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Hiking Gear: Light or Heavy

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  • Hiking Gear: Light or Heavy

    I'm wondering if you get endless debates on hiking forums about the differences between hiking in light gear (aka running shoes, approach shoes, teva's) and hiking in heavier boots that cover one's ankles and give ankle support.

    Perhaps we can start one here. I have a quiver of hiking boots - though the really heavy ones I have not used for dozens of years. I'm hoping the posters who barge through thick, wet underbrush will summarily dismiss the notion of attempting that in light gear, and others will summarily ridicule the overuse of heavy gear when sandals will suffice.

    Then, of course, there will be those who have found the holy grail, a light boot that keeps sand and water out, is fully breathable, flexes when running across the flats, is stiff when jumping across pointed rocks, and doubles as an espresso pot at the end of the day. Mmmmm! I love the smell of roasted socks!

  • #2
    I have become a big fan of AKU after wearing the Zenith II goretex version for 3 years now. Amazingly light yet supportive boot with great arch support from the factory footbed. Light, waterproof, yet supportive. For me they are the perfect do it all for backpacking, light hiking, and scrambling. I have heavier boots for hunting with better ankle support, but outside of that these do it all for me. The sizes are goofy though, at least in this model. I usually wear a 10 or 10.5 and the 9 fits me perfectly in this boot. The soles are showing some wear after 3 years of hard use due to the softer rubber, but still more durable than very light hikers.

    http://www.aku.it/en/scheda/famiglia...th_ii_gtx.html

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    • #3
      I like light high top boots. Ankle support and protection, but without all the weight and bulk of bigger options. Currently I'm on a pair of Columbia boots similar to these ones. They seems about right for me and the way I like to hike and backpack. Plus they aren't too spendy either.

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      • #4
        I know that ankle protection is important to some folks, but for me, the question is most often about how much weight I will be carrying, trail conditions, sole flexibility and protection against pointed objects. If the sole is too flexible, more uneven surfaces stress soft tissues more so the muscles, tendons, etc., in my feet and legs are more susceptible to injury. If the trails will have pointed rocks, sticks, etc., a stiffer sole distributes that stress over a wider area to prevent bruising. Heavy loads amplify the stresses and need for protection.
        It's turns! Of course it's worth the hike!

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        • #5
          With notoriously weak ankles that can be turned on a pebble, I favor heavier, ankle-supporting boots for all of my hiking/off pavement wandering. Just laid a pair of Technica leather boots to rest and replaced them with the oboz wind rivers. I think these will serve my purposes well - good support, not super heavy, and mostly leather uppers for long-term wear and tear - time and miles will tell!

          Cheers,
          JT

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          • #6
            I am currently using a pair of Merrell Mattertalls as my daily driver. In the past, I managed a collection of everything from Chacos to heavy, waterproof snow boots and would generally change depending upon what the trip would be like. At this point, I'm happy rubber stamping everything with the same pair of boots. The gore tex is a little intense (i.e. not super breathable) by the end of the day, but I haven't got any blisters in them and my back seems happier with these than with any other boot I have used.

            My back of the envelope calculations tell me that ankle strength/resilience is something that can only be improved by exposure to rocky conditions in shoes with no ankle support. YMMV.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Sawyer View Post
              My back of the envelope calculations tell me that ankle strength/resilience is something that can only be improved by exposure to rocky conditions in shoes with no ankle support. YMMV.
              One might think that would be the case, but experience for me suggests otherwise - it is not worth the risk to fubar my ankles in low-cut shoes on uneven terrain. Those Merrells look like fine boots, by the way.

              Cheers,
              JT

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              • #8
                Colorado Trail and Long Trail in only running shoes. My six-year-old son thinks Crocs are the ideal hiking boot

                Dave

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                • #9
                  I've got a couple of pairs of heavy duty hikers, but prefer approach shoes. My determining factor is weight. I don't carry a pack heavier than 25 pounds with low cut shoes. So usually in the late spring, summer, and early fall I can get away with approach shoes for day hikes and maybe a light overnighter. More than two days and I'm wearing real boots.

