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View Full Version : How do breathable Trail Runners do in Cold/Windy weather?



Hiker9999
11-08-2015, 23:29
Hi,
I noticed that a lot of thru hikers are now wearing trail runner. I currently wear fairly lightweight water-proof mids but I have sweaty feet and tend to end up with too much moisture inside the shoe since they are not breathable. I have heard countless times that highly breathable trail runners are the best way to deal with unavoidable external moisture getting inside, and sweat build up on long distance hikes. I have been strongly considering the switch to trail runners but I am also concerned about how low temps and wind would affect my feet. I have sweaty feet even in cold weather AND I also have generally very cold hands and feet - I deal with cold weather better than my friends but my hands and feet feel like popsicles when their hands are still warm. I hike mainly in the Sierras and other California mountains and sometimes there is some snow on the ground or the temps can get near or below freezing + wind (I also hike at night sometimes).
I would like to get some input/experience on how suitable or comfortable a very breathable trail runner would be in cold/windy conditions. Would wind blow right through to your feet? Right now I am looking at something like a La Sportiva Wildcat or a very breathable mid. Would a trail runner with Goretex strike a good balance in breathability and be noticeably warmer than a trail runner that is mainly mesh in cold & windy conditions?
Thanks for any advice/input.

rocketsocks
11-09-2015, 00:07
..............yes

Dogwood
11-09-2015, 01:36
I will be sharply disagreed with but I've experienced conditions, although not typical in general, where it certainly was able to avoid exrenal moisture getting into WP shoes! I listed those conditions on your other thread. On a LD backpacking trip however, where there is going to be experienced a rather wide set of variable weather conditions, I personally would very rarely go with a WP shoe throughout the trip although I might consider a WP shoe for only part of the LD hike.

Cold/windy conditions do not necessarily mean wet/cold/windy. Yes, for me, a WP membrane's extra warmth plays a role, albeit not a prioritized role, in the selection of WP shoes but there are plenty enough other IMO better techniques/ways/gear/tweaks, I know of to get the warmth than depending on a WP membrane for warmth.

We just had a thread on WB about a JMT thru-hiker, Saltysack, who had poor results with his Wildcats on his thru-hike with them basically disintegrating in the toe areas as I too have experienced on some trails of a highly abrasive alpine nature. While your mind is mulling over WP or non WP Wildcats I suggest you consider protection of your feet and possibility durability issues of these in the 2.0 GTX and plain non WP Wildcat versions if you hike on similar trails especially considering the nature of the Sierras in general. The Newer 3.O Wildcats have addressed some of these concerns in my mind. We, including myself, commented on the differences or perhaps going to the Raptor or Ultra Raptor as a means to address these issues.


Good luck.

rocketsocks
11-09-2015, 02:37
there great for day hiking.

Malto
11-09-2015, 07:26
I wouldn't add the negatives of WP just to deal with the cold and wind. You may be different but I can't recall having my dry feet get cold in trail runners. Wet is different but there are other ways of dealing with that.

There is only one reason I would try Goretex again. Dust. The conditions you are describing, dry SoCal, in the cooler temps would be an ideal place to see if Goretx greatly reduced the fine sand that makes it way into shoes and onto feet. I suspect it would.

As I type this post I am wearing Wildcats as I do everyday. I have gone through over a dozen pairs in the last five years. the interesting thing is that the failure mode was in different places on most pairs. It was funny that the 12s and 12 1/2s had far different wear points. IIRC the 12s wore just behind the little toe while the 12 1/2s did not. It may have been partially because of how my foot fit within the shoe on each size. But I always got my miles 500-600 miles out of the shoes. moral of the story, not sure how helpful individual experiences are in durability, including mine.

garlic08
11-09-2015, 08:21
I carry a pair of bread bags for the really wet cold slushy snow ("bagtex"). Otherwise, the advantages of highly breathable shoes outweigh the disadvantages, in my experience. Nothing is going to be perfect for all conditions. I've used trail runners on long winter snowfield climbs (with Goretex socks) and have been more comfortable than partners in leather boots. Maybe that's because I have less constriction? Less condensed sweat?

Starchild
11-09-2015, 09:00
There is a point where staying 'warm and wet fails' in trail runners in wet conditions and it becomes wet and cold (with some intermediate stages), then you stop feeling your feet, so at some point a barrier keep the warm side in and the cold side out, both sides can be wet, but the exchange of liquid and heat is minimized. In a pinch the plastic bag in the shoe can offer relief.

There is also a point in trail runners where 'warm and dry' becomes 'cold and dry', just from the air, so again a point where a barrier is warranted to keep the warm side warm and the cold side cold.

