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  1. #1
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    Default Trail runners vs boots

    Well I finally bit the bullet and bought a pair of trail runners yesterday. Starting the trail last spring I was surprised at how many people were wearing running type shoes, thinking that they couldn't support the burden of the backpack over long distances. Needless to say the folks wearing trail runners seemed to be just as successful as those wearing hiking boots over the course of the trail.

    The shoes that stuck in my mind were the Brooks Cascadias which I tried on and they seemed to be a good fit so I went with em. After one city walk (so far) things seemed to be in order, no pinching or anything like that though they still need to be tested on trail.

    Anyone else switch from boots to runners and have any theories, stories, or regrets? I'm also curious about longevity, do they last longer than boots?

  2. #2
    Clueless Weekender Another Kevin's Avatar
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    There are only about forty-'leven other threads on this topic, you might try searching. There are as many opinions as there are hikers.

    I find that trail runners work for me in most of three seasons. I switch back to boots when the traction gear comes out. I don't feel secure in Microspikes with trail runners. Nevertheless, many wear that combination. I sometimes carry my spikes when I don't expect to need them but just might. Snowshoe and crampon bindings require a stiff boot.

    I like New Balance MT610 because the last fits my foot. But hikers' feet come in all sorts of shapes, so what's right for me will likely be wrong for you. I find the factory insoles to be pretty worthless, and replace them with green Superfeet. (Again, that has to be tuned to your foot, what's right for me will be wrong for you.) The Superfeet have a decent rock plate, good arch support, and a stable heel cup, all of which I seem to need.

    The main advantage to trail runners is that they're lightweight - the old adage is that a pound on your feet is like five pounds on your back. They also dry fast - and since waterproof footwear is a myth, that's important. (Waterproof boots are, however, very good at keeping water in.)

    They do not last longer than boots. On the contrary, I find that after 400 miles, a pair is pretty well trashed. The Superfeet insoles last through two or three pair of runners. The cost evens out, some, since trail runners are a lot cheaper than good boots.

    If you go this route, your feet will get wet, and on a really muddy trail in wet weather, they may not get dry again. I used to use Body Glide to try to waterproof my feet, but I've since switched to Gurney Goo. It works a lot better for me. I made the switch after a bout of warm-water immersion foot syndrome in July, and did a lot better with the switch.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

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    I've used trail shoes for the last few years and will never switch back to boots, even though I have a new unworn pair of Keen Targhee II boots. In the White Mountains, the smaller running shoes are more flexible and easier to grab the toe holes that are on the boulders of steep climbs. For water crossings, I just walk through with the shoes on. They are going to get wet when it rains anyhow, but they dry quicker than boots. The shoes are easier/quicker to take off and put back on, and with Sta-Dry socks, I rarely get any blisters like I used to get with boots. The most recent shoes that I have been using are the Brooks ASR GTX which has Gortex fabric. The fabric helps against soaking your socks in wet grass, but Gortex doesn't really do that much when you are going through water filled bogs. It just slows the water intrusion rate.

  4. #4

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    With the lightweight running shoes, I'm curious if tossing in a hand warmer overnight generates enough heat to dry the shoes by morning.

    All this talk of running shoes really has me intrigued. I've been fighting with boots lately.


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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tundracamper View Post
    With the lightweight running shoes, I'm curious if tossing in a hand warmer overnight generates enough heat to dry the shoes by morning.

    All this talk of running shoes really has me intrigued. I've been fighting with boots lately.


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    Trail runners can mostly dry just by being worn while hiking. I almost never take them off when fording rivers and knowing that they'll be relatively dry in a couple of hours and are still comfortable to walk in when wet. When it comes to overnight. If you have the hard nalgene bottles, fill them with almost boiling water and then put them inside the shoes, the heat will mostly dry them out.
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    I suppose that the trail runners will eat through socks at a quicker pace as you get more grit into your shoes from the mesh webbing. My boot of choice for my thru were Merrill Chameleon gortex so they held water out for about 100 miles, then became water resistant, then by the 450 mark the toe boxes would come apart which would let the water drain out nicely, then the 500-700mile gap they were just like flat tires. I will say that my feet stayed pretty dry all things considered in the boots, but then again last year was a very dry year.

    Well I guess I'll just have to wait for some rain (which may be never come out here) and see how they perform, I'm definitely liking the light weight so far.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hangfire View Post
    I suppose that the trail runners will eat through socks at a quicker pace as you get more grit into your shoes from the mesh webbing. My boot of choice for my thru were Merrill Chameleon gortex so they held water out for about 100 miles, then became water resistant, then by the 450 mark the toe boxes would come apart which would let the water drain out nicely, then the 500-700mile gap they were just like flat tires. I will say that my feet stayed pretty dry all things considered in the boots, but then again last year was a very dry year.

