November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
What age to change to trail runners?
Display Avatars Sort By:
John Roan
(JRoan) - MLife

Locale: Vegas
What age to change to trail runners? on 08/23/2009 17:50:20 MDT Print View

My son is a 13 1/2 year old Life Scout, and really enjoys backpacking. I'm an Assistant Scoutmaster, and the U/L influence in our troop. We consider ourselves a backpacking troop, as we make most of our monthly outtings a backcountry trip.

My son really "gets it" and is intent on going light. My question is, at what point do you make the change from hiking boots to trail runners? I can't imagine going back to boots myself, and want him to be able to realize the benefits of light weight foot wear. My concern is, of course, having him change too soon in his development and risking injury. Or am I making too much of it as long as his pack is sub 20lbs?

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"What age to change to trail runners?" on 08/23/2009 22:04:17 MDT Print View

I am 14 and I just changed to trail-running shoes this summer. I made the switch after lightening up to a sub-20lb load a couple years ago. This may not apply to your son like it did to me. But here's how it went for me:

1. Switched to a light load. (Was still using traditional boots)
2. Started carrying trekking poles.
...Let me stop with that for a moment. For some ultralighters (like me), trekking poles are considered to be something that greatly reduces strain on the rest of the body, adds balance and coordination, and make the miles fly. So, I think they are great in conjunction and alongside with boots & trail runners alike.

3. Got tired of the clunky boots, and upgraded to trail runners. They are so much nicer. My feet aren't burdened by the unnecessary weight.
...Note to anyone else out there considering switching to trail runners, attempting to carry a 40lb pack in trail runners requires a level of ankle strength that most people don't get from their 9-5 desk jobs. So, that being said, a switch to trail running shoes should occur after or simultaneously with the lightening of pack weight to less than 25lbs.

Trail running shoes Pros & Cons:

Lighter, and more comfy
More airy
Dry faster
You can wear a single pair of trail running socks (which are far comfier than traditional method of a liner and thick wool sock)

Provide less protection
Not suitable for loads above 25-30lbs. without extremely good ankle strength.
Can be expensive.
May not be entirely suitable for extremely trecherous terain.

I encourage your son to make the switch. Like you, I cannot imagine ever getting back into traditional boots in summer. They are such a nice lift.


P.S., popular belief has it that trail runners provide little ankle support. On the contrary, most of the ankle support is in the heel and arch areas of the shoe. If your ankles are so weak that they move sideways too much in unltralight footwear to the point where it is at all uncomfortable, lightweight footwear may not be for you.

Double P.S., I am not a foot expert, and if there is any factual flaw in what I say above, please correct me. Thanks

Edited by edude on 08/23/2009 22:06:42 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: "What age to change to trail runners?" on 08/25/2009 14:06:52 MDT Print View


You are a bright you man. Sure is nice to see that today.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: What age to change to trail runners? on 08/25/2009 16:00:22 MDT Print View

John- I think you have the question in reverse.
You should never put a hiking boot on a child! They should only carry about 20% of their body weight, given that, they should never enough weigh to merit a boot.
Boots restrict the natural foot movement and as Evan stated- do not help prevent injury and some studies of children and youth show they can be more detrimental.
All of my scouts wear some kind of sneakers- I also don't allow anyone on an outing if their pack is more then 25% of their body weight, including troop gear and food; yes I would take the scale out and weigh them and their packs before each trip. Now I only do it for the new boys because the older boys always try and beat my pack weight.
My opinion is to get him out of the boots NOW!

BTW- everyday foot wear for children (the younger the better)- the softer the shoe sole the better- In fact bare feet for toddlers learning to walk is the best.

I use to wear reversed soled shoes and leg braces to bed from about a year old until the age of four. These hard sole shoes and braces only screwed up my feet and ankles. In the fifties they tried a lot of odd things- I don't blame them- they were doing the best they knew- I just wonder how much of what we are trying now will screw up our kids. All I can say is, get your boy out of those boots.

Edited by bestbuilder on 08/28/2009 21:13:07 MDT.

John Roan
(JRoan) - MLife

Locale: Vegas
Re: Re: What age to change to trail runners? on 08/25/2009 16:15:13 MDT Print View

Evan, you have insight beyond your years. And Tad, thanks for the nudge. I agree it past time.

