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Not another hiking shoe thread? Yup...
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Derek Kind
Not another hiking shoe thread? Yup... on 07/31/2012 15:02:16 MDT Print View


But I'm dazed and confused. There are so many options, and without the ability to try out all kinds of shoes on my own it's hard to pick out a pair. Maybe you can help me find some clarity. :)

I'll be in Iceland for over a month, spending some time backpacking, most of the time hiking shorter distances and walking around. I'm a photographer, which could mean going into some awkward spots off trail carrying heavy gear, and then standing around a lot. As far as terrain goes, I have to be concerned mostly about traction on rock and wet rock. Lots and lots of rock.

The other concern is river crossing. Fast moving streams with slippery rocky bottoms. I've already decided I want a quick-drying shoe/boot that I can wear straight through water.

Right now I have a pair of low Merrell Moab Ventilators and New Balance MT101s.

The Merrell's are comfortable and work well for backpacking, but they've never felt grippy on wet rocks, especially compared to the NBs. They might be good for walking around, but I don't trust them for serious trails. If they had a grippier sole I might have been perfectly happy.

The NBs are very grippy and fit well and are obviously light and quick-drying but they're much too minimal for me. My feet are simply not ready for the lack of support. A painful three-day trek earlier this year was enough to tell me they won't work for hiking in Iceland.

So I guess I want a shoe or boot with good support, quick-drying and grippy. It wouldn't hurt to have extra ankle protection because of all the rocks. Any suggestions? Perhaps the Inov-8 Roclite series would be good, but how "minimal" are they?

I know the conventional wisdom is to go for light trail runners, but I also know my own limitations. I'm not at all adverse to boots. Maybe BPL isn't the right place to ask about non-super-lightweight footwear, but I trust your opinions here. :)

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
trust experience on 07/31/2012 15:09:03 MDT Print View

Derek, it's not site of asking that matters,, it's who answers.

So your question is actually this: I will be hiking in extremely rainy, sometimes north of the arctic circle conditions, where often I will be walking exclusively on sharp lava. It is cold and windy, freezing at times, so a plan that includes shoes drying out after wettings is probably a pretty bad plan. I know, I went to Iceland and had to bail on the trip, I was freezing my a## off before the trip even started properly. The north sea is cold, and the light of the sun does not warm, when clouds cover the sun, the air grows chilly almost immediately. I didn't do any hiking there so I won't recommend anything, although I am pretty sure that trail runners are a bad idea. Goretex boots are probably not a bad idea, is my guess.

So anyone who has done this has a valuable point of view, and everyone who hasn't, doesn't. I doubt many who have such experience will recommend shoes that are good for the PCT or whatever.

I got some hiking shoes, not boots, that were pretty solid, not recommending them specifically, but compared to my New Balance 814s, which are pretty decent for moderate terrain, they are much more solid in the sole. Merrills i think they are, low topped. Not water resistant though. One thing I noticed specifically re the low treads on my 814s was that on slippery rock, I slipped. Much more than on more aggressively treaded vibram type soles, maybe it's because the treads when deep catch more rock surface, I don't know.

I think the problem you will hit is the balance between sole thickness and toughness, toe rock protection, and quick drying. My guess is you can have 2 of those, not all 3. By the way, there's no law that says you have to keep your shoes on while crossing streams, and all the hiking I did in the rain with well coated/treated leather boots showed me that the boots are fine in the rain, as long as you don't wade through streams with them.

Why not ask icelanders what they like?

I don't know the exact mileage, but the northern terminus of the pct is probably 1000 miles south of Iceland, which lies right in the middle of the north atlantic, much of it over the arctic circle. Man, those winds are cold, lol.

Edited by hhope on 07/31/2012 15:28:26 MDT.

Derek Kind
Iceland boots on 07/31/2012 15:58:40 MDT Print View

Thanks Harald, you raise some excellent points.

