?) -
The choice of trail shoes (including trail running shoes) vs boots for walking trails or backpacking is dependent largely on how strong your ankles are. You can develop strength in your ankles, but if the trails are less than well-maintained, smooth trails, a lot of people find that the ankle support of even light hiking boots or at least trail "shoes" with a mid to high top help a lot with balance on the uneven sections.

I have strong, flexible ankles myself, and use trail-running shoes (Adidas Supernova) for most of my local trail hikes, and even some backpacking (when ultralight, or at least under 30 pounds). I also use approach shoes (you find these in mountaineering specialty shops) for off-trail approaches to rock climbing areas when carrying 30 to 50 pounds of climbing gear (currently La Sportiva Boulders) and for scrambling up class 3 and 4 terrain.

However, for long distances and heavy loads, and sometimes just for the comfort, I use boots, usually a light to medium boot. For example, for last month's hike up Kilimanjaro, I used a full leather boot from Lowa, and for similar hikes in the Sierra and Rockies, I used a pair of full leather Merrels for a number of years (pretty durable, but I eventually wore out the sole). As you might guess, I do not care for Goretex-lined boots, primarily because I find they do not breathe well enough. At the other end of the scale, I do not like synthetic mesh boots, which breathe well, but they let too much dust (or water and mud in wet areas) through (yeah, yeah, my trail running shoes let in lots of dust and seem to be "water-seeking" rather than water repellent or water proof - a big pain).

Advantage of trail-running shoes and light boots is weight and they don't need breaking in (IF you get a proper fit) - rule of thumb is a pound on the feet is like 5 pounds in your pack, so lighter is better. Advantage of real boots is ankle support and durability, and you feel the rocks on uneven trails much less.

So decide what kind of trails you will be on before making your choice. In any case, go to an experienced and trained boot-fitter (or for trail running shoes, go to a specialty runners shop).

1:40 p.m. on January 9, 2008 (EST)

a.k.a. Jeffrey Chandler, Jeffrey C.

I agree with what Bill about lighter being better. Yes boots can be more supportive, but when you do end up slipping or twisting the ankle with boots on it usually ends up being a high ankle sprain which is much worse than a lower ankle sprain. If you are in decent condition and have not had ankle problems before then trail shoes or trail running shoes are definitely the way to go. Your feet will feel more rocks underneath but your legs will be fresher the morning after from only having to lift half or more of the weight of those expensive boots.

6:45 p.m. on January 9, 2008 (EST)
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Thanks for your input. I do not know a chuck house. Do you know where he is from? I grew up in Mississippi.

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