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The state of market of minimalist alpine footwear.
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Chad Miller

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Re: Re: Re: "The state of market of minimalist alpine footwear." on 01/04/2012 09:13:14 MST Print View

May want to test out that system a bit . . . .

Douglas Ray

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: "The state of market of minimalist alpine footwear." on 01/05/2012 20:06:19 MST Print View

This system sounds like it will be a lot like a traditional mukluk. Mukluks were used in some steep-snow contexts in Alaskan Mountaineering as I recall, with limited success. Reading some of the stories of early ascents in Alaska might be very instructive. I suspect you might have a problem with the crampon straps squeezing so tightly as to constrict your circulation. This was an often-reported problem in the days when all crampons were strap-on, and was one of the motivations for developing step-in crampons. If this problem can be resolved I'd imagine it would work well for keeping your feet warm. If you can afford to play around with it I'd be quite interested to hear your experience.

I've not much experience with barefoot, although I've played around with it a bit. I have spent a lot of time climbing snow, ice, and rock in the mountains, and used a variety of footwear to do so. I don't know what "mountaineering" routs you have in mind for this set-up, but I'll comment on how I'm guessing it would work.

If your feet are strong enough, I'd say that you can probably climb any terrain where you can use pure French technique, although I'm also guessing that it will be slower and more energy-consuming than if you had a stiffer boot and could use your feet less carefully. It will be critical to gain much experience with the system because if it is slower and needs more energy you will need to plan your mountaineering objectives around your pace and how much you can do in a day, and find partners who are willing to go along with it.

I'd imagine that the harder the ice the more delicate the footwork required. Without a rigid connection from your foot through a boot sole to the crampon, kicking will be much less effective. So you probably won't be able to make a little step in hard conditions like you can with a stiff boot sole, or kick through a hard crust as well. Climbing without crampons on in anything but really soft snow will probably be impossible.

Without the stiffness of a boot you will probably not be able to safely and efficiently use only a few of your points. Front pointing for any length of time will probably be impossible, ass will resting on one side of your crampon, as is commonly done when front-pointing.

I'd imagine that climbing rock with this set-up will be pretty much impossible, as well as destroying it quite quickly if you tried. Climbing rock barefoot at the temperatures and altitudes where you would need all of that foot insulation is probably only going to result in frostbite, so you will probably need to find only-snow routs.

I'd guess you may find it satisfactory if you are on climbs with nothing more technical than 40-degree snow (not ice) and crevass danger. Avoid icefalls, gullies, rock of any sort initially. Don't push yourself to much right off the bat (this would be general advice to those new to mountaineering).

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Don't suicide yourself, Huzefa! on 01/06/2012 22:40:45 MST Print View

Everything Douglas Ray said makes sense to me, a non-expert. If he is right, my extrapolation (not his) is that you are headed for disaster.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
soft boots and crampons on 01/09/2012 21:01:22 MST Print View

I've only worn crampons a few times, but part of that experience my be useful info to you. Twice I've been on Shasta with crampons - once in soft hiking boots, theo ther time in rented plastic mountaineering boots. With the hikers, my feet were cold the second I stopped moving, due to how tight the straps were - this despite the fact that I would have liked them tighter as far as security goes - I was still moving around in the crampons and did not feel secure on the slope.
With the plastic boots, an entirely different experience. Rock solid connection to the boot, and thus a solid connection to the slope and far greater security. Nice warm feet, and dry all day as well. This was many years ago, and I am sure there are much lighter boots today that have the requisite stiffness to give the same solid connection without circulation problems.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: soft boots and crampons on 01/09/2012 21:37:00 MST Print View

I've been on Shasta 26 times. The first time I had soft hiking boots, and the straps had to be tight to keep them on. So, my feet were very cold. By the second trip, I had some boots that were more solid, and that helped a lot. Eventually I found the right compromise between light and heavy, and that was what I would call (in cross country skier terms) a middle-light/tall tele boot. Depending on the Shasta route, plastic mountaineering boots might be overkill and a bit heavy and clumsy. Everybody kind of needs to find that right compromise for themselves.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Tennies and plywood on 01/10/2012 02:14:08 MST Print View

Some of you may have heard of Mt Cook in New Zealand. It's a bit steep and definitely rock and ice. Fairly serious stuff.
It has been climbed by someone wearing tennis shoes and strap-on crampons. But he cheated: he put plywood 'soles' between the tennis shoes and the crampons. That got him enough stiffness.


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Tennies and plywood on 01/10/2012 02:22:14 MST Print View

Didn't the crampon straps still press down on the top of the shoes?

It seems like the plywood underneath is only half of the battle.


Huzefa Siamwala
Full steel insoles on 01/10/2012 14:13:00 MST Print View

Light weight solution: full steel insole

Edited by huzefa on 01/10/2012 14:14:22 MST.

Huzefa Siamwala
Re: Full steel insoles on 01/10/2012 14:17:26 MST Print View

>Didn't the crampon straps still press down on the top of the shoes?
I think straps on kahtoola crampons avoid this. I posted a link above to a review which has good pics of straps.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Full steel insoles on 01/11/2012 01:10:04 MST Print View

Is that "steel insole" a joke? Its all of 0.020 inches thick. Its so thin it will cushion sharp points but will give next to nothing in regards to stiffness. It gives stability, not stiffness. There is a huge difference.

