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Trail Runners
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Eric Carlsen
(cooleric1234) - F
Trail Runners on 12/10/2006 13:50:37 MST Print View

I wonder how many people really use trail runners. It seems to me that most people I talk to that go ultra-light still wear boots. I know I'll mostly get responses from passionate trail runner users, but it would be nice to get some idea of how many people do this.

I see a few problems with trail runners. First of all, people say that with light loads we don't need as much ankle protection. But it seems to me that we are usually hiking over non-smooth terrain and it is still very possible to sprain an ankle when carrying a light load (or nothing at all).

Second, regarding water, I've read that people just choose trail runners that dry quickly once it's stopped raining. Basically just letting your feet get soaking wet. Given how much heat is lost out of the extremities that seems very unwise and dangerous. It seems that waterproof boots would keep your feet much drier and be much safer, even if they didn't work 100%.

I've thought of using hinged ankle braces with trail runners to reduce weight and allow for front to back motion but protect against ankle sprains. I suppose gore-tex socks could fix the second problem I mentioned. Any thoughts?

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Trail Runners on 12/10/2006 14:12:56 MST Print View

I vary, but in the heat of summer I use high ankle trail runners. Very comfy!
Most of who I hike with use trail runners now.
But, there are times I still wear hiking boots-usually when I am on mud, snow, water in cold weather, etc. Or when pounding on granite for long periods.
Trail runners definitely keep my feet cooler. And they do dry out in summer fast.

b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
Use em all the time on 12/10/2006 14:20:50 MST Print View

Check out the Montrail CTC, low tops ... I wear them day in and day out, and for hiking. If I know I am going to be on rough ground or slippery cinder rock slopes then I switch to my higher top Tecnica's. But the Montrails/low tops/trail runner type shoes are great. I am also newer here so don't know if "trail runners" means a specific weight class, I just think of them as low top tennies.

Water: These shoes have an upper especially designed to drain and evaporate water. They are great.

Ankles: I have only had trouble when trying to negotiate really rough ground before my ankles tightened up with exercise or, in other words, I was out of shape. On rough (read volcanic rock up here in Lassen) they work, but it feels more secure to have a bit higher, booty kind of thing on - partly because your ankles get scraped real good by rough, jagged volcanic rocks and boulders. Cinders flood into a low top, so the higher shoe is definitely for cinder flow areas.

Edited by bdavis on 12/10/2006 14:25:14 MST.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Trail Runners on 12/10/2006 14:33:04 MST Print View

I wear Salomon TechAmphibs in the summer, especially if I'll be crossing any creeks. They have enough support for the terrain I normally encounter. They're a little too breezy for the rest of the year though, so I wear an old pair of Saucony trail runners. They're well broken in and comfortable. In the winter I still wear a pair of waterproof Merrel boots. My feet get cold pretty easily, so keeping them warm is important to me.


Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Low-cut hikers versus trail runners on 12/10/2006 15:04:26 MST Print View

I've used trail runners, but I'm a bigger guy (220-240 depending on what time of year you find me) and true cushioned light trail runners leave my feet feeling a bit raw even with superfeet orthotics in place. However, I often prefer the agility of low-cut hiking shoes with a built in shank, such as the Merrell Chameleon. Other times, especially if I need to wear a snowshoe or crampon, I wear the Lowa Renegade Mid, which is actually the same weight as my Merrell Chameleons because the Lowas provide padding around the ankles. Both styles of shoe run about 2 lbs, 13 oz in size 10.5 with green superfeet. Not the very lightest, but much lighter than traditional boots.

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
Re: Trail Runners on 12/10/2006 15:44:58 MST Print View

I always use trail runners (most often Montrail Vitesse), as does my husband, and a number of other friends and family we've converted to them. Most folks I know in Alaska seem to use them too.

My mother, who has really bad ankles, uses ankle braces inside the trail runners. She tells me that provides more support than her hiking boots did.

And yes, we really just wade into streams and rely on the shoes to drain water out afterwards. The whole idea of waterproof boots relies on the water remaining below the top of the boots. If you're hiking somewhere where that's true, then great. I never am.

When it's truly winter (all water encountered is frozen), then I don't need to worry about draining, and will wear warmer boots.


Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Switched from "Real boots" to low cut Cross Trainers / Trail Runners on 12/10/2006 15:52:25 MST Print View

I was forced into cross trainers on Philmont day 3 this year when my 4 lb "real boots" split in half. My only other footwear was a pair of Merrell Mesa Ventilator II (low cut model).

In retrospect, I'm glad it happened, they are half the weight, the shock absorption is good, they're very comfortable, my feet and knees feel better, not carrying the extra 2 lbs.

I haven't twisted an ankle, or had any other malaise. I typically hike in the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale twice a week with them and a small pack, plus some other weekend trip about once a month. I'm on my second pair.

I'm still trying to determine the differences between cross trainers and trail runners, but regardless, my knees are much happier in lighter shoes. I've heard this model described as both.


Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
Re: Trail Runners on 12/10/2006 16:11:56 MST Print View

Before you invest in trail runners take a look at the range of shoes offered by inov-8 they are still low cut but in my view far surpass the "normal" trail shoe.

There are a number of suppliers in the US

Edited by rogerb on 12/10/2006 16:12:35 MST.

Ron Bell
(mountainlaureldesigns) - F - M

Locale: USA
Montrail CD trail runners on 12/10/2006 19:00:38 MST Print View

Just got a pair or Montrail Contiential Divides (mail order) mainly wanted to try them based on many positeve mag/web reviews. (I had mainly used various Montrails over the years as well as the 800 and 900 series NB's.)I found them overall very well built and with nice features but....the heal support and the ankle edge (area forming the rear 180 degrees) are quite stiff and a bit taller than other trail runners I've used and even after "working them over" with "tools" they are still stiff and rub my ankle bone on the outside. Of course, if they do not rub you, then the stiffness may be a plus. Just FYI for anyone mail ordering them sight unseen and thinking they can break that part of the shoe in.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Trail Runners on 12/10/2006 19:51:20 MST Print View

I'm toward the radical end of things, I suppose, since I have converted to Nike Free Trails 5.0. They have a lot less structure than most trail runners. I weigh about 210, so I give any shoe a workout. I get higher daily mileage with greater comfort with the Nikes. I do not stick to trails, but go cross-country a good bit. I have never turned or sprained an ankle, partly, I think, becauce the Nikes tend to strengthen ankles and improve balance -- radically. I am constantly amazed at the difference this makes.

Regarding water, it depends on the situation. In cold weather on a wet trail I wear w/b socks or sometimes neopreme socks. In moderate weather, I don't worry about getting wet. Getting feet wet is dangerous only below freezing. or if you cannot get them dry and warm for a few hours every night - which could result in chillblanes.

Waterproof boots? Nothing is waterproof. Such boots get wet and take forever to dry and weigh twice as much until they dry. If you really want to keep your feet dry, use two pairs of waterproof socks on each foot. Put on a liner sock, a waterproof sock, a wool sock, then another waterproof sock. The wool stays dry that way. Change the liners periodically. Then, it does not matter what shoe you wear, but something that does not gain a lot of weight when wet and dries quickly is obviously the better choice.

A word of warning about ankle supports - whether they are in fhe form of hinged braces or 'supportive' boots. It is accurate to think of them as a glass cast. Up to a point, they will prevent your ankles and musculature from working properly. The consequence is atrophy - weakness. When the supports fail, as they will inevitably do, they will fail catastrophically. And so will your ankle.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Trail Runners on 12/11/2006 00:19:09 MST Print View

>I wonder how many people really use trail runners.

I switched. I don't think regular hiking boots offer much ankle-sprain protection. Plastic double boots maybe, but a five-pound lead weight on the top of my boots bends them sideways--imagine how little support they offer when weighted with several hundred pounds of descending human. If you look on BPL you will find some anecdotal comments about sprains, mostly (all?) in boots. I don't think ankle braces are necessary, unless you have an actual medical problem. I do change from lightweight trail runners (currently, Montrail Hardrocks) to trail shoes (Montrail Kalahari) when my pack weight goes over 40 pounds because I want a bit more shank.

I wore Gore-tex boots in the rain: they soaked through and stayed squishy and cold for the rest of the trip. That pretty much convinced me that there was no reason not to try trail runners. I've been on rainy trips with trail runners (various Montrail models, with Superfeet insoles) and at least my feet dry out a bit when the rain lets up, and the shoes dry fairly well overnight. I also tried Gore-Tex XCR trail runners, and they wet through and stayed wet just like the boots. I recently bought some Rocky Gore-Tex socks and Seirus NeoSocks to see if I can keep my feet dry when my shoes are wet; haven't tested them yet.

