Hiking Boots vs Running Shoes
When researching what the best footwear for tramping is, regular running shoes with good traction kept coming up, the main reasons are that they're breathable, dry fast, comfortable, and light, while hiking boots can be too heavy, dry slow and, aren't as breathable. I was planning on buying hiking boots and taking both but my pack is getting heavy and would prefer to only have one pair on me. Surely the boot that's specially designed for hiking is what would be best right? I've never worn one so I wouldn't know, either way. Has anyone had experience hiking with both?
The concept that boots offer more ankle support is not generally accepted by any serious long-distance hikers. Ray Jardine was talking about this in the early 1990's and everyone though he was crazy, now it's pretty routine for many people to hike in trail shoes, running shoes, mids, etc...When you look at what people like Andrew Skurka, Scott Williamson and Justin Lichter have done, there isn't much they haven't seen...and with few exceptions they were wearing trail shoes, not boots. I've split my long-distance hikes more or less in half with full-grain leather boots and trail shoes. I hiked approximately 2700kms in boots, then switched to shoes and hiked 2200kms. I find shoes far better for my needs. Trail shoes can be improved significantly by adding 'Superfeet' style insoles, and changing them every 300-500kms. I think it's bad form for anyone to suggest hiking in shoes is inherently more dangerous than boots, there are so many factors that need to be considered. Regardless of what you choose, I would always recommend testing your footwear before committing to a long hike, that's just basic common sense, and when you find footwear that works well for you, buy another two pairs before they change them! However, as others have mentioned if you are traveling in cold weather and will be in deep snow, freezing temperatures, potentially using crampons and snowshoes, then boots make more sense for those conditions.
As someone who's not tried 'trail shoes' (and I mean the tough, stiff trial shoes rather than soft flexible runners) for over a decade - I'm intrigued to hear if they've resolved the two main issues that made them completely unsuitable for tramping on anything other than graded tracks in the past. 1) Soles / tread. Do they now offer the deep cleated, hard edged tread required for clay, snowgrass or even just wet grass? The softer compound and rounded cleats made them trecherous on any of these surfaces 2) Shank / stiffness. Do they now offer a stiff enough sole/shank to kick in? Are they now stiff enough to enable sidling - the edge of the shoe biting into the slope without the rest of the shoe 'rolling' over and losing grip? I've tried them both for tramping and work, and found them lethal on steep or slippery ground. Even on flat ground - e.g. the Southern Crossing - that wet clay at the southern end of the Tararuas was like skating on butter. If not, I'd personally not recommend them for more typical NZ tramping. Great for the great walks and benched tracks, but positively dangerous on more typical ungraded tramping tracks. I often wonder what sort of country Andrew Skurka covers as his recommendations on gear frequently seem to teeter between being impractical and downright dangerous ... or maybe I'm just too soft to go ultralight? === Regarding the oft-cited point of ankle support. I don't personally need the ankle support - I've never had a twisted ankle in my life despit working on steep terrain every working day. But I do know people that do need it and injur themselves easily without it. So that's down to the individual. However, the lack of physical impact-protection of the ankles seems to me more of an issue. I've used trail runners (not trail shoes) at work on occasion. When working on slippery rock-riverbeds - the soft flexible soles are good for grip and the quick draining is also a bonus. But there's nothing there to protect your ankles from impact / abrasion every time your foot slides into holes between rocks or encounters unseen windfall under vegetation. So even there where they are at their best, their advantages are severely countered by their failings. EDIT As a postscript I just felt I ought to take another look at Andrew's gear recommendations and see he's tamed down his ultralight-extremes in the last few years. Or maybe he's just writing more stuff for the mainstream rather than focussing on writing about the -lite aspects. Anyway - maybe was a bit harsh on him.
the popularity of running / hiking shoes arose overseas on easier trails that are largely easy underfoot. being light the long distance trail walkers like them because you can walk faster . longer distances for less effort every extra gram on your foot is the equivalent energy expenditure when you're walking of having 8 grams extra in your pack,, the overseas walkers often just take their philosophy with them when they come to NZ believing shoes are the best way to go... a lot of the people are wearing shoes without much tread on them and little rigidity, as mentioned this causes problems on steep slippery rough tracks... but it doesnt change the minds of a lot of the shoe wearers, they dont want to wear heavier slower boots
I largely agree with what Mad Pom says and I have worn out a few pairs of specialist trail shoes during a lifetime spent working and recreating in the bush and mountains. I now tend to use the trail shoes on proper tracks not off track and they are great in such conditions especially if you have a light or no pack. Trail shoes are just not up to some rough off track going in both bush and alpine conditions especially if carrying a weighty pack. I've had some minor injuries to feet from jamming and sole bruising when using trail shoes. I've not had an ankle injury whilst wearing trail shoes but have felt very uncomfortable at times when sidling in steep untracked country whilst wearing them and last time this happened swore never to wear them in such challenging country again.
Great points made, I would agree that trail shoes or runners are best for established tracks that are benched, which is what most people are doing. For off-trail bush bashing I wouldn’t recommend them, or for heavy loads (+12kg). I’ve been in NZ on and off for 18 years and have never struggled with shoes or runners, but I don’t go off trail and stick to atlreast ‘tramping track’ standard or better.
1 deleted post from Noahoscar986
If you plan to hike for a few miles for about one to two hours, then running shoes should be fine. However, if you are planning for a hike that covers a longer distance, I will discourage you from using running shoes and using hiking boots or trail running shoes instead.
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