You need stiffness on ice. Rock obviously not.

Steel near your skin in cold environment is a VERY bad idea. Frostbite big time due to conduction heat transport.

If you want stiffness and something that is far lighter than your steel insoles you found not to mention won't freeze your feet and you won't lose toes due to frostbite. Grab a piece of plywood and cut what you need. If you don't like that then there are types of PLASTIC sign materials. Both of which will provide additional insulation between your feet and the snow/ice unlike the steel which are heat suction traps. Oh yea won't rust either and rust and say a cut on the bottom of your foot won't give you blood poisoning like steel will.

Edited by footeab on 01/11/2012 01:12:41 MST.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Full steel insoles on 01/11/2012 02:22:13 MST Print View

I really want to see someone put rigid insoles into a a shoe with a 3mm sole and then use instep cramp ons. How well would that work??

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Full steel insoles on 01/11/2012 02:25:50 MST Print View

More specifically, that interests me for walking around in minimalist shoes in the early summer sierra's and climbing somewhat steep snowfields with the rigid insoles and good crampons.

Huzefa Siamwala
Re: Re: Full steel insoles on 01/11/2012 03:12:48 MST Print View

>Its all of 0.020 inches thick. Its so thin it will cushion sharp points but will give next to nothing in regards to stiffness. It gives stability, not stiffness. There is a huge difference

I think I missed that. Thanks for letting us know.

Alternate is Carbon Graphite Shoe Plate- Flat<\a>

Kai Larson
(KaiLarson) - F
Phantom on 01/22/2012 01:37:45 MST Print View

There are tons of alternatives to plastic boots these days. Hardly anyone wears plastic boots any more. The only viable plastic boot these days is the Scarpa Omega. It's much softer and lighter than the old school Koflachs or Scarpa Invernos.

Before you spend too much time trying to invent something better than old school plastic boots, you'd do well to try some of the lightweight footwear options that are already available.

A hybrid boot like the boots in the Scarpa Phantom line works well. Flexible, comfortable, close fitting and warm upper, mated to a rigid sole for crampon attachment.

For technical, steep routes where crampons are needed, these types of boots are great. (Ditto for the Sportiva Spantik for really cold conditions.)

The Scarpa Charmoz is a good example of a more traditional design that has been made lighter, more comfortable, and more sensitive.

For low angle, non-technical slogs, your soft mukluk idea would likely work fine, assuming you can come up with a viable method to keep the crampons attached without overly compressing the uppers.

Nick Truax
(nicktruax) - F

Locale: SW Montana
re: Phantom line on 01/26/2012 12:30:34 MST Print View

+1 to Kai and the comments re the Scarpa Phantom line.

These new boots are surprisingly lightweight for their performance and warmth. Highly recommended - I have a pair of 6000's that are a great boot. Kai's suggestion of the Spantiks are also a viable option when looking for something like the Phantoms, although the LS are heavier and chunkier IIRC.

Derek Goffin

Locale: North of England
"The state of market of minimalist alpine footwear." on 02/11/2012 09:52:58 MST Print View

I am just back from a long trip to the Andes where we were kitted out to
climb "walk up" peaks to 6800metres in their summer. We expected temperatures
down to -25 C and nothing technical but steep slopes I do not know the angle
but about the angle of scree repose with short steeper bits. We erxpected
the mountains to be mostly dry but needed to cope with new snow and old ice
if they occurred.
I too hate stiff footwear and one use of a hired plastic boot was enough.
I took one size oversized inov8 flyrocs and enough foot sized plastic bags
for the system: thin sock, plastic bag as vapour barrier, thick socks to
fill the shoe plastic bag for waterproofing, thin sock to hold the bag in
place. Then the shoe.
In fact the temperature never dropped below -10C. I never needed more than
the above. However I also took homemade over boots made of firm evazote foam " like sleeping mat" in a layer from 10 to 22mm thick reinforced with polyurethane coated nylon. The design allowed telescopic articulation at the ankle (ankle cuff only 6mm as it would be under insulated trousers)and above the ball of the foot. I did not need these as the weather was good but I have great confidence that they would have been fine down to -25 C. I did use one on the Cairngorm plateau for 2 days before as a trial. These overboots exposed the shoe sole for grip in dry non snow conditions and I had added an extra 6mm insole of a cork type insulation to guard against cold from below. If we had to use crampons we had steel Kahtoolahs and in those circumstances an under boot with evazote foam filling the shoe tread then another 6mm of the cork to transmit my weight with cut outs filled with evazote and finally 3mm neoprene wet suit and a thin grip layer allowed full foot surround in crampon conditions. and around camp The shoe, over boot and underboot together weighed less than 1 kilo per pair and I needed no other footwear. I can state catagorically that the structure was not noticeably compressed by the Katoola straps in use.
I do not know what your shoes are Huzefa but I could imagine you could build a similar system around your shoe and your feet could be as well insulated as double plastic boots for much less weight. Stiffness to get the best from the crampons is another matter. A carbon fibre footbed sounds a good idea to add stiffness as needed.
I have ideas on crampons that I have not been able to test, but here are my thoughts: For walking, crampons should articulate, like the foot, at the ball of the foot, not at the instep like all present bendy crampons. I imagine a fore plate and a foot ajustable back plate with an articulation axle at the ball of the foot with straps similar to kahtoolahs. These would be less effective for front pointing than even kahtoolahs, and we were close to the kahtoola limit on this last trip.
I can imagine a metal beam hinged at the instep with a front spike or spikes and locked into the crampon, perhaps in a U channel, with either the spike folded back out of the way up behind the heel or folded forward into front point position. It would then automatically lock the articulation and provide much better front pointing than any flexible crampon. The beam would be strong enough to do this without relying on stiff boots.
Perhaps alternatively the front points could be added to the CF footbed (it would be underneath the shoe sole) somehow? Without the footbed you would have wonderful walking crampons. With the foot bed you would have stiff solid crampons with effective front points. A flexible system that might cover more than we think.