YMMV, but from your post it sounds like you haven't tried trail runners. I did, and that was the last time I wore my beloved boots.

Edited by Otter on 12/11/2006 08:45:59 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Trail Runners on 12/11/2006 03:04:30 MST Print View

With the greatest respect, sigh, we have been through all this many times before. MANY times. Petrol engines vs buggy whips. This is, after all, Backpacking LIGHT! :-)

> I wonder how many people really use trail runners.
Most experienced walkers who have thought about what they are doing.

> we are usually hiking over non-smooth terrain and it is still very possible to sprain an ankle when carrying a light load
Theory. Reality is that boots cause a much greater number of sprains because they are so clumsy.

> Given how much heat is lost out of the extremities that seems very unwise and dangerous
Theory. Reality is that walking in a creek in trail runners in summer can be a very pleasant experience!
But in the snow it is better to try to keep your feet fairly dry.

> It seems that waterproof boots would keep your feet much drier
Theory. Wait until the rain runs down your trousers into your waterproof boots...

Actually, the number of people in the whole world who wear boots is very small - once you count the WHOLE world. Boots are a very recent invention, invented for armies tromping around Europe. But it's a free world (mostly), so you are welcome to wear whatever you want.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Trail Runners on 12/11/2006 03:32:23 MST Print View

I see fr/the BPL rank that you might be new to L/UL.

No problem asking the questions that you asked. Every year as new people discover the Forums, the same questions pop up again. This is perfectly understandable. I'm sure BPL always welcomes new participants.

[Note: This might make another piece of info useful. In some cases implicit in one's Rank is tenure, but a low rank could just be low participation. So, i'd also like to see how long a person has been a Forum participant (i.e., the date that they set up their Forum account) - perhaps available when i click their avatar or screen name.]

As far as answers to your questions, Roger has already done that.

I'd only like to add that WP boots as well as WPB boots only keep your feet dry from the outside (unless water runs down into them which i've had happen). Once my feet have been sweating for a while, my socks can get mighty sweat soaked, and WPB boots definitely don't allow that sweat to leave those boots as well as a pair of more breathable non-WPB trail runners.

Also, you would not believe the "roughness" (rocks and roots exposed by erosion from runoff, plus use) of some of the old trails i hike on. I will tell you that 20oz trail runners prove superior to 32oz light hikers which prove superior to heavier medium hikers. I base this statement on first hand experience when i began to lighten up. I have fewer "near misses" and actual minor (and more major) sprains as i use lighter footwear. Roger is right. Feel is important. At least my own experience tells me that.

[Note: in my experience, the other issue that i've greatly been able to improve by lightening up is my CG. this too has proved invaluable in reducing trail mishaps - much fewer slips and falls and probably also contributes to fewer ankle issues; far more nimble with a lower CG; but, this is another subject.]

Edited by pj on 12/11/2006 03:38:03 MST.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Trail Runners on 12/11/2006 05:56:43 MST Print View

Heavy, cold, wet boots seem to be one thing that many hikers cling to as a confidence builder. I encounter this often with all ages of hikers - teens to 75 year-old trekkers.

Several years ago, I made the switch to running shoes. Running shoes are better for me in every way. No one else mentions it much but I used to fall regularly while hiking. It was bceause my danged boots were heavy and they made me even clumsier.

Lastly, it's entertaining to encounter folks with a boot mindset while on the trail or even on a mountain top. In a way it's fun to challenge folks' thinking. The gear industry convinces many that stuff is the key to their comfort, safety, and success in the outdoors.

Eric Carlsen
(cooleric1234) - F
Trail Runners on 12/11/2006 19:58:10 MST Print View

Thanks for all the great replies. I'm sorry to dig up a tired topic, I was just struggling to find _meaningful_ information and experiences from people.

I should have mentioned more about myself. I'm about 6'5" and 220 lbs, I am new to UL backpacking, and I've had a lot of sprains over the years playing basketball and volleyball. I always wear Active Ankle braces when I play these sports.