So new question...the leadership in our troop (except me) thinks there's only one way to do things, and have stated that they would not allow kids to attend trips without "proper foot wear", i.e. big, heavy, restrictive boots.

How do you go about changing the culture. When we backpack, most are miserable, especially the adults, while I'm having a great time. Not because they don't love the outdoors, not because they are in horrible shape...because of their ideas of "the right way" to do things. My son and I will continue to walk the talk, but the rest are slow to accept change. They think I am a minimalist...which I'm not. I just take what I need to be comfortable, both off and on the trail.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: What age to change to trail runners? on 08/25/2009 17:00:26 MDT Print View

John, It was easy for me to change the troop- I am the scout master, my problem was with the dad's who occasionally came along and were "Old School". I had to deal with their lack of knowledge.
Get the book "lighten up" and pass it around the adults in the troop- It has taken about 3 years for most of the guys to come around- some will never change- just like in life- keep trying and setting an example.

I would totally argue the "proper foot wear" issue (until I was blue in the face). Boots are for Heavy loads- no heavy load=no boots. Email some articles around that help support your idea. After a while they will probably relax their stance.
Good Luck.

Edited by bestbuilder on 08/25/2009 17:01:40 MDT.

William Puckett
(Beep) - F

Locale: Land of 11, 842 lakes
RE: changing to trail runners on 08/25/2009 19:44:46 MDT Print View age 63, I've switched to trail runners, concurrent with getting my pre-food-and-water pack weight to about 17 lbs. While that weight certainly won't set any records, it has enabled me to actually ENJOY the hiking part of backpacking. The best of my string of trail runners (Keen Voyageur, Montrail Hardrocks, Inov8 305, Merrell Chameleon) has been the Asic Gel Trabuco WR. I absolutely love 'em!

OK, so here's the anecdote. My wife and I just returned from an 8 day canoe camping trip in the Quetico Provincial Park (Ontario). That involved schlepping some hefty loads (e.g. 70 lb food pack (for four) at the beginning of the trip) over rough and poorly maintained portages. Our friends (both retired professional guides) and I were all wearing a trail runner shoe (mine were Montrail Namches). We were definitely careful about foot placement and slowing down on rough portions of trail, but we managed loads from 40 to 90 lbs without problems.

John Roan
(JRoan) - MLife

Locale: Vegas
How to enlighten (pun intended) 'old school' backpackers? on 08/25/2009 23:51:37 MDT Print View

I do have 'Lighten Up". It was my introduction to lightweight backpacking...the first part of my enlightenment. I'll take your advice Tad and pass it around the troop.

Other ideas? When I pitched my first tarp on a troop trip...there were questions like "are you really going to sleep in that tent?" It rained on that trip, and I stayed dry and warm.

The kids are easy to's the scoutmaster and other assistants that need to 'get it'...then the rest is easy. But old habits are hard to break for some...

One thing I haven't done a great job with is sharing my gear list. Seeing your actual gear weights in writing is eye openings. Maybe that's my next step.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: How to enlighten (pun intended) 'old school' backpackers? on 08/26/2009 00:11:48 MDT Print View

John, It might be a good idea to know the weights of the different gear the others are taking, that way you can show show them the difference. You can rely on your own experience and relate where you have come from and why.

Tonight at our court of honor I made a presentation on repackaging things- I took the hiking essentials and other things and showed what a difference can be made by not taking a whole roll of TP or a large tube of tooth paste of the different kinds of flashlights- large 2 D-cell type down to a .5 oz LED. Even AquaMira repackaged, sunscreen, different size knife and why, water bottles and so on.
Maybe at your next meetings have a table out showing the comparison between different items, have a different display every meeting. After a while it might start sinking in?
I do it at the court of honor so I have the parents there to see what I am already teaching the boys- and show the dads what they should be bringing (or what not to bring).

Edited by bestbuilder on 08/26/2009 00:15:08 MDT.

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"What age to change to trail runners?" on 08/27/2009 21:49:51 MDT Print View

"They should only carry about 20% of their body weight"

I say MAX 15% on a child -10yrs old.