I too have been to Iceland and have hiked and backpacked multiple days there, so in some ways I should be my own expert. But I was using a heavy pair of Merrell Sawtooth boots. Not terribly comfortable, not lightweight, neither waterproof nor quick drying, but I did appreciate the rugged nature of them.

Although I know what conditions to expect, I don't have much experience with different shoes. I figure soles that grip rocks on the PCT will work just as well in Iceland, though they'll take more abuse and wear. So in that sense I thought I could get some valuable information even from people who haven't hiked in the same conditions, I just have to filter it through my own experience.

As for quick-drying vs. GTX... I've always been skeptical about the practicality of GTX, because once it gets wet, it stays wet, right? It's great for damp areas and puddles, but in heavy rain I felt it might be better to sacrifice wet feet for having dry feet later. Although your experience is different, so I might have to rethink this. The stream crossing is a big deal. I REALLY want to be able to just walk through the water and enjoy the nice traction offered by proper shoes. I couldn't do this last time because the Sawtooths took a whole day to dry. I feel that even in an often wet and cold environment, quick drying shoes will be very worthwhile. The tradeoff is getting grit and ash coming in through the mesh...

But maybe I'm dreaming about this and will have to bite the bullet and carry extra river-crossers...

I'm not terribly concerned about cold feet, I run hot in that area, have thicker socks, and shouldn't be trekking through water in freezing conditions anyway (although it can feel very cold because of the wind).

Perhaps I have the same shoes as you, the Moabs. They are quite good, but I haven't found the grip to be as nice as I would have liked, especially compared to my NBs, which have a very different, low tread, almost like a court shoe. But maybe I'm asking too much either way, because in many cases I would want that aggressive tread.

I don't know of a good place to ask Icelanders this question, I haven't come across a hiking community online. I think conventional wisdom is GTX boots, but then it's the usually the same in most circles, except among the lightweight crowd. I was asking here to get a different, less traditional perspective.

Yeah, those Icelandic winds are cold, alright! They lower the actual temperature considerably. Iceland isn't quite over the Arctic circle though - only the small island Grimsey in the north in technically in the Arctic. And thankfully the ocean keeps things temperate. But the wind can be horrible! :)

Katy Anderson
(KatyAnderson) - F
Goretex boots on 07/31/2012 20:24:34 MDT Print View

I was just in Northern Norway for a few days. Similar climate to Iceland, just a little farther north;)It was stunningly beautiful, but rained a lot. The friends we were staying with thought we were poorly equipped for the weather so loaned us their gear.

Heavy wool socks, goretex boots, rain pants and rain jackets. That's what everybody wears. We did too, and for constant cold rain it really does seem to be the answer.

I wouldn't do the stream crossings in the boots though, too much of a risk that water comes in over the top. Bring special stream crossing shoes.

I know that this goes totally against the lightweight emphasis of this site. Totally. But you have to bring the right equipment for the climate. If you were hiking the PCT I would say trail runners, no question. But trail runners assumes that the weather clears up and you have a dry, warm spell, at least once in a while. In Iceland I think this is not something you can count on.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Not another hiking shoe thread? Yup... on 07/31/2012 20:41:36 MDT Print View

How about non goretex boots treated to be water resistant, and then some gore-tex socks in case they wet out. I have never used this method so I can't say how well it works, but it seems like a better option to me.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Not another hiking shoe thread? Yup... on 07/31/2012 20:53:59 MDT Print View

in German but has videos

Derek Kind
Re: Goretex on 07/31/2012 20:58:19 MDT Print View

Maybe I was spoiled by the very nice weather we had two years ago in August-September. This time we'll be going a bit later and longer in the year, when rain becomes more of a constant. Thank you for your experienced input, Katy! That's two votes for Goretex against my better judgement. This isn't going the way I had hoped. :p

I do have all the necessary rain gear - two jackets, pants, a better tent, etc. We will be much better prepared in all ways than we were the first time. :-)

EDIT: Thanks for the idea, Justin (didn't see your post at first)! I'll look into it, although I would think the result would be the same as just buying goretex? I waterproofed my boots last time, and it might have worked okay, but again my idea this time was to go against the waterproof business entirely. I'm starting to have doubts.

