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Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/29/2009 08:17:47 MDT Print View

It has been so long that I have worn hiking boots I thought I would ask if there was any benefit to wear them versus my current foot system. Currently I am using some Chaco sandals and I can add a wool sock, some REI waterproof socks and even a very thick wool sock over that for insulation if I need to. Being size 14/15 in shoes does have its disadvantages. There is really no tall terrain around here so I know I will not have to kick step anything. And I can still attach my Kahtoola Microspikes to the Chacos. Do I really need boots?

Edited by bpeugh on 10/29/2009 08:19:44 MDT.

Mark McLauchlin
(markmclauchlin) - MLife

Locale: Western Australia
Re: Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/29/2009 08:30:43 MDT Print View

My personal opinion is that you don’t need to use boots unless the environment you are in plays a factor i.e. Snow.

One train of thought is that boots provide support to the foot/ankle, I don't believe this to be true as I think others would agree.

I have not owned a pair of boots nor do I intend to.

Cheers
Mark

Chad Mason
(porch13) - M

Locale: Arizona
Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/29/2009 08:36:29 MDT Print View

My boots are sitting in the back of my closet under a drift of dust bunnies. I switched to hiking and backpacking in Tevas around 5 years ago and haven't looked back. If I had to slog through deep snow, I would probably pull out the boots, but for light snow and ice, I just strap on some instep crampons.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Hiking Boots on 10/29/2009 08:44:51 MDT Print View

I use low cut hikers for groomed trails, at least in the mountains. I still use boots when scrambling on scree - anything else is shredded in minutes.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
Re: Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/29/2009 09:11:36 MDT Print View

I hike barefoot for most of my backpacking trips. I've been doing this for over a year now. Occasionally I wear Huarache sandals (4mm sole) if the terrain is awful. For snow, I use Vibram FiveFingers. I have yet to sustain any injuries to my feet or ankles. I don't believe there is any study that has been done to prove that footwear prevents injury.

-Sid

Barry P
(BarryP) - F

Locale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
Re: Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/29/2009 14:03:44 MDT Print View

For my situation and most people in my hiking group, we’ll say boots are not needed, nor shoes. We wear open-toed sandals.
I do wear snow boots for Dec-Jan.

I backpack in teva tera fi-2. I’ve been in all terrain with them except deep snow. I love them on scree (large and small) because of their grip. I always wear socks; this eliminates the odors in the sandal. And like you pointed out, the sandal can adapt to any layer(s) of socks. I wear thin socks in the summer to my down booties in the winter. I also like their grip on wet sloping granite.

I also play my sports in them (basketball, tennis, racquetball).
I did put on some comfy Nike’s recently and I thought “these are comfortable and light!”. Then I put my sandals back on and went “wow, these are more comfortable. I can wiggle my toes! And I can’t roll my ankles!”

A technique I use to protect my toes is just buy 1/4 to 3/8” longer. That way the tip of the sandal gets stubbed before my toe does.

Also, the open toe sandal/sock combo eliminates (or greatly minimizes):
1. hammer toes
2. foot rot (aka athletes foot)
3. blisters; i.e., heat, moisture, friction are brought under control (I could write several paragraphs on this).
4. need for camp slippers. Just loosen the strap and they become as comfy as slippers.
5. heavy footwear.
6. cracked prune skin; occurs during extended trek through marshes.
7. slowing down the team when crossing rivers. Just plow through the river!
8. new shoe break-in period.
9. shoestring breaks.

There’s some more plus’s and other tricks of the trade but I won’t go into them here.
My only gripe is the ‘spider rubber’ wears out fast. I get about 500 miles before I need to replace. I have gone ~1000 miles on a pair but I really had to be careful with its grip for a while. However, I don’t want to give up grip for longer lasting rubber.

May everyone find their foot zen.
-Barrysandal backpacking in snow

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim)

Locale: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Re: Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/29/2009 14:43:15 MDT Print View

I like boots any time I'm going to be plunge stepping or kick stepping into snow. The weight makes for a very solid grip. I also like boots for XC travel in loose, steep stuff. I've seen friends struggle in lighter footwear in areas I felt pretty solid in. Boots are good for edging.

