Boots vs. Trail shoes?

7:03 p.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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I get the general opinion here is boots for backpacking any significant distance. But i've read on a lot of tru hike forums where the majority of members choose a trail shoe unless they are going to encounter snow or really bad terrain.

Seems maybe they are more geared toward well traveled and beat down trails? So maybe this is a large contributer? Right now that encompasses a majority of my hiking and i'm wondering if a good trail shoe might suit my needs (at least for now) better. I've been using an old pair of NB running shoes but they offer very little protection on rocky portions of the "mountain" I frequent. Currently looking at these

7:13 p.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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I personally stick with the boots because they provide more support for my ankles. Someone with strong ankles could probably get by with using trail shoes in more situations than I could.

7:36 p.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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Each situation is unique. A walk along sandy beaches might cry for sandals.

I always used mid-weight to heavy weight hiking boots, all providing good ankle protection. For bushwhacking or any offtrail use they just made sense. For example, I knew that if the arch of my foot landed on a sharp rock, the stiff sole, mid-sole, and shank would protect it; if I needed to support myself on just an inch of the boot, the stiff shank would allow that with minimal effort.

Now I even wear 6" high all-leather, heavy weight Vasques indoors instead of slippers. They are bloody comfortable and prevent sprained ankles.

8:59 p.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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I personally go with boots myself as well due to weak ankles.

10:07 p.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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TravHale, you mentioned thru hikers.

Thru'ers are a breed all their own, I have done some of this myself.

To be a good thru'er you must be wiling to sacrifice enough to travel light. Thru trails, such as the AT, are usually fairly well groomed if by no other means than sheer traffic. Thru'ers have only 3 rules:

1. Get to the destination

2. Get to the destination

3. Get to the destination

Okay maybe I'm simplifying a little bit. But light weight is the common denominator, I used to weigh everything. Then if necessary I would clip my nails and get a hair cut just to lighten up.

If you are traveling light, on smooth trails, you may not necessarily need the protection and sturdiness of a heavy boot, but you still need to wear a shoe or hiker that offers adequate support.

Tennis shoes flex way too much resulting in sore feet, and can cause damage to your feet, IMO (Including runners and cross trainers).

But there are trail shoes and light hikers that have rigid soles and decent support that may meet your needs.

I own a pair of Asolo FSN hikers, they are rated for light backpacking although I prefer my backpacking boots for that. They do however offer ample support for me to do day hikes in them. They have a Goretex liner which I don't like in FGL boots but I can tolerate it for day hikes, and the FSN's have several multi stitched layers that require the Goretex to stay dry.

Looking back on my past footwear I can now see where some of my foot tenderness and leg fatigue may have been due to wearing trail shoes that did not offer enough support, although they felt comfortable.

The shoes you posted a link to claim to offer a good deal of support with a solid foot bed. You can always give them a try and if not happy wear them about town. If it was me, I would wear enough shoe/boot to get good support regardless of what others wore on the trail.

BTW I used to be a weekly regular at Rock / Creek Outfitters, my morning would start with a double mocha at the Mudpie Coffeehouse and end up at Rock / Creek surrounded by stuff I wanted to buy, followed by a couple runs across the Market St. Bridge. Those were the days, the quest for gear & friends dum enough to go backpacking with you.

10:50 p.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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As trout said, the gear you pick for a given activity is situational. Not just footgear, but everything else you take. Through-hikers have a tendency to be fanatical about the weight they are carrying, and, as trout said, they are willing to sacrifice a lot for speed. I sometimes do a distance hike, where making the distance is a goal in and of itself. There is a Group, called the Day Hikers, in my local Chapter of the Sierra Club. A fair number of them believe that a "day hike" can be 35 miles and 5000 feet of cumulative altitude gain, or more, and yes, once or twice a year I join them. The longer hikes tend to be dawn to dusk, and held in the summer, when there are more daylight hours. Almost everyone on those hikes uses trail-running shoes and carries hardly anything other than lunch, some snacks, and a liter or two of water. WAIT! you say. Summer in California, 12-15 hours of hiking, and a couple liters of water? Well, the hikes are planned to pass through State Parks, where the water can be replenished (e.g., the 7 Parks hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains), or pass by a number of streams and reservoirs (you carry a filter pump for those, shared at 1 per 3 or 4 people in the group).

