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Lightweight Mid-Height Trail Shoes State of the Market Report 2011
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Lightweight Mid-Height Trail Shoes State of the Market Report 2011 on 08/30/2011 13:13:06 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Lightweight Mid-Height Trail Shoes State of the Market Report 2011

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Lightweight Mid-Height Trail Shoes State of the Market Report 2011 on 08/30/2011 15:17:57 MDT Print View

Nice article gents, and timely.

I like lightweight mid-tops for a couple reasons: they can eliminate the need for debris gaiters, of which I can't seem to find a pair I can hike with for extended periods, and they protect ankles not from rolling but from collisions with rocks and sticks. A rock hit dead on the ankle in lowtops is pretty common for me and an experience I really dislike. Liquid pain.

A couple weeks ago I did some extended hiking (wallowing, really) in volcanic sands and sunk deep enough the stuff poured in over my shoetops after working underneath my crummy gaiters. Again, mid-height shoes would have been welcome

I hiked a couple seasons in Nike ACG Air somethingorother mids before the soles began ripping. They were about perfect--light, good fit, good ventilation, good debris and impact protection. Naturally, they're discontinued.

Last weekend I stared at REI's wall-o-mids and all but one pair were GT or Event: Merrell Moab Ventilator Mids. I see they come in widths, but don't know if they'd match your big ol' floaty feet. Might try for a fit with them, myself if I can't find anything better.



Christopher Chupka

Locale: NTX
Dumb Question on 08/30/2011 16:35:46 MDT Print View

They say the only dumb question is the one not asked, so here we go:

I have B width (La Sportiva) feet and if you have 4E width feet, are you inherently more stable and less prone to ankle injuries or am I?

I'll take my answer off the air.


Daniel Sandström
About leather on 08/30/2011 23:58:16 MDT Print View

Thank's for the article. It seems mid-hight boots are a compromise noone (serious) is going for. It's either UL or traditional.

But one thing caught my eye, about the leather. I'm not on the same line as you. I've been using a couple of Meindl leather boots as well as a pair of Haix suede boots for a long time. Now, the Haix are good boots in my opinion, designed for military use they're supportive, stable yet at the same time runner/charge friendly, weight is 1500 grams a pair. The Meindl boots on the other hand don't belong here at all, weighing in at 1965 grams a pair.
Well, onto the point. Yes, the leather dries with use. BUT, it's a organic fabric (?)(at least in my opinion, I'm no organic expert). You have to treat it. If you wax it before and after every use it will last a loong time, my Meindls are coming up on 10+ years now (!). I'd say the rubber, inserts and, every part of the shoe, will fail before the cared for leather.

Obviously, I can't use these boots longer, the Meindl's would be 1/4 of my skinout. :D They do however still come along on fall/winter scout camps - where they even out the odds between me and the young scouts in running games, hard workout. :)

Best regards,

Andrew Dolman
Leather on 08/31/2011 07:14:43 MDT Print View

I've had exactly the same problem with Leather/Synthetic mix trail shoes. After 3 days soaked they dried out rapidly overnight in a bunkhouse. The leather bits shrank and reduced the volume of the shoes significantly. I didn't get as far as pooled blood but I did go lame after 1/2 a day. Likewise I managed to carry on by removing the insoles.

I do take Daniel's point about leather care. I've used full leather boots for years and had no problems, probably because i waxed them up well. I guess my shoes would have been ok if I'd waxed the leather strips, but that would be rather a faff when the shoe is mostly synthetic.

Currently I'm liking inov-8s, but with the footbeds replaced with something a little firmer.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Re: Zooms ... Lightweight Mid-Height Trail Shoes State of the Market Report 2011 on 08/31/2011 10:06:39 MDT Print View

....I hiked a couple seasons in Nike ACG Air somethingorother ....

@ Rick:

Nike Air Tallac Zooms. Great lightweight boot and they were tough to find from the get-go. Bought a pair and wore them for awhile even though they were a little too small (only size available - nothing against Nike).. Ended up selling them on eons ago but a super-great set of light hikers. Keep looking for them in vain on Nikes website.

I know the running shoe companies want to keep inventory flowing but how hard would it be to devote a little cheap warehouse space to some proven ultralight trail shoes if that would entice us to maybe check out their regular tennis shoes and dressier shoe options. Btw, switched to North Face and Patagonia for trail runners/cross trainers pressed into UL backpacking service.

ADD: I would switch back to Air Tallac Zooms in a heartbeat though (hear me Nike?)

Edited by hknewman on 08/31/2011 10:08:59 MDT.

Paul Morrison
(8632paul) - F
Leather on 08/31/2011 10:46:59 MDT Print View

Thanks for a great article. I don't fully agree about leather though. I've owned a few pairs of Lowa low hikers with leather in the heel cup. Synthetic materials in the heel cup are the number one reason my shoes will wear out fast. I have a pair of Nike's right now, three months old and the heel is already tearing on the one shoe! I like the shoe, but can't justify replacing shoes each year just because of a worn out heel cup lining.