But for trails, even trails that are in poor shape, there's no real need for boots IMO. If it's working for your feet, then why not?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/29/2009 16:43:19 MDT Print View

While I do wear very light joggers and don't even own boots, I have not gone as far as wearing sandals in the bush. There are two main reasons:

The amount of sharp sticks and sharp rocks at ground level in the Australian bush (off-trail) is enough to shred my feet very quickly (been there, tried that).

In wetter country I find the wet mud between my feet and the sandal means I have almost zero grip on my sandals, and that can be frightening in some places.

Cheers

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/29/2009 17:30:08 MDT Print View

I have switched to trail runners for nearly all hiking. I haven't had my boots on since early last spring!

That being said, I like the boots for winter hiking, which, here in NW Oregon, involves plenty of mud as well as snow at higher (and sometimes not so high) elevations.

The other reason I wear the boots in winter is for training purposes--for me, winter hiking (of which I'm not that fond) is primarily to keep me in shape for backpacking in the season of longer days. More than 12 hours in the tent is just not my cup of tea, and gear for winter backpacking is too much for my budget. My winter dayhikes are shorter and less frequent than in summer, and lifting the heavier boots helps make up the difference in my conditioning--like exercise walking with weights, but far more interesting.

I might want boots if I were doing cross-country in scree and lots of scrambling and such, but I'm not into that type of hiking. Trails and easy cross-country through meadows and such, fine. The harder stuff I leave for others (HYOH!).

Edited by hikinggranny on 10/29/2009 17:31:36 MDT.

Kimberly Wersal
(kwersal) - MLife

Locale: Western Colorado
Re: Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/29/2009 21:44:40 MDT Print View

I have a fairly heavy duty pair of Raichles that I usually use, but for my last trip in Utah, I decided to live dangerously and go out in my Keen Zerraports (usually my camp shoes). It worked out great, even with a 45 minute section of climbing over large boulders and scrambling up slickrock ledges. A little extra care was needed in areas with cacti. The toe guard gives a little extra security. My feet stayed cool, no blisters or hot spots.

I'll stick with the boots for peak climbing/loose talus.

Chad Mason
(porch13) - M

Locale: Arizona
Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/29/2009 21:53:58 MDT Print View

Love the pic, Barry! I have the same shot from a Grand Canyon hike early this year.Sandals!

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Re: Re: Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/30/2009 00:05:05 MDT Print View

Just a few observations sid:

1. i assume you do not hike in cold wet conditions without shoes

2. How do you handle poison ivy/oak/sumac, razor weed, or other poisonous plants?

3. Are your feet huge and hairy now? like a hobbit?

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Plus one for Vibram FF's on 10/30/2009 04:32:28 MDT Print View

Here in Ohio, barefoot hiking is difficult because of greenbriar, which can take over a trail faster than you can say, why didn't I take up knitting as a hobby.

I like Vibram Five Fingers for three season use. I switch to the Neoprene version in colder weather. Except for the leaf buildup between the toes, they are everything a hiker could ask for, especially if you're traveling light.

My ankles are now so strong from walking in the Vibrams that I almost never misstep or land on an ankle. I've never understood the need for ankle support anyway. As a fellow BPer once pointed out to me, tight ankle support just transfers the consequences of any misstep from your ankle to your knee. I'd much rather blow an ankle than a knee any day.

BTW, even the "heavy" Neoprene Vibrams weight only 6 oz. per foot. It's like walking on air.

Stargazer

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
Re: Re: Re: Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/30/2009 06:56:58 MDT Print View

"Just a few observations sid:

1. i assume you do not hike in cold wet conditions without shoes

2. How do you handle poison ivy/oak/sumac, razor weed, or other poisonous plants?

3. Are your feet huge and hairy now? like a hobbit?"
-Myakka Mouser

Myakka,

1. You assume wrong. The coldest I have hiked barefoot was in the low 40s, high 30s. I have hiked barefoot in cold and wet conditions on several occasions. My feet get cold, but it's not cold enough to give me frostbite. I've never hiked barefoot in snow, however.