Through-hikers tend to limit their packs to 10 pounds total, including all their camping gear, plus some food. But the food is pre-stashed for pickup along the way, or re-supply stops at towns near the trail are planned. Some of the through-hikers eat very lightly, reasoning that if they can travel fast enough, they won't need much in the way of food. Remember, the lighter you travel, the faster (and farther) you can go.

But, if you are going to enjoy the scenery and take lots of photos (as I sometimes do), the added weight of the camera gear slows you down, so you need more food, which adds more weight. At some point, you may need the extra support of hiking boots, whether light or mid-weight.

If you have as a goal doing some technical mountaineering, you will carry a rope, harness, and climbing hardware (I do this, too, going into the backcountry). You will likely be hiking off-trail to get to your objective. In that case, you might well need at least mid-weight boots, and if your climb involves ascending a glacier, you must use waterproof boots, capable of taking crampons. (yes, some of the super-distance runners use trail runners and a special crampon made for running, and no, these aren't YakTrax, but real crampons).

Then if you are going on an expedition up some major peak, like Denali or St Elias, or the Patagonian Ice Cap, you need double plastic mountain boots, plus ....

Well, you get the idea. It's the old "no one boot does everything for everybody". Match your tools to your activity. Trail runners for good trails and fast travel, successively more specialized footgear for more specialized outings (I currently have about 10 different types of footgear just for hiking and other foot-propelled activities).

10:16 a.m. on February 17, 2009 (EST)
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After suffering sprained ankles and sore feet for years while wearing hightop hiking boots i finally listened to a friend and sought some medical advice about the problem. I visited a podiadrist and an orthropedic surgeon and was very surprised by what i learned. First off most salespeople where we buy our shoes are not qualified to help you determine what you actually need to suite your backpacking style. Unless you are lucky the one style or size fits all approach will not work for you. The insoles that the manufactures include with their products are very poor in design and also follows the one size fits all approach. After the medical evaluation was completed i learned that i had problems in both feet and arthritis in my right foot , i also learned that high top boots provided very little protection against sprained ankles. The foot bed of the shoe or boot is where the greatest protection to ankle occurrs. Following my doctors advice i had custom orthotics made for both feet and what a difference they have made. Since i mostly backpack during the warmer months i now wear only trail shoes with pack weights approaching 30 lbs and have practically ended the sprained ankles and sore feet at the end of the day.

10:49 a.m. on February 17, 2009 (EST)
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In October I took a short backpacking trip on a well worn trail and I wore boots rather than trail shoes just because that's what I do. Trail shoes would have been fine except for the section of trail where the wooden walkway across a swamp/beaver dam was under water. My feet stayed nice and dry, but would have been soaked in trail shoes. No free lunch out there, just trade off's. In this case - weight versus nice dry feet.

7:57 p.m. on February 17, 2009 (EST)
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51-49. Or 49-51. Something like that.

7:00 a.m. on February 18, 2009 (EST)
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You said:

. . .i also learned that high top boots provided very little protection against sprained ankles.

While this may be true for your feet, the statement doesn't hold universally. My podiatrist heartily approved of my full, one-piece leather 6" high boots to prevent ankle sprains. As my peripheral neuropathy advances, my brainstem no longer knows exactly the alignment of my feet, so I sprained my ankle twice just walking around the house. Once I started wearing the stiff boots indoors, I haven't had a problem. I also don't need to watch my feet any longer when walking outside. And I wear these boots with no insoles.


We are all truly unique in our needs, c'est ca?

11:59 a.m. on February 18, 2009 (EST)
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I hike in the White and Green Mountains of New England. Lots of narly trails. I don't have strong ankles and I can be a klutz....actually my mind wanders and I don't pay close attention sometimes. I wear boots. Presently use my old Fabiano Mountain Boots which still have some life. I would prefer to wear something lighter and will shop in that direction when the time comes. Finding someone who knows how to fit boots will be the goal.

2:06 p.m. on February 18, 2009 (EST)
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So, as the old saying goes.. "Different strokes for different folks".

4:29 p.m. on February 18, 2009 (EST)
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So, as the old saying goes.. "Different strokes for different folks".

amended to add "and different activities".