Anna, holy mackerel, thanks for all of those links! You've done what I should have done. I usually spend at least 5 hours researching stuff before posting anything, but this time I failed to do specific research as I've been in a hurry. I really appreciate you posting those sites - I will check them all out. Cheers. :)

Edited by berethorn on 07/31/2012 21:02:57 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Goretex on 07/31/2012 22:07:00 MDT Print View

Derek, the difference is you would be able to dry out your boots easily by removing the goretex layer (your goretex socks). When goretex boots get wet they take so much longer to dry than plain leather.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
no streams on 08/01/2012 00:46:17 MDT Print View

Derek, I've noticed here an attitude towards taking off your shoes to cross a stream that I find somewhat odd, to put it mildly. I have no problem stopping, taking off my shoes, and crossing a stream, but reading some people here you'd think that is the worst horror in existence.

Once you get rid of the requirement to be able to submerse shoe and have it then dry in cold windy arctic air, you find your shoe options start making a lot more sense, and, magically, will correspond roughly to what people who live in such climates use and recommend.

I grew up with such things, we wore leather cross country skiing shoes/boots, I used leather boots oiled up in rain, until not that long ago, and liked backpacking in the winter and rain, and never had the kind of wet shoe issue people here talk about. Why? Because I didn't insist on soaking them through by wading through streams with them, I take them off, just like I take off my trail runners, tie them around my neck, and cross the stream, and arrive on the other side with dry shoes and socks. If the rocks are really harsh, then some light sandals to cross will do you fine. Light sandals like this do excellent dual use as camp shoes, by the way.

If I was in your shoes, so to speak, I'd see what shoes work well, have solid, thicker vibram type soles, maybe see if any good goretex stuff is out there, or use goretex socks, find some light creek crossing shoes if the creek rocks are too sharp to go barefoot. Since you have already been there you have a decent idea of the terrain and what streams are like, so you can judge that fine.

What I don't like about goretex is the that the shoe does not shape itself to your foot over time, it's sort of all or nothing, that's the only thing that bugs me about it. I'd trust what icelanders and norwegians say far ahead of what bpl members say, except for the ones that have been there (and I noticed in a recent tent / norway thread, those that have been there, tend to agree with the residents). Those Northerners love their gear too, and are into things working, and don't like things that don't work.

The idea of using goretex socks though is not bad at all, I got some of those, the logic is pretty good, ie, only wear the goretex when needed. This expands your shoe/boot options a lot, just remember, the fit on the shoe has to be pretty loose to support the goretex socks and thick wool socks. Haven't tested them in actual rain yet so can't say how they compare, or how they compare with goretex boots/shoes in terms of long term wear comfort.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: no streams on 08/01/2012 17:15:37 MDT Print View

The Oetzi Troop boots (a minimalist leather boot) have a removable waterproof liner. I would really love to see more boot manufacturers do that. Sorry for the sidetracking.

Derek Kind
Re: Goretex socks, etc on 08/02/2012 15:09:28 MDT Print View

Sorry guys, I haven't forgotten you but couldn't reply yesterday. Thanks for the ideas.

Justin, that does make a lot of sense, and I already have a pair of military waterproof socks, which I assume are goretex, that my sister sent in prep for the trip, but which I haven't been able to try out yet (I'd forgotten about them until now). It would give me some flexibility in choosing footwear.

Harald, it may be odd to want to avoid changing shoes for stream crossing but I do have reasons. ;-) It's not a horror so much as a considerable inconvenience that is compounded if there are a great number of streams to cross.