2. Fortunately, I am not allergic to poison oak, so it does't effect me even if I do step on it. I have yet to step on a poisonous plant, however. Obviously, when you hike barefoot, you are much more careful what you step on. By being cautious and watching my step, I can avoid poisonous plants.

3. I suppose they are pretty big, but I don't believe going barefoot has caused my feet to grow more hair on them. As a child, I ran around barefoot most of the time, so my feet were already pretty big. They did get a little bigger from building up my feet muscles though.

-Sid

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/30/2009 08:25:51 MDT Print View

Aha - Central Florida. Well that explains the footwear or lack of.

Barry P
(BarryP) - F

Locale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
Re: Re: Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/30/2009 08:44:42 MDT Print View

“In wetter country I find the wet mud between my feet and the sandal means I have almost zero grip on my sandals, and that can be frightening in some places.”

Roger,
It sounds like you have the wrong sandal or the attachment is wrong. The good sandal excels in mud. They also clean fast and dry fast.

A couple of years ago I did a 3-day trek with some youth in Oklahoma. We lived in the mud:
muddy trail
These are the Hurricane II Teva’s my son was using:
muddy hurricane IIs
I prefer the terra fi-2’s.

There were plenty of flooded streams to walk through and clean them. Of course we had to move the snakes out of the road. They’re nice snakes. We just didn’t want to step on them.
snake in muddy water

Chad,
That is an amazing pic! Too funny. I had newspaper bags over my socks in the early 25F morning, and then when I get going, I have to take them off so the feet won’t sweat.

May everyone find their foot zen.
-Barry

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/30/2009 08:53:07 MDT Print View

> Aha - Central Florida. Well that explains the footwear or lack of.

Ah... that explains Sid's barefeet... but I know people who barefoot in cold conditions. I have a good friend who still lives in Ohio. In the middle of winter he would be barefoot wearing long pants, tee-shirt, heavy button up wool shirt, wool scarf. That was it. You knew it was cold when Steve brought out the scarf. He would tromp right through snow without being phased.

The first time I saw him wearing shoesin the winter (actually they were sandals) I asked "Is it too cold to go barefoot now?" He explained cold wasn't a problem... but the weather was such that there might be shards of ice and tha the previous year he had sliced his foot on the sharp edge of the ice so when he expected that sort of ice (especially after a light snow so he couldn't see what he was stepping on) he was going to wear sandals. It was REALLY cold, when he put socks on under the sandals.

--mark

Edited by verber on 10/30/2009 08:55:46 MDT.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
Re: Re: Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/30/2009 09:06:19 MDT Print View

Yup, mark is right. Barefooting in the snow is not unheard of. I plan on doing it myself when I hike in colder regions. I have only hiked with my VFFs in the snow. I would probably still have them in my pack. If you're hiking in the snow for a long time I think it would be wise to have some form of footwear in your pack just in case you feel signs of frostbite.

-Sid

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/30/2009 09:11:47 MDT Print View

Again - obviously this is geographically specific. 4 feet of snow and -40C in the winter where I am. And that is in the city, not the mountains. Frost bite to exposed skin within seconds.

But good for you....I guess.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
Re: Are hiking boots really needed? on 10/30/2009 09:42:28 MDT Print View

Ofcourse its geographically specific. Obviously it wouldn't be possible to go hiking barefoot in -40C. But you'd be surprised how low of a temperature you can get away with going barefoot in. I remember watching something on the Discovery channel a while back where this Russian guy nicknamed "the iceman" was obsessed with pushing his body to the limits in freezing temperatures. He tested his limits by attempting to run a very long distance (I can't recall how long exactly) in the snow where temperatures were below freezing. He was not able to go the entire distance he planned, but if I remember correctly, he still was able to go 10 miles or so. He didn't get any forstbite. The medical staff that was following him finally told him he should stop before he did get frostbite. Now I'm not saying this is something one of us should attempt, but it is interesting how much we're capable of with enough will power.

-Sid

Edited by Red_Fox on 10/30/2009 09:44:24 MDT.