CalebJ
11-09-2015, 09:48
For what it's worth, I did a backpacking trip to Mount Rogers this past winter wearing Brooks Cascadia's where the temperatures dipped into the teens and the mountain was drenched from several days of rain. My feet were constantly soaked, but my feet stayed plenty warm just by moving.

SkeeterPee
11-09-2015, 09:59
A couple of you have mentioned bread bags. I am curious what technique you use. I have done this when cycling in cold weather and when running. I have not done hiking in cold/wet enough weather to need do this. For running I would use 2 pairs of socks, and put the bread bag on between the 2 layers. But I am wondering with only carrying 3 pairs of socks if I want to sacrifice a second pair for this or keep 2 pairs dry. Does it work with the bread bag on the inside our outside of one pair?

QHShowoman
11-09-2015, 10:41
I wear trail runners with weatherproofing (I wear Salomons and prefer their Climashield weatherproofing to GoreTex) and pair them with low alpine gaiters from REI for protection in cold/wet/slushy/muddy weather and this has worked pretty well for me. I just wear my normal socks with them and bring an extra pair in case they get sweaty and damp.

Malto
11-09-2015, 11:23
A couple of you have mentioned bread bags. I am curious what technique you use. I have done this when cycling in cold weather and when running. I have not done hiking in cold/wet enough weather to need do this. For running I would use 2 pairs of socks, and put the bread bag on between the 2 layers. But I am wondering with only carrying 3 pairs of socks if I want to sacrifice a second pair for this or keep 2 pairs dry. Does it work with the bread bag on the inside our outside of one pair?

I would view "bread bags" as generic. it could range from bread bags to full waterproof booties made of PU coated nylon. (My current choice.) with anything other than my booties I found that bags sandwiched between socks get better life. Abrasion is the killer issue.

Starchild
11-09-2015, 11:23
A couple of you have mentioned bread bags. I am curious what technique you use. I have done this when cycling in cold weather and when running. I have not done hiking in cold/wet enough weather to need do this. For running I would use 2 pairs of socks, and put the bread bag on between the 2 layers. But I am wondering with only carrying 3 pairs of socks if I want to sacrifice a second pair for this or keep 2 pairs dry. Does it work with the bread bag on the inside our outside of one pair?
On the outside of the single sock.

Coffee
11-09-2015, 11:36
This year on my PCT section hike, which included the high passes in the Sierra, I debated for a while regarding whether to use the Asolo boots I had purchased for the Sierra or to stick with trail runners. With lack of snow at the time I had my box shipped to Kennedy Meadows, I opted for trail runners. Brooks Cascadias. After I sent my shipment, a good amount of snow fell in the Sierra and continued as I proceeded on my hike in the Cascadias. Predictably, my feet got very cold and wet slogging through snow. On the last day before going into Independence, which included an aborted attempt of Forester Pass hiking through fresh powder snow and a descent using crampons of Shepherd Pass, my feet were really screwed up and totally numb. I did continue my hike after a planned week off and ended up exiting at Florence Lake. My screwed up feet weren't the cause of getting off trail, but my left foot didn't regain much feeling for a good six weeks after returning home from the trip. In addition, I developed a nasty case of Plantar Faciitis on my left foot which I re aggravated a few times and am just now feeling like I'm getting past.

How much of my issue was related to the numbness and pain associated with the snow hiking and what part of that could have been prevented with boots, if any, is a question I don't really have an answer to. What I can say without question is that trail runners left something to be desired in those conditions. Whether there is a better solution is uncertain to me.

garlic08
11-09-2015, 11:36
On the outside of the single sock.

Ditto. Two pairs of sock in my shoes would constrict my feet enough to cause problems by itself. And be careful with this--take the bags off ASAP. Look up "macerated skin."

A single grocery bag can be cut in half vertically, toes put in the corners, and that works well enough. Newspaper bags work fine, too. It's a great trick for bicycling in cold rain and wet snow, too.

BTW, I think Starchild summed up an answer to the OP very well in post #7.

blackwater slim
11-09-2015, 12:15
What about sealskins or other type waterproof sock with trail runners?

Connie
11-09-2015, 12:26
My Sealskins socks are thick. I use them strictly for kayaking, with sandals.

I have heard some people hike in sandals, not me though. I would think that neoprene would make my feet all prune-y like Andrew Shurka, that famous long distance hiker, experienced on his long Alaska hike. He has an article at his website about care of his feet for that condition.

I would rather wear water shoes, and change into my hiking shoes and dry socks.

That could be a problem for many long wet days on a short schedule thru-hike.

I happen to think if I take care of my feet, my feet will take care of me.