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                  • #10
                    I used to hike in Limmer Boots (super burly and heavy) and used a Dana Terraplane...now I hike in whatever running shoes are in the rotation and have a super light Mt. Hardwear pack with almost no bells and whistles. I guess I prefer light these days...

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by shoestring View Post
                      I used to hike in Limmer Boots (super burly and heavy) and used a Dana Terraplane...now I hike in whatever running shoes are in the rotation and have a super light Mt. Hardwear pack with almost no bells and whistles. I guess I prefer light these days...
                      LaSportiva Makalus are the heaviest boots in my extensive boot collection and were great, but gave me lots of blisters when they were new, and really are heavy. Later, after having a problem with an Achilles tendon I started backpacking in low hiking shoes as anything ankle high made that tendon sore. My tendon is OK now, but I still like and prefer to use only low shoes for Summer and Fall backpacking. My LaSportiva Sandstone GTX are low, with stiff enough soles to protect from sharp rocks. Most of my backpacking is off trail and they are fine, even with a 45 pound pack. I still use my old Dana Terraplane, all 7 pounds of it. A lighter pack would be great but I'd rather spend the money on ski gear, and my dog thinks carrying about 12 pounds of my gear in addition to the dogfood is just fine, so my pack is seldom that heavy. For trails around home and pretty much everywhere else I like my LaSportiva Wildcat GTX trail runners. Wear them all year, even in snow and mud. For GoreTex shoes they breathe extremely well. I have had some problems with the heel lining blowing out but LaSportiva has been great about replacing them multiple times. The reason for all the LaSportiva is that I wear a 12.5 size, one not offered by most makers. European sizing fills that gap.

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                      • #12
                        Hiking boots have got to be on their ways to becoming obsolete. Who still wears them?

                        I use running shoes for everything, save for maybe a backcountry hunting trip (which is rare). This includes all conditions, including snowy days.
                        Disclaimer: But I also don't backpack much anymore aside from accessing something else, like a rock climb, that requires or offers a cool backpacking trip just by accessing it. Even with a heavier pack I use trail runners. My ankles have gained strength over the years of walking and running on trails and I don't feel I really need a clunky, high, heavy boot on my foot.

                        Regarding light or heavy and hiking... One useful thing I learned several years ago is that with some training, I can do in a day what used to be 2-3 day outings with all that backpacking stuff on my back. The footwear was a large part of this equation. Light and fast is currently my preferred method.

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                        • #13
                          What these two said ^^^^^

                          Also, while a thicker sole is nice for protection, a stiff sole is an ankle turn waiting to happen.

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                          • #14
                            Approach shoes for everything unless crampons are in the picture--short trips or long, on trail or off, climbing up to low class 5 (which is as high as I go). My trips almost always go above treeline, include a peak or two and involve talus and/or scree. I don't run and don't know from trail runners, but approach shoe soles seem like they would make traveling on rocky ground less punishing and in general provide more support on irregular ground with a pack, as well as maybe letting in less scree. My latest acquisition is a pair of La Sportiva Boulder GTXs (high tops)--comfy, light, Goretex, a modicum of ankle support.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by fogey View Post
                              Approach shoes for everything unless crampons are in the picture--short trips or long, on trail or off, climbing up to low class 5 (which is as high as I go). My trips almost always go above treeline, include a peak or two and involve talus and/or scree. I don't run and don't know from trail runners, but approach shoe soles seem like they would make traveling on rocky ground less punishing and in general provide more support on irregular ground with a pack, as well as maybe letting in less scree. My latest acquisition is a pair of La Sportiva Boulder GTXs (high tops)--comfy, light, Goretex, a modicum of ankle support.
                              One thing that makes low shoes workable in scree, snow, seedy grass and any situation where crap gets into your shoes or socks is some light weight breathable gaitors. I always take them along on backpack trips where I might encounter loose stuff. I even wear them when using my chainsaw, keeps the chips out of my shoes. OR makes some nice stretchy ones.

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