Edited by edude on 08/27/2009 21:51:11 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: What age to change to trail runners? on 08/28/2009 20:29:14 MDT Print View

> at what point do you make the change from hiking boots to trail runners?

Somewhere around birth would be my recommendation.


Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Lighter weight footwear for Scouts on 09/03/2009 20:13:01 MDT Print View

You might dig around at the District or Council level and see what lightweight recommendations exist already.

You might find that the folks who teach the high adventure training already publish a list you could adopt or use.

I know that in my own council, mid top shoes and synthetic sleeping bags are required because of their perceived higher safety margin for young, inexperienced campers.

Three places where I have found you can start the change to light weight are
1) Putting recommeded lightweight tents, packs, and sleeping bags on the basic backpacking list for the first outing. If the parents buy heavy gear in Month1, they are legitimately very resistant to spend money for lighter gear 18 months later.
2) the packing list and pack inspection for each back pack outing where you find a patrol of five scouts has packed 8 pocket knifes and 16 ounces of sun block. The older scouts given the right training and experience are best suited to run the pack inspections
3) Taking a hanging digital scale to the trailhead and have scouts, weigh theirpacks and compete a bit in finding one or two things they can leave behind.

Jeff Stormer
(JStormer) - MLife

Locale: Central PA
BPLs recommendations on 09/11/2009 10:34:03 MDT Print View

You might email copies of the BPL article on UL packing for Philmont.

David Erekson
(finallyME) - F

Locale: Utah desert
What age to change to trail runners? on 09/29/2009 13:12:55 MDT Print View

I tell my scouts to wear whatever shoes they have, as long as they fit. And then recommend buying trail runners as soon as they can. I never recommend boots. But, I am the Scout Master, so I don't have to fight anyone. Anyways, any kid should not be in boots.

John Roan
(JRoan) - MLife

Locale: Vegas
Proof that hiking in shoes is better than hiking in boots on 10/01/2009 13:28:06 MDT Print View

Does anyone know of any medical study that proves hiking in lightweight, low cut shoes is actually better than hiking in boots? This would obviously help me convince the other leaders in my troop.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Re: What age to change to trail runners? on 10/01/2009 17:43:06 MDT Print View

> at what point do you make the change from hiking boots to trail runners?

>Somewhere around birth would be my recommendation.

Personally, I switch to trail runners at the trailhead.


jim draucker
(mtnjim) - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah Valley VA
trail runners on 10/01/2009 18:27:09 MDT Print View

Hello out there

I am also a Scouter and ul fan. I had a severed achilles tendon/ ankle blowout a while back. Ever since then I have had a numb/dead spot in my my heel area. Nerve damage?
I recently got a pair of Five Fingers for casual use. After wearing them over a few weeks , I am regaining feeling in bad area :) I think we were designed to go barefoot. Note: This injury happened 5 years ago, I had thought my foot would always be numb. I will keep my shoes as light and flexible as possible from now on.

Thanks Jim

Michael Sagehorn
(msagehorn) - F
a confirmed boot wearer responds on 10/24/2009 20:34:00 MDT Print View

I have seen very few Scout-age boys wear running shoes-shoes made for running unless they ran track or cross country.

I have worn lightweight trail shoes-New Balance, Lowa Tempest Lows, and Hi-Tec. They work ok but at days end my feet feel beat up. I'm a big guy.

Each later trip I find myself after every "lightweight" footwear experiment going back to my four boot stable-Italy made Sundowners, Lowa Alpspitz mountain boots of 1970's origins, and also of that era two prized pairs of Pivettas-Muir Trails and Pivetta 8's.Except the Sundowners, I bought them all on eBay to replace boots I once owned and either wore out or outgrew from my youth.

I think a challenge in Scouting is keeping our boys, who don't walk much, protected from rocks and rough terrain. Boots will do this and today they are much lighter in weight.

John Smith
(Thyreffa) - F
Re: What age to change to trail runners on 10/28/2009 17:44:36 MDT Print View

Personally as a venturer, (i think senior scout) i have worn boots since i started getting into backpacking, i dont tell other kids to get boots, but because i live out bush, i find that the boots i wear everyday doing stuff around our paddocks is what i wear when i go backpacking..... now what you dont want to do is go and buy a pair of $100 + boots at say age 1, then they grow out of them a few months down the track