If I were on a thru-hike, and, my feet stayed wet I would take a "zero day" in town and consult the long-term weather forecast.

I would rather be a section hiker than damage my feet.

Odd Man Out
11-09-2015, 13:29
A couple of you have mentioned bread bags. I am curious what technique you use. I have done this when cycling in cold weather and when running. I have not done hiking in cold/wet enough weather to need do this. For running I would use 2 pairs of socks, and put the bread bag on between the 2 layers. But I am wondering with only carrying 3 pairs of socks if I want to sacrifice a second pair for this or keep 2 pairs dry. Does it work with the bread bag on the inside our outside of one pair?

Andrew Skurka has a nice blog post on the topic of vapor barrier liners, which is the more technical term for what the "bread bags" are doing:

http://andrewskurka.com/2011/vapor-barrier-liners-theory-application/

Dogwood
11-09-2015, 13:59
Now, we go down the road to another option that has several sub-options - having the WP ness in a hiking shoe that can be removed or added as desired so it's not a set shoe condition. This approach, in it's various forms, when done right, in appropriate COLD/wet/muddy conditions, FOR ME has worked quite well. When I do carry something like a BREATHABLE but WP low calf or ankle height Hanz or THINNER Sealskinz sock I always have a change off into DRY merino wool socks and MAKE SURE to again treat and manage my feet appropriately. I've never done either a Hanz or SealSkinz sock in tall BOOTS though.

rafe
11-09-2015, 15:15
I would view "bread bags" as generic. it could range from bread bags to full waterproof booties made of PU coated nylon. (My current choice.) with anything other than my booties I found that bags sandwiched between socks get better life. Abrasion is the killer issue.

And where do you get these waterproof booties? Seriously askin'.

rafe
11-09-2015, 15:21
I had "converted" to hiking in ordinary, non-waterproof trail runners for a number of seasons but this summer's hiking has me re-thinking the issue.

It turns out that, this summer, my luck ran out and I found myself walking in wet, muddy shoes and socks for days on end. That gets and nasty. Somehow I'd avoided that scenario... until now.

So if you post about neat gear to deal with this situation, please be specific -- I'd like to check out my options.

Malto
11-09-2015, 16:04
And where do you get these waterproof booties? Seriously askin'.

I made mine, an easy beginner sewing project, likely cost a couple bucks in materials. You can also get some Goretex socks, Rocky is one brand.

Another Kevin
11-09-2015, 17:56
I assume you're talking about "shoulder season" conditions. For that, I do OK with trail runners and gaiters, and "wet but warm." (I recently started waterproofing my feet with Gurney Goo, because before that, I'd have problems with wet skin macerating.)

Trail runners, however, are NOT compatible with any of my traction gear except possibly microspikes. So when the real cold weather comes, I switch to boots. I have a Timberland pair with Gore-Tex, and a pair of vulcanized Sorel pac boots. The Timberland boots are good down to about the single digits F. I wear thin nylon dress socks, then DOUBLED bread or newspaper bags - single bags rip immediately, double bags last a long time - then wool socks. The pac boots come out for deep winter and will keep my feet warm in just about any snow conditions that I'm willing to go into. I use the same sock layering with them. Both pair of boots fit my snowshoe and crampon bindings.

1azarus
11-09-2015, 21:10
I made mine, an easy beginner sewing project, likely cost a couple bucks in materials. You can also get some Goretex socks, Rocky is one brand.

I've had spectacular results using Rocky goretex socks with Brooks trail runners -- BUT the cascadia trail runners I use with Rocky socks are a full size bigger than my summer shoes to accommodate a really heavy pair of wool socks as well as the goretex socks (...and the Rocky socks are also sized for a full size bigger foot than mine, too -- to go over the wool socks). I've been warm and dry in all conditions. All of which is to say I would only use goretex socks in wet winter conditions -- never in the rest of the year. Otherwise, I just let my feet get wet in non- WP trail runners and light weight wool socks -- with a foot waterproofer/conditioner... I think I bought up the last supply of hydropel before they went out of business... I'm going to have to try whatever Another Kevin mentioned above when I run out!

Dogwood
11-09-2015, 23:14
I've had spectacular results using Rocky goretex socks with Brooks trail runners -- BUT the cascadia trail runners I use with Rocky socks are a full size bigger than my summer shoes to accommodate a really heavy pair of wool socks as well as the goretex socks (...and the Rocky socks are also sized for a full size bigger foot than mine, too -- to go over the wool socks). I've been warm and dry in all conditions. All of which is to say I would only use goretex socks in wet winter conditions -- never in the rest of the year. Otherwise, I just let my feet get wet in non- WP trail runners and light weight wool socks -- with a foot waterproofer/conditioner... I think I bought up the last supply of hydropel before they went out of business... I'm going to have to try whatever Another Kevin mentioned above when I run out!