Maverick21 said:

The insoles that the manufactures include with their products are very poor in design

A bit of correction, coming from a direct comment by a boot manufacturer - the insoles that are included in the boots and shoes from the factory are simply place-holders. The manufacturers stopped putting in real footbeds some years ago because the vast majority of people use aftermarket footbeds an/or orthotics. The only exceptions anymore are boots that come with thermofit liners, and even they are intended to work in conjunction with thermofit footbeds. And it is also true that the clerks in most stores would have no idea what you were talking about if you asked for thermofit footbeds. The ones that mention custom footbeds are looking for the extra commission in selling you extra goodies, not because they actually know that even the ready-made footbeds are needed and should be selected for the use they were designed for (I actually heard a clerk in a certain outdoor store suggest to a lady that she select which Superfeet model based on what color she preferred, apparently not realizing that the colors are color-coding for the intended application).

9:31 a.m. on February 20, 2009 (EST)
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Well I went with a trail shoe with the hopes they will serve me well as it starts getting warmer. Maybe next winter I'll spring for a good set of boots if need be.

I went with the END Stumptown 12 as posted earlier. I'll let you guys know how I like them.

10:13 a.m. on February 20, 2009 (EST)
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I got a good pair of hiking boots, they weigh the same as a tennis shoe and I get the mid top support of the boot. They breath well, they are water proof, and they provide me with great arch support which I need because I have FLAT feet.

12:52 p.m. on February 20, 2009 (EST)
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Most weeks I am up the mountains of Scotland and have worn trail shoes over all types of terrain, the only time I wear boots is if snow will be encountered

Imo, ankles are meant to bend and flex and by wearing heavy supportive boots a greater chance of severe injury to the ankle occurs if you do go over.

Only downside to trail shoes is they wear faster than boots.

2:38 p.m. on February 20, 2009 (EST)
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I wear boots almost all the time, primarily for ankle support. However, in a place like NZ, I would be leery of wearing a trail runner unless I already knew exactly what the track was like. My old Asolo full leather boots are covered with small cuts from walking through what the locals call "shattered greywacke." This stuff is, as best I can figure out, granite shards of various sizes in huge amounts scattered along the track or down a mountainside. It would very likely slice up a pair of trail runners in no time.

9:04 p.m. on February 20, 2009 (EST)
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Again, I think the conditions you are meeting differs from that of others. I have spent time hillwalking in the Grampians and their Cairngorm region; for the most part, excluding the highest mountains, the hills have a good covering of plant life, though the trees are only in plantations. I didn't encounter too many scree slides, rugged boulder slopes, or ankle-twisting slippery cobbles. Mainly it was sheep tracks with the occasional wallow you might stumble into in the mist. Still, I found good stiff full-grain leather hiking boots quite comfortable and re-assuring.

You said:

"Imo, ankles are meant to bend and flex and by wearing heavy supportive boots a greater chance of severe injury to the ankle occurs if you do go over."

Yes, bend and flex in some directions, but lately I have found ways that ankles resist bending, and suffered for it. Now that I wear sturdy boots around the house (nothing gives a Persian carpet that aged look better than Vibram) I haven't had a sprain.

10:36 p.m. on February 20, 2009 (EST)
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overmywaders - i was checking out some other posts and you are the lucky one. i really want a pair of pivetta muir trail boots. can you tell me what models of fabiano are most like the muir trails. i am most interested in the suede or full grain rought out, lightweight, and no scree collar. i had a pair of pivetta 5's years ago. i always wished i had bought the muir trails instead. the 5's were a comprise, after all colin recomended the eiger's or were they the 8's in the complete walker. even the 5's turned out too heavy for what i do.

11:19 p.m. on February 20, 2009 (EST)
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I don't know if this is of interest to others but this model of Fabiano is most like the Muir Trails --

and if you happen to be a size 11, there is a pair on ebay.

Colin recommended the Eiger's; but I wore (and sometimes wear) Eight's, which my feet learned to fit and ultimately became comfortable. The Muir Trails are more comfortable than shoes - straight from the box.

What is your shoe size/width and I'll keep watch?

12:20 a.m. on February 21, 2009 (EST)
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yes i saw that on ebay too. didn't fabiano make one like this without the scree collar though. i have heard that fabiano run a little small. any experience with that?

that fabiano would probablly work fit me but i'll wait for something without the collar.

i have a pair of 10 1/2 danner's that are a little too tight. and 11 is generally what i wear, with wide being the better width.

