View Full Version : Boots vs. Trailrunners

02-15-2007, 09:04
I've been doing an extensive bit of researching (lurking) since I've found this site, and the 2 main gear obstacles I keep coming too are boots vs. trail runners and which sleeping bag to get. I've come to the realization that the sleeping bag question is one that I'll have to figure out for my own (what's good for the goose may not be good for the gander), and although I realize ones choice in footwear is equally personal, I figured I'd post a question and see what the peanut gallery has to say.

I'm not necessarily looking for specific brand recommendations as much as I'm trying to dip into the pool of experience here at whiteblaze. I keep reading here and at other sites that trailrunners are the way to go, but I'm having some reservations and here is why. Most of my outdoor experience is related to wilderness search and rescue where bombproof materials and equipment are the norm (It is better to have and not need, than to need and not have). I can understand and appreciate the physiological advantages of having lighter footwear, but I'm trying to determine if the benefits outweigh the disadvantages in my specific case (not that I think I'm unique, but different :)). Here's some background and why I'm having trouble making up my mind on which direction to proceed.

I've been wearing boots of one form or another since the early '90's, the only "low top" shoes I currently own are (1) military dress shoes issued in '95 and (2) a pair of Nike Air running shoes purchased in '98. The boots I wear on a daily basis (http://www.timberland.com/product/index.jsp?productId=1774621&cp=1762199.1780841&clickid=mainnav_browse_txt&parentPage=family), and have worn almost daily for the past three years
weigh about 2 lbs., and have never hurt my feet ((although the calluses would make a pedicurist cry about being under paid (don't ask me how I know)) despite working outdoors and spending long hours on the aforementioned boots. If I do wear trailrunners, I'll be wearing 2oz gaiters and the only good goretex does me in footwear is tell me which ones not to buy (my feet sweat like a yeti in east texas).

Oh, as far as the foot specifics are concerned, I wear a 14 in Nikes, 13 in most everything else, 12R according to the boot sizer at FT Leonard Wood. I can pick up an egg with my toes, and the "Men Only" thread almost made me cry when it mentioned feet and waxing in the same paragraph (Picture a hobbit with prenatal vitamins/ growth hormones)

What I'm curious to find out is if anyone with similar boot wearing experience noticed a positive change switch to lighter footwear prior to a through hike. Here are the pro's and con's as I've been able to gather them:

Pro's(for boots)
*I'm used to wearing heavy footwear, so downgrading to a non-steel toed boot will be and improvement
*My ankles are used to the extra 4 inches of support, so they'd be weaker with shorter footwear
* Boots last longer, so the won't need to be replaced as often
Boots offer better protection against rocks than shoes

Con's (Against Boots)
*Less weight = less fatigue = equals more/easier miles\
*You can feel the terrain so you're less likely to put your feet in compromising situations
*Shoes are cheaper than boots, you'll cover more miles, so the replacement costs are nill
*Shoes dry quicker, and dry feet are happy feet.

So, although I'm partial to having my feet fully enclosed by dead cow and rubber, are trailrunners worth the expense of trying out?

Earl Grey
02-15-2007, 09:29
Id say yes they are worth trying out at least in the summer/warmer months anyway. Winter is a different story.

It is true that boots offer more ankle support but with some weight training and actually running in the trail runners your ankles could get strong so that you wouldnt need that support. The lighter footwear is more forgiving on your joints since youre carrying less weight. Just try them.

02-15-2007, 14:03
I've converted to trail runners for late spring - early fall, but still where my Sundowner's for winter hiking.

Something like the Sundowner may be the way for you to go, they give support and are very durable but not very heavy.

02-15-2007, 14:05
Geesh, I wish we could edit posts.

Should say "still wear".

02-15-2007, 15:07
Trail runners are worth a try, though it may depend on your overall pack weight. If you are going with a heavier traditional backpacking load, you may be happier with boots -- but I've carried 45 pounds in trail runners, and my feet (and knees and ankles) were very happy. (No, I don't carry that kind of weight anymore.) You have neatly summed up the advantages of each style of footwear. The biggest thing for me is the weight and the attendant fatigue -- lifting a heavy boot all day long is hard work.

I do wear trail runners all year round, switching to Goretex lined Montrail runners in winter. That's just for the warmth -- my feet sweat like yours do, I expect. For 3-season use I like a very light mesh shoe; lately I've been using the Salomon Comp TA.

Have fun testing. Oh, and don't be shy about asking for details on sleeping bags.

02-15-2007, 15:21
If you wear a 14 in Nikes, you may have a hard time finding size 15 or 16 along the trail for replacement. My Solomons are two sizes larger than I usually wear due to foot expansion.
After reading your post, I almost feel like you should stick to boots. You're used to them, and so are your feet. Trail runners may introduce all kinds of new problems. Try em out though, if your feet are in blister agony, and you're rolling your ankle all the time, go back to boots. (just not steel toe)

02-15-2007, 15:47
Normally my usual advice is to go with the most breathable 100% synthetic trail runners that you find to be comfortable on your feet. But if you're comfortable wearing boots, I'd probably stick with them, especially since you'll need to special order larger sizes. A good manufacturer to look at for larger sizes/widths is Dunham (http://www.dunhamfits.com/). They make boots up to size 15 and in 4 widths. They sell trail runners as well as full-on backpacking boots.

02-16-2007, 06:51
I think if you are comfortable in boots and they work for you, that's great. I switched to trail runners and love them, but like others have said, I wouldn't recommend them if you are going with a heavier pack. I generally pack out at about 31 lbs for the first day, so by the end of a week's trek, I'm down by a couple of pounds of food. I think you need more support with a heavier pack...but if you go lighter and there's no snow on the ground--its like having wings in comparison to the heavier boots :)

02-16-2007, 12:12
Again (like my sleeping bag post) I am coming from a maine/new hampshire perspective, and in this terrain I can't bring myself to hike in trail runners... the terrain up here (as most of you know) is very rocky and rooty, I've rolled my ankles up here a couple of times and looked down at my boots (even though they aren't that supportive) and was like dang, i'm glad that i'm wearing boots... but I also broke my ankle once too so it is weaker than many peoples ankles... also there is something that makes me feel confident when I'm lacing up my boots (that are well broken in now) they just make me feel extremely confident about whatever I'm about to hike

my 2 cents

02-16-2007, 12:28
at Delaware Water gap (actually in nearby Stroudsbour, PA) I switched from my destoryed EMS Boots to trail runners..basically very breathable sneakers.

Through NJ,NY and CT no problem. Shoes where light and my feet breathed and stayed drier. Miles went by relatively easy.

After Northern Mass through Central VT..lots of mud and puddles and even some rain. My trail runners began to come apart. My feet where wet even when it was sunny..never really drying. When I got to the Inn at the long trail..my sneakers were totally destroyed and my feet where in pain.

I went from here into Rutland and bought boots. I will never again where sneakers for backpacking at least not in New England!

I did hear a very interesting story from a lady at the Inn at the Long Trail.she said that older folks (40's+) have less padding on their feet than younger folks (read 20's and teenagers). Therefore they need more supporitive foot wear.