I have heard that these weaken your ankles, it's a logical conclusion. My experience has been that I have had much fewer and much less severe sprains when I wear these braces. I suppose, if I were dedicated, I would do some exercises to strengthen my ankles and then use the braces only in high risk situations. I did have a trainer tell me once that with all my sprains the tendons and ligaments are stretched, making it easier to sprain again but less severe when it does happen. I'm not sure if it's true.

I have no problems hiking in trail runners, with the light weight I'm carrying (especially percent body weight) backpacking and hiking are almost equivalent, so I think I'll give trail runners a try.

P.S. I definitely believe, through my experiences, that "high tops" don't give you much protection from ankle sprains.

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Re: Trail Runners on 12/12/2006 08:30:52 MST Print View

> Basically just letting your feet get soaking wet. Given how much heat is lost out of the extremities that seems very unwise and dangerous.

Not that much heat is lost through your extremities. When your extremities are cold it doesn't mean your losing heat through them but somewhat the contrary, the body reduces blood flood to reduce heat loss, something it cannot do with vital organs.
Cold feet are uncomfortable but you won't get hypothermic because of that.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Trail Runners on 12/12/2006 10:16:20 MST Print View

>>"Given how much heat is lost out of the extremities that seems very unwise and dangerous."

just guessing here, but perhaps what was being thought of was the nearness to the surface of so-called "pulse points". as most are aware, these areas, together with the scalp and forehead and a couple of other areas, are very useful when attempting to reduce high fevers by wiping them down with water or alc-water mixture and allowing evaporative cooling to aid in removing heat from a feverish body.

the difference is the "fever" when sick and the conditions that the well hiker finds him/her -self in with wet feet. as Inaki already stated, blood flow to the extremities will be reduced if one is cold. this is just the opposite of the "fever" condition when blood flow to the skin is increased.

two different situations.

just a thought.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Trail Runners on 12/12/2006 10:22:25 MST Print View


I got a high ankle sprain back in 1997 wearing traditional hiking boots. During the rehab I realized the range of motion in the hiking boots was too limited to break out the scar tissue. I switched to trail runners. Frankly, I don't think I would have gotten the ankle sprain if I had been wearing trail runners.

The old boots never kept my feet dry. There was a big hole in my boots - where I inserted my feet. That hole leaked pretty badly. When I switched to trail runners I started to use a neoprene sock that was designed for bicycles between my sock and the shoe.

Trail runners allow greater surface area in contact with rock for friction climbing.

The traditional boot is needed for crampons and it will protect the ankles from bruises when in talus or scree.

David Neumann
(idahomtman) - M

Locale: Northern Idaho
Trail runners on 12/12/2006 10:48:12 MST Print View

I don't even own hiking boots any more. I have used trail runners, mostly Montrail Hardrocks or other similar shoes for years now. I hike in snow and off trail without problems. I just got a pair of INOV8 Flyroc 310's which I look forward to trying out on my next trip. I do use Superfeet insoles and have not had any serious problems.

I got excellent results on a JMT thru-hike with a pair of Montrail shoes. I have continued to use the same shoes and feel I can get 500-600 miles before replacement is needed.

Nigel Sanderson
(onthefells) - F

Locale: The Chilterns and Peak District
re twisted ankles and trail shoes/boots on 12/13/2006 06:14:30 MST Print View

In my experience one of the main reasons for twisted ankles whilst running or walking is the height of the midsole. The further your foot is away from the ground the more likely you are to twist your ankle and when you do the greater the 'leverage' and therefore damage of the twist.

Thats why I wear Inov-8s. Not only do they have a very low midsole but they have a flexible sole that moves with your foot so if, for instance, you half stand on a rock the shoe and hence your foot bend round the rock. If you have a hard sole your foot 'bounces off' the rock due to the hard sole.

I used to pronate quite badly and was forever twisting my ankles and wore orthotics. Since I've been fell running my ankles and tendons and ligaments around have all strenghtened up and I very rarely twist my ankles any more. That I believe is mainly down to the Inov-8s letting my feet and ankles move how they were created to move.

Paraphrasing the founder of Inov-8 and apologies for any 'personal license' the foot is a very complex part of the body, developed over thousands of years with many bones, ligaments and tendons that have developed to cope with any ground condition, why inhibit what its designed to do?