View Full Version : difference between light,mid, heavy weight boots?

11-05-2003, 22:15
i will be buying my first pair of hiking boots with the AT and other east coast trails in mind. i was wandering what the differrence between light,mid and heavy weight boots were. do they have differents uses or are they for people of certain weight packing certain loads. i am 145lb will be packing 35-40lbs
also is there any specifications an east coast hiker should need such as materials like gortex?

11-06-2003, 09:41
Very roughly speaking.

Heavyweight = Full shank and designed for mountaineering. Very stiff, very supportive, very protective. Not for walking on a trail, but great in the mountains (not the Appalachian mountains). If you are not planning on putting on 10 point crampons, don't even think about such boots.

Lightweight = No shank or a very short one. Emphasis is on comfort, not stiffness. Frequently advertised as 'Dayhikers'. Many models are similar to trail runners, but with more ankle support and protection. Usually made of fabric rather than leather.

Midweight = Tries to split the above two, but doesn't seem to have much of a purpose for long hikes. Slightly stiffer than a lightweight boot, but not stiff enough for mountain work. Usually a reasonable choice for hiking in the snow during winter time, though.

Some boots are in between. If your total pack weight (with food and water) will be around 35 lbs, don't rule out trail runners or "adventure" shoes.

Blue Jay
11-06-2003, 09:51
I usually do not disagree with Chris and this one is small. I say if your pack is below 2000 pounds, do not rule out Trail Running Shoes. Each pound on your feet means you are moving a ton a mile (approx. 2000 steps). Leather is heavy, it does not dry and is obsolete. Are you going to wear leather shirt and pants and a coon skin cap?

11-06-2003, 10:21

11-06-2003, 10:26
There's a saying something like an extra pound on the foot is like an extra 5 or 6 pounds on the back.

You will not see many thru-hikers with all heavy all leather boots. If they do start with such a boot, it usually gets replaced fairly quickly.

The benefits of Goretex are questionable. I wouldn't favor one boot over another just because of Goretex. The key issue is what fits your feet.

Spirit Walker
11-06-2003, 17:20
One major difference is durability. On my first thruhike I used Italian leather boots - fairly heavy and they gave me blisters every time it rained, but one pair lasted the whole 2100 miles. After that I started wearing Vasques and eventually switched to Lowa Renegades, which are the best fit for my feet. My midweight boots usually last me about 1000-1200. Good trail running shoes start breaking down for me around 600 miles. (That depends on the shoes and how you walk. I had some popular trail runners I bought on the PCT that fell apart in two weeks. My husband's boots start breaking down about 300 miles before mine do because he walks harder than I do and his feet sweat more.) He won't wear runners because he finds them uncomfortable after more than 5 miles. I wear runners if I am doing mostly flat walking (i.e. PCT desert portions or dayhikes around DC) but prefer a midweight Lowa for backpacking, especially in rocky areas.

Every hiker is different, in terms of how they walk (some kick every rock, some know how to 'walk softly'), how much weight they are carrying, how strong their ankles are and how many miles they want to do every day, and how often they want to buy new shoes. What matters most is what fits your feet best and which ones you can be comfortable in over the long haul.

11-06-2003, 19:27
Originally posted by Peaks
There's a saying something like an extra pound on the foot is like an extra 5 or 6 pounds on the back.

I keep hearing this over & over & over, and I'm just not seeing it. I realize that an extra pound on my feet gets raised off the ground thousands of times over the course of a day, where an extra pound in my pack only gets hoisted a few times a day (if that's the explanation, then maybe we shouldn't use trekking poles). Then again (I don't understand the physics and biomechanics of walking), I'm not lifting that extra pound on my foot straight up. I'm going forward, and my momentum carries it forward, so I bet I'm really lifting considerably less than an extra pound with each step. :-?

Sometimes I hike in New Balances, other times in Bean Crestas, a difference of about 1 1/2 lbs. per pair. Don't know about all of you, but I don't notice the extra weight on my feet near as much as an extra 5-10 pounds in my pack.

However, I do notice when my feet hurt, and when they do, knowing I'm wearing lightweight shoes doesn't make 'em feel any better.

11-07-2003, 08:25
On the trail I always thought you could tell the age of the hiker by their boots. The more support or heavier the boot the older the hiker. I remember walking behind a 13 yr old and watching his feet flex, in tennis shoes something my 62 yr old feet will not do.

11-07-2003, 09:45
So, how would the Vasque Sundowner MX2 GTX be categorized? The boot is mostly leather. Weight is 3 lb, 1 oz for the pair. I'm assuming that this is a heavy weight boot...


Blue Jay
11-07-2003, 10:22
I would put that one under the catagory "concrete". If it fits and feels good, by all means use them. I am far from a golite hiker, I just hate the weight on my feet. Hell, Spirit Walker hiked the whole trail in boots that gave him blisters everytime it rained.

11-07-2003, 10:35
I've enjoyed using the Vasque Sundowner boots for two night backpacking trips. I'm thinking that they are probably too heavy for an extended trip, however. When I first bought them, I wasn't thinking that 3 pounds for the pair was excessive.

11-07-2003, 10:37
The Sundowner would be a midweight boot, I think. Being made out of leather doesn't automatically make it a heavyweight. I've got a pair of leather Raichle's that I take out in the winter. Yeah, I'd much rather be in runners, but in the snow and wet the boot keeps my feet drier and warmer than the runners do.

11-07-2003, 11:02
illininagel: Take a look at the Vasque Clarion also, which is the same weight (and would be classified as a midweight boot) and which a number of people on this bulletin board have had success with, including myself.

Yes, I would love to reduce the weight of my boots and have experimented with several lighter, low-cut models, but the Clarion's have proven extremely comfortable for me, so I'm going to get them re-soled (after only about 500 miles) and keep using them.

11-07-2003, 11:41
Originally posted by c.coyle
I keep hearing this over & over & over, and I'm just not seeing it.It is a matter of work. The amount of energy consumed to move 1# of boots is equivalent to amount of energy to move 6.2# on your back. There was a backpacker magazine issue this past spring/summer that did a good job discussing the topic.