A new hiking boot system

Footware for hiking: heavy mountain boots, old hiking boots, and trail runners

Evolution of hiking boots
Montrail Verglas
   30-year-old leather boots
   Saucony Xodus with Gore-Tex

This I know: the more weight on my feet, the slower I walk. As I age, the situation is becoming worse. My back hurts, and heavy boots increase the pain. So, this season I’ll be trying something new. I’ll be hiking on trail runners instead of hiking boots. In the past, when I expect to be out on snow, or a glacier, I wear my mountain boots. The Montrail Verglas are very heavy; but are always warm and waterproof. My leather hiking boots have been my companion since the 1980s. When it is wet or snowy, they become waterlogged. I have often returned home with the boots pounds heavier than when I set out. They take days to dry. I have re-soled them twice, and they are ready for a fourth. This year will be different. For months I’ve been researching using trail runners instead of boots.

This week my Saucony Xodus runners arrived. How will they perform on long hikes with scrambles; or through stream crossings; or rock hopping; or crashing through underbrush during a bushwhack; or on snow and icy routes? Thinking about this, I’ve devised a system. On dry days when I plan to be on an established trail, I’ll simply wear the runners. Already I find that the modern and aggressive Vibram sole on the Xodus seems to provide better stability and traction than my traditional hikers.

I hear people worry about turning an ankle using the low-top runners. This is a concern to me because once when I slipped, wearing hiking boots, I turned my right ankle and ruptured a ligament. It was very painful, and the recovery took many weeks. I just compared the sole of the runners to my old hikers. In spite of the amazing lightness of the runners, I can see that the sole is actually significantly wider than the hikers. On the trail, they feel low and very stable — like a sports car vs. a high-clearance 4×4 SUV. We’ll see. Certainly walking uphill is easier — the new runners are actually lighter than my old Teva hiking sandals.

Xodus runner + gaiter + vibram sole Xodus runners with MEC short gaiters

These runners have a Goretex liner, which I hope will keep my feet fairly dry in wet conditions. Part of this system is to use low gaiters to keep out stones, snow, water, and to provide some ankle protection. These waterproof gaiters cost less than $8 at Mountain Equipment Coop. In the autumn, when the trails become icy and snowy, I think I will try something like the Kahtoola Microspikes. I was impressed by this review at Section Hiker. The Section Hiker himself, Philip Werner, is much of the inspiration to investigate hiking on trail runners in many articles at his blog, such as Transitioning to Trail Shoes and Trail Runner Review. So, my system is trail runners + low gaiters + Microspikes. When I have a season’s experience, I’ll report on the effectiveness of the system.

Edit to add: On April 16, 2016, I was able to test the system in wet spring snow. Report here: https://howesound.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/testing-trail-runners-to-replace-hiking-boots/

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