Are your Rocky Gore Tex Socks seamed anywhere in the GT membrane or are they a full unseamed bootie one piece sandwiched with another layer? I haven't looked at Rocky GoreTex socks in yrs so don't know about what you have but the ones I've had, which were three pr of a one layer GoreTex in the past, leaked in rather short order at the seams. And, it was definitely the seams where mine leaked. The fit was saggy and baggy in some spots and extremely tight in my high volume instep. None of these stretched much either constricting my blood flow in the instep while bunching up in other areas. I wound up giving the one almost new pr I had left away.

With the HANZ WP socks the WP membrane is one piece, a bootie, with only the outer fabric layer very well flat seamed that you can't even tell are seamed unless you examine closely. Additionally, they are three layer - a wicking inner layer which makes clammy sweaty feet in a WP sock a thing of the past, a DuPont WP middle layer with the highest MVTR/breathablity of any WP membrane I know of used in a sock although I have not tried or specked out the DEX WP socks in real world use yet, which combines to keep my feet sweat free in cold wet weather, and an outer insulation and protective layer. Plus any WP sock has to have a solid seal at the top to not let external moisture in. Plus they stretch AND DO NOT bunch up or sag. They are like a thin slipper sock. But I really like having different versions other wise the same but offering different degrees of warmth and consequently thickness. Hence, I can go only 1/2 size larger in trail runners and be fine with these socks while not having to add a merino sock into the layering possibly dirtying or wetting two pr of socks. Now that second pr of socks, usually merino, are always dry/drying. This gives the chance to switch out allowing my feet to breathe even more on non WP sock wearing days. I also don't usually want a calf height taller heavier wt and bulkier sock so enjoy a crew ht for most WP sock uses.

The Sealskinz I have offer many of the same attributes but a lower MVTR/ tiny less breathability. Breathability is important in a WP sock to me almost as much as it is in a rain jacket as I don't want wet feet internal sourced either.

The Camaro's here are virtually sweaty compression WP socks IMO.

And, with GoreTex, since Mr Gore has has a monopoly on WP breatable membranes for so long and that's the mostly recognized through name recognition Mr Gore has beeen able to command a premium for qany product that uses the Gore Tex technoplgy making Rocky Gore Tex one of, if not the, most expensive WP socks available.

In all my WP sock uses when backpacking all these as reviewed here did better than any of the Neoprene WP socks as far as breathing even the NRS Expedition WP socks w/ HydroCuff. One of the issues with Neo is that they tend to be more voluminous so you really better adjust your shoe size if you're going to wear them which can be problematic on LD hikes when on days you don't want a WP sock. Now you have a shoe that is a good full size larger then normal...just for WP socks. Hmm?

http://hiconsumption.com/2014/09/best-waterproof-socks/

http://www.hanzusa.com/waterproofsocks

1azarus
11-10-2015, 06:46
Hello and good morning Dogwood. All good info and observations.

I wear a 9 1/2 street shoe, a 10 trail runner three seasons and an 11 trail runner in the winter. That size 11 will work for me with heavy wool socks with or without the Rocky socks, so I go on a multi-day winter trip with a larger trail runner no matter what. My Rocky socks are a size 11, and they are hard to get on, and I do put them on carefully. They are so comfortable when on my feet that some nights I don't even take them off and just wear them through the night (I know... Blasphemy). My feet are warm and dry at temps way below freezing. I think the fit is hugely helped by the thick sock - they do not stretch... And yes, there are seams all the way around the foot bed, straight up the back and one each side of the lace area. I wear this combo with snow shoes and micro spikes. They may well be my favorite piece of winter gear.

Hiker9999
11-10-2015, 06:59
Thanks for all of your replies, it has given me plenty to consider. To answer one of the posters, yes my concern would be mostly in the shoulder seasons. The plastic bag inside the shoe idea sounds pretty interesting for blocking wind when needed. Perhaps a piece of reflective mylar could work as well. And the WP are completely new to me. Before, I have only heard the positives of trails runners, but it's good to know that in reality some people do find them to be a bit too cold in some conditions. I have to be extra careful given the cold, sweaty nature of my feet and past troubles in low temps. It is also good to be reminded from some of the posts that I do occasionally walk into soggy or muddy ground; I always had waterproof boots and haven't thought much about it before. I guess I might have to go with different shoes for different occasions if I can find a way to afford it. Of course, any additional input/experience would be incredibly helpful. Thanks.

shelb
11-11-2015, 00:14
LOVE them, LOVE them, LOVE them!!!!