2:37 p.m. on February 21, 2009 (EST)
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I understand about the collar. IMO, the padding should be on the inside as on old Pivetta, Vasque, etc. It gives better support and looks better as well.

You need, IME, to find out the outsole length and width of any ebay boots; the insole length is always good as well.

The Pivetta's were made to a European last, I believe the Fabiano's were as well. The European lasts (gross generalization coming) do not accommodate the same breadth of foot overall as modern American lasts - American boot manufacturers believe that Americans overall have broader feet than Europeans. And, of course, there is more to width than just the ball of the foot, the last must also reflect the taper to the heel and the width of the heel. However, there are no standards for this.

Long story short, you might be more comfortable in a boot made to American lasts by an American company, e.g., Vasque (always American). Vasque made some fine mid-weight boots in suede with no (visible) scree collar. But you must look closely. For example, here is an old pair of rough-out Vasques on ebay

They are rough-out, no visible scree collar and look similar to some of their lighter weight boots with eyelets rather than D-rings (I prefer eyelets). However, they are Norwegian or Goodyear stitched; for suppleness and comfort the earlier (more expensive) Littleway stitching is, IMO, best. As well, you can see a thick leather mid-sole -- these are serious boots and heavy.

These, IMO, are almost the perfect mid-weight boot:

You'll note the Littleway stitching, thinner mid-sole, eyelets, and, of course, leather lining. They also made these in suede with an even thinner leather mid-sole. Very light, but good shank, rocker, and real boots. [You can see how the Littleway stitching allows the feet to stretch the leather a bit.]

6:02 p.m. on February 23, 2009 (EST)
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Another vote for low cuts is the weight savings. Wrap a 2lb. weight around one ankle and a 4lb. weight around the other. Walk around your house for awhile. Notice any difference? In high school football we had our ankles taped and then wore low-cuts so we could run faster to escape those big linemen chasing us. So, maybe a piece of thin leather will give you some suoort, but an elastic tight fitting elastic wrap might help more. Low cuts, too, come in a variety of weights and stiffness. When looking for a pair, hold the toe in one hand, the heel in the other and twist your hands in opposite directions. Some are a lot stiffer to twist. Low cuts often break down in this lateral support before the sole of the shoe wears out. Off the shelf footbeds do work, but they wear out, too. If you start to get blisters or sore spots directly below your toes, right where the pad joins the toe, your footbeds are probabkly wearing out. Check them for cracks on the bottom of the plastic, or discolored white spots along the edges. When footwear gets wet, I'ld rather be drying out low cuts than high cut leathers. Oh yeah, there was the time a cactus spear went through the nylon of my footwear, but somehow it did miss my toe. Also, there are low cuts that have the same model that does go over the ankle, so you can compromise. With less material covering the foot, however, there is less rubbing, reducing the chances for blisters.

This model of Merrells come in both heights. "Moab Mid" is the higher cut.

The Chameleon is a stiffer version with GTX.

Google "Inov-8" for more lightweight options.

1:47 p.m. on February 24, 2009 (EST)
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Received my order today. So far these shoes look and feel pretty amazing. They weigh next to nothing. I put them on after wearing my NB 991s and these are very noticeably lighter. Gonna wear them the rest of the day and see if they are keepers.

3:32 p.m. on February 24, 2009 (EST)
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Shoes are always an issue.

I wear a size 13, and it seems every time I want 1 shoe for a task, (ultralight, or good support in rain, or even a saddle) I have to try 10 or more shoes, till that perfect one for me comes out of the pack.

As a side note, I had a pair of shoes that I thought were good for weekend trips with a few river crossings, so I tried them for a year. Something did not seem right, and I noticed that the longer I wore them it would create a bruise under my big toes nail. So I went to the store I bought them, (REI) and said you know I need a new pair of shoes that fit just a little better. The salespeople were helpful, seeing as my feet were pretty bad as i had not taken a shower after getting off the trail and they found me the shoe I have now used for 3 years.. But the amazing part was, one of them looked at my year old pair that hurt, that were all muddy from the trip, and said "did you buy these here?" after noding, he went away and told me my new shoes would be free, as they would accept the return of my old messed up ones (I had not even asked to return them).

So to sum up: Finding the right shoe is like a diamond in the rough wether your feet are unique or your task you need them for is, but dont stop looking.

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