    Well I guess I'll just have to wait for some rain (which may be never come out here) and see how they perform, I'm definitely liking the light weight so far.
    I use the same low gaiters with my running shoes that I use to use with the boots. They keep the grit, leaves, and pieces of twigs out of your shoes and the socks stay clean. Yes, they are a bit of a nuisance taking them off and putting them on, but overall I think it is worth it to wear gaiters.

  8. #8

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    I use trial runners now because they dry out fast and are much lighter but I do miss the ankle stability and grip my old boots plus dirt didn't get into my socks as easily.

  9. #9
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    I usually get one good season out of a pair of mesh trail runners - buy them in March and toss them in the garage by October, for use when working in the garden. Mass market hiking boots might last a couple of years; really good high quality one piece leather boots can last decades. So, no, trail runners don't come close to lasting longer than boots.

    I don't worry about drying them out, they dry pretty quickly while hiking. Wool socks keep my feet comfortable. In the winter I wear waterproof/breathable trail runners with wool socks and w/b gaiters as needed. (But that's for winter around here, I'd likely change my tune if I lived in New York or New England.)
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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by jbwood5 View Post
    I use the same low gaiters with my running shoes that I use to use with the boots. They keep the grit, leaves, and pieces of twigs out of your shoes and the socks stay clean. Yes, they are a bit of a nuisance taking them off and putting them on, but overall I think it is worth it to wear gaiters.
    I use gaiters too, but the mesh top and side construction in my trail runners allows a lot of fine particles of dirt and mud into the shoe itself, so the only clean place on the socks sometimes is under the gaiter.

  11. #11
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    My main reason for switching to trail runners was comfort. I had a good pair of Merrill boots that I wore hiking for years. No matter what kind of socks or insoles I used, my feet were sore and blistered by the end of my hiking trips. Looking back on it, the heavy boots probably caused additional impact on my feet, and they also retained moisture (from both external water and internal sweating) which caused blisters. I've hiked over 500 miles on the AT since switching to trail runners and not had a single problem. Lighter weight shoes allow me to tread lightly, improving agility and lessening impact on feet, and better ventilation allows water and sweat to dry out much faster while hiking.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigcranky View Post
    In the winter I wear waterproof/breathable trail runners with wool socks and w/b gaiters as needed. (But that's for winter around here, I'd likely change my tune if I lived in New York or New England.)
    Is there really such a thing a breathable and waterproof? The last waterproof shoes I had were far from breathable.



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    The problem with "waterproof" is that it typically equates to "long drying time." When you ford a creek or stream waterproof does little good if the water comes over the top.
    That said I use runners and prefer the comfort and lack of blister issues. For Winter, however, I expect to fall back to boots.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tundracamper View Post
    Is there really such a thing a breathable and waterproof? The last waterproof shoes I had were far from breathable.
    Not really. I do find they work better than putting plastic bags over my feet (another tried and true tactic, though my feet end up looking like prunes).
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  15. #15
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    Go with what works for you.

    If you have ankle issues = seriously, look at boots.

    No ankle issues ? go to hikers!!!

  16. #16

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    I tried going with trail runners but they did not work for me. I have foot issues. They work great for day hiking, though.

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  17. #17
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    I've been using trail runners for the past 6 years. I cannot even imagine using boots anymore. No particular stories to tell. Best advice is try a bunch on and find the pair that works best for your feet!

  18. #18

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    Footgear over the years has become as specialized as outerwear. Much like one will change their outerwear for certain conditions or seasons, one can now do the same with shoes, runners, and boots. Its really a neat time to be involved in this activity given the choices available today as opposed to a short 20 years ago.

  19. #19

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    Footwear depends mainly on you. If you are not heavy and carry a light pack, and the terrain is mild to moderate, trail runners are the ticket.

    If you a obese and carry a heavy pack, and are heading into technical trails, you better have boots IMO.

    It's common sense. Don't put bicycle tires on a Mac Truck, and there's not need for truck tires on a bicycle.

  20. #20

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    Define boots?

    Problem immediately arises in making these comparisons in my mind as varying definitions of what constitute boots exist.

    Making absolute decisions on whether to go with a trail runner or "boot" outside of the context of an individual's kit(wt for example), hiking conditions(off trail, on mountainous scree traverses, not on highly maintained AT like trail, etc), hiking philosophy(fast and light, moderate pace and moderate MPD, etc), ignoring existing medical or physical condition, etc leads to narrow minded cpomparisons and false conclusions.

    FWIW, even though I'm an advocate of trail runners and employ them for the vast majority of my backpacking and hiking, I still have a few sets of lighter wt "boots" for when I FEEL MY backpacking scenarios dictate they would be better than trail runners.

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