Huzefa Siamwala
Re: "The state of market of minimalist alpine footwear." on 02/11/2012 11:31:25 MST Print View

Hi Derek, glad to see you back.

thin sock + plastic bag + thick socks + plastic bag + thin sock + shoes. Too complex, no? You should consider intuition liners. One shoes can replace 6 layers yet be warmer and waterproof. Mine are on the way. I will post specs and pics once I get.

Can you post a pic of your overboots?

Why cork? Aerogel insoles - toasty feet - are 4mm and probably the warmest available.

I would love to see some of your crampon ideas in action. Are you planning to make prototypes? Your idea about front point attached to footbed is not going to work kahtoola steel.

Huzefa Siamwala
update on 02/24/2012 10:48:37 MST Print View

I received the intuition liners. The company actually sent me 3 pair at no cost. I am really sad to report that they dont fit well by themselves. (They may be good once heat molded and worn inside a plastic shell but I am not interested in that.) One pair (size 27) was too big, other 2 pairs were intuition dream liners and the water ski model. Unlike water ski, dream liners have laces but I still couldnt get a good heel lock. The problem is that upper (9mm foam) is very stiff and doest mold well around the feet. Or it could be that I need to try size 25. I will be returning them soon. If anyone wants a pic or have any question, let me know.

The only option remaining is feelmax kuuva.

Actually there is one more option: Intuition liner made from 4 mm foam. This one is used for the sole of dreamliners and is much more flexible then 9 mm foam. I have sent the company a request. Lets see if they decide to make one.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: "The state of market of minimalist alpine footwear." on 02/24/2012 14:25:02 MST Print View

Hi Derek

> For walking, crampons should articulate, like the foot, at the ball of the foot, not at
> the instep like all present bendy crampons.
A good idea, I agree, but then you might have to carry two sets of crampons? One set for walking and one set for climbing. As you siad, the walking design would not front-point.

On the other hand, that argument only applies if you want to front-point. If you are willing to climb French-style, the walking crampons might work adequately. Worth testing?

A very practical problem might be the economics of making, stocking and selling two different styles. The gung-hos (big percantage) would want nothing but the most macho front-points, while many of those who bought the probably cheaper walking crampons might be a PR nightmare for the vendor when the customers winge that they couldn't front-point in them and fell off and want to sue.


Huzefa Siamwala
The state of market of minimalist alpine footwear. on 03/03/2012 16:53:36 MST Print View

Below are some further thoughts on minimalist footwear options.

Key pieces:
Fleece- RbH socks
Leather- feelmax kuuva (n/a - in production)
Foam- custom 4mm intuition boot (n/a - custom)
Neoprene- 40 below overboots
Wool- boiled wool socks aka dachstein (make myself)

1) Fleece is not windproof, feelmax is not insulated,  thus they cant be used alone. Together they would be a good combo. -VB, windproof, waterproof, insulated

2) intuition 4mm boot doesn't exist but the company likes the idea and may make one. Warmth is comparable to option 1) but lighter. -

3)boiled wool socks. Wind proof, very warm and likely better ground feeling then the other options. This is the only option which may work on ice without needing crampons. -windproof, water resistant, insulated.

4) RBH socks + overboots. VB, windproof, waterproof, insulated

I have read that wool has amazing grip. I plan to test this.

I don't climb in dachsteins anymore, but they were great on mixed
routes with a whole range of palming moves available if you dropped
your axes onto their leashes, as they semi froze to the rock/ice and
often enabled upwards progress when every other option had gone! I'm
sure these days other techniques would be used, but that's the point---
you make the most of what kit you're using and make it work for you.

The mitts stuck like gecko paws to wet ice, permitting tool-free

From a safety aspect, wool’s texture offers significant friction on
snow or ice, aiding in self arrest situations. Besides being a natural
durable material, this added benefit of safety in the form of
friction, is completely unique to wool, and out performs from a
friction standpoint, even synthetics such as Scholler Cloth.