Eric Gray
(CrankyRat) - F
Shoe width on 08/31/2011 12:13:59 MDT Print View

I've worn shoes from average width to pretty wide with all sorts of different volumes compensated for with different sock combos. In the end I do like wide, but only in the toe box! Wide heel or mid-foot just means foot slip on steep hillsides or when the shoes get wet (which seems to loosen up even synthetic shoes). Wide is more comfortable on flat trails but less functional in demanding situations where a snug fit (heel and mid-foot) really helps stability and grip. Snug toes however are never a good thing.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: mids on 08/31/2011 12:55:53 MDT Print View

I have a couple pairs of mids and I like them for rougher trails and muddy, mostly winter stuff.

I never have understood the addition of wimpy strips of leather on an otherwise synthetic shoe. Webbing would be tougher, and I would think it would be easier to work with and a more consistent product. There's a whole bunch of hype in shoe design and marketing! It's no different than packs or shelters, with design-by-committee and pandering to the masses. Put some more *stuff* on it and raise the price!

The waterproof trend is getting out of hand with hiking shoes in general. It is difficult to find hiking-oriented shoes that aren't waterproofed. More marketing issues I am sure and they can get another 30% or so by adding the Gore-Tex liner. As I've said before, waterproof low-tops are like locking your convertible with the top down :) I like a little tougher shoe and sole than trail runners and the field is narrowing for non-waterproof models.

I've been surprised that someone hasn't jumped outside the box and gone to a tough but fast drying all synthetic hiking shoe using many of the features found in water shoes--- something with enough mesh to keep the rocks out, no leather, etc. I'm thinking of a shoe along the lines of the Salomon Techamphibian with a fixed heel cup, a good sticky rubber and some forefoot protection against stone bruising. Nix the Solomon lacing scheme.

I'm sure the majority of running shoes are used for walking around town and casual wear, so fashion dictates the design as much as function.

Howie Schwartz

Locale: Eastern Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Zooms ... Lightweight Mid-Height Trail Shoes State of the Market Report 2011 on 08/31/2011 13:25:43 MDT Print View

Was he talking about the Air Cinder Cones. Awesome approach/hiking shoes.

Frank Rossi
(rossifp) - MLife
different fit problem on 08/31/2011 14:42:18 MDT Print View

My fit problem is not width, but with the shape of the toe box. My little toe is 1/2" to 3/4" longer that the lasts being used for shoes. The toe box curves in too soon on the little toe side, and does not leave room for my little toes. This can be solved in plastic ski boots. The shell can be heated and punched out in the little toe area, and thermofit liners then fitted. Their is not such solution for other foot wear. Ouch!

Timothy Murray
(timothymurray) - F
A self fulfilling prophecy? on 08/31/2011 16:30:16 MDT Print View

Wow, what a shock. The reviewers who live in, hike in and prosletize about ultra light hiking gear didn't like the mids they tried.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: A self fulfilling prophecy? on 08/31/2011 17:51:10 MDT Print View

The reviewers do a good job and their knowledge and experience are most welcome, but I think we need more people doing reviews to get a broader range of opinion. For example, trail runners are great, unless you are have issues with your feet. My opinion of shoes has changed a lot in the last few years as I have aged and my feet are giving me some problems.

Bill (L.Dog) Garlinghouse
(WJGhouse) - MLife

Locale: Western Michigan
Is there a part 2 I missed? on 08/31/2011 20:23:57 MDT Print View

Did I miss something? Cause I didn't find anything like a state of the market review of lightweight mid-height shoes. The only detail of fit was on low-top shoes. I can understand that the reviewers did not find them worth reviewing, but that's a different article.

folecr r
(folecr) - M
Durability? on 08/31/2011 20:29:31 MDT Print View

Any comments on durability?

I love low cut trail runner style shoes for backpacking. Especially outside alpine conditions. However even on relatively gentle trails I've seen shoes destroyed after a single trip.

I had a pair of Lafuma low cuts. Great, comfortable shoes. After one short backpacking trip (12 miles rt) the midsole felt dead, the shoe in general was as stiff as wooden plank. And became very uncomfortable.

I've noticed the same thing happening with NB Minimus - awesome shoes. But durability is definitely a concern - I've noticed way too much tread wear and peeling off of various stitching.

I hesitate to take lightweight, low cuts into alpine off-trail backpacking conditions... perhaps it was my fault? Perhaps I simply need to try another brand?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Unfortunate on 08/31/2011 21:00:10 MDT Print View

I think it's unfortunate the reviewers weren't able to test Inov8 mids. Both the Roclite 370's(no longer made) and the 390's have strips of webbing embedded in the fabric which are attached to the last on the bottom and the lacing eyelets on the top of the shoe. These most definitely DO supply ankle support. I don't roll often, but on the occasions I have, the webbing strips have stopped the roll just short of stretching the ligaments, particularly on my left ankle which has partially damaged lateral ligaments and is prone to rolling due to long ago basketball mishaps. I use a surgeons knot about halfway down the instep to allow for looser lacing across the foot box and tighter lacing above, across the ankle. It is simple to loosen up for on trail hiking and tighten appropriately when on rougher terrain. Also, the Inov8 Roclites have extremely "grippy" soles very much akin to that on some rock climbing shoes. The downside to Inov8s in general is that they wear out quickly, especially the soles, but they sure are a joy to hike in while they last.

Other than that, I enjoyed your article very much.

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
hmmm on 08/31/2011 21:16:58 MDT Print View

It appears that the article was written with an apparent bias. And with the wide feet in the line-up, that left them with a significantly smaller set of shoes to review. I can understand the bias since trail runners are just more comfortable to wear.

I wore Vasque Breeze mid-height boots all last year and several times this year. I switched to Salomon XAComp 5 in April or so. I have hiked everything from flat to off-trail bushwacking and based on my experience the low-height of the trail runners is so much more comfortable and I actually felt more stable than in boots. The only really down side was the fact that the mesh allows allot of dust in and your feet need to be washed at the end of the day. Good thing it was never really cold at the end of any of my outdoor days this year.

I have another pair of mid-height boots made by Hi-Tec. They are soft around the ankle and pretty comfortable. However, I don't feel they add anything of value. I don't notice that they really stop rocks any better and certainly the "ankle support" feels no better.

I was really unsure about trail runners and some of the folks here gave me some advice, which really turned out to be a big plus for me. Lighter, more comfortable, and more confident feet just work better. That's how I feel now in my trail runners. I have two pair now and can say that the other pair, though 1.5 ounces/shoe lighter are not very inspiring and I will probably never wear them on the trail. And that goes to the other half of the equation, a shoe must fit and be comfortable but it must also hold your foot well and give it a stable platform on which to contact the ground. Finding the lightest shoe is not the end all. Finding the best fitting and lightest option for you is.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
"Survey"??? on 08/31/2011 21:20:33 MDT Print View

I didn't see a lot of familiar brands included - brands like Merrill, Danner, Cabelas', LL Bean, Vasque etc.

Let's have a REAL survey next time. Personally I like my Merrill Mid GTX hikers for trails with a lot of scree. They keep most of it out of my shoes. I'm in the Will Reitveld camp here. Other times on moderate trails I use Merrill Ventilator low cut trail shoes.

BTW, "State Of The Market" means what the true market of that genre looks like. It should be fairly inclusive, like Will Reitveld's comprehensive report on light down jackets.
Back to work guys.

Edited by Danepacker on 08/31/2011 21:25:12 MDT.

Jeremy Platt
(jeremy089786) - F

Locale: Sydney
Nice review on 08/31/2011 22:49:43 MDT Print View

Thanks for the review guys.

I definately can't say I share a love of volley's though. All of the old guard of Oz bushwalking (at least at Sydney Uni's Club) seem to love them but I find them overly heavy, slow drying (compared to trail runners), last about 2 weeks and give massive foot pain (due to very soft soles) if you ever have to do a big road slog out of a trail. Cheap as chips and amazing for canyoning though.

Alice Hengst
(Moondust) - MLife

Locale: Southern Sierras
Finally someone has feet like mine! on 09/01/2011 10:31:59 MDT Print View

I must be distantly related to Roger and/or Sue, because those are my feet too! Wide toebox, narrow heel, high volume, medium to high arch. And my feet are square and straight, not curved like most shoes. That gives me the same problem that Frank has - little toe hits the side of the shoe because the outline of my toes is too square. I can't even find a comfortable trail runner. All of the NB trail runners use the SL-1 last, which has a curved toe box and wide heels. I wear NB 580 men's 9 4E running shoes which are built on the SL-2 last, having a more square toe box, higher foot volume but a narrower heel.

I wear the NB 580s for almost all hiking, on and off trail. The only exception is if the hike will be less than 10 miles with a lot of sidehilling and scree, I might wear my mid-height Dunham Wafflestompers (no longer made). Over 10 miles and my feet will hurt in these. I find that mid-height boots do not keep out debris unless I am wearing long pants that go below the boot top. In shorts I wear gaiters.

I was tempted to try the Trekstas until I read that garbage about the last being "much more in the shape of a real foot". Whose real foot? My real foot? I doubt it - they probably won't do for me.

The most amazing thing for me about hikers and footwear is how many people will put up with a lot of discomfort or outright pain time after time. At the end of a hike, most people can't wait to take off their hiking shoes (or boots) and put on sandals. I rarely even bring a second pair of footwear because my feet feel fine at the end of the hike.