First off, I'd need to carry an extra set of shoes. Last time in Iceland I had flip flops, which were light, had no traction, and were, frankly, dangerous (I DID slip because of them but managed to keep my feet that time - still very scary). Barefoot doesn't work for me, not here, and the extreme cold makes things worse because you can't feel your feet after a few seconds. Streams in Iceland are rocky, sometimes swift, and the glacier water is often opaque, so you can't see where you're stepping. We had one very adventurous crossing that I'm not going to repeat without some solid footwear with a sure grip. Solid footwear isn't light. I think my MT101s are about 14oz? Yes, I could pay out more money and get a bit lighter even than the MT101s, but they still wouldn't be featherlight. I already have extra pounds on the back with the camera stuff, so I have to cut back where I can. If a single pair of shoes can do everything, I may be willing to put up with wet feet.

The time it takes to change shoes, taking the pack off if necessary, is compounded by my camera/camera bag and straps, which usually has to be dismantled before the pack can be freed. It's an unfortunate reality of lugging around a DSLR, but photography is my big mission on this trip. For big streams I may have to pack everything away anyway, but to do this for every bit of water higher than a few inches would get old very fast.

Reasonable or not, those are my reasons. I'm not worried about having cold feet. They warm up from the hiking. The question for me is whether breathable shoes will refuse to dry in the cooler air. And my main concern is the grit and ash that will get in through the mesh. So goretex won't dry if wet but will keep feet drier in rain, clean but overheated. Breathables should dry eventually but let more debris in. Breathables with GTX socks will hopefully keep debris from reaching my feet, and keep feet dry in the rain, but will overheat quickly and keep moisture IN. At least I don't have to wear them all the time.

I may have to take something light and breathable AND a sturdy boot, to have options for all situations. It's a long trip, it won't hurt to have backups anyway.

So while I'm listening to your advice, whether or not I do get GTX or leather boots, I still want a reasonable lighter pair of shoes with good grip and breathability to use during non-backpacking situations. Good grip in wet, rocky places, on slippery, rocky downslopes and climbs is very important. I am not happy with my Merrell Moab Vibram soles in this respect. I've heard good things about Inov8 Roclites (though they wear quickly) and LaSportiva Raptors, but I don't know how "minimal" these are. I may have the opportunity to try on the Raptors, but not Inov8. Stores around here don't have the same selection as in the US.

Any other shoes or soles that have reputedly great wet terrain traction? :)

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
what do the locals do? on 08/02/2012 17:18:42 MDT Print View

In Norway, most people I've been around use rubber boots for basically everything. Not good for backpacking, but it makes sense. That's what all the farmers do, for example. Lars Monsen actually tried that in his Canada crossing, but had to stop because his feet just got too rotten and wet, but that sort of showed how common those are there as a standard solution.

But I'm curious, Icelanders are pretty resourceful people who do a lot of outdoor stuff, by necessity, since there's not a lot else to do there. So what do they do? I'd guess whatever they do is reasonably sane and a reasonably good solution, since they do it all the time.

What you say about the streams is about what I expected, sharp rocks cold water. I don't see why you would have to necessarily take the pack off to change shoes, that just requires planning on changing them, and then changing them, that's what I would do, I'd hang them off something, unclip them, change, cross, change back. How long does that take, a few minutes? Picture it: stream, stop, unclip stream crossers, pull off shoes/socks, clip to pack, put on sandals, cross stream. That's just not very hard, nor does it need to take time if you set up the stuff right. I don't know if it's that I was raised early to understand that water and cold are not good combinations for your body and maintaining comfort, safety, or what, you know, snow, cold, etc, I mean, it is understood that walking through a stream in your shoes and socks when it's cold is just a very bad idea in winter, or when it's cold and blustery and little heat exists to dry things that are soaked through, for example. I'm going to just leave this as something that makes no sense to me I think, and not think about it more.

What is needed is UL tevas, tevas are fantastic for this purpose, ideal. I used to always bring them, that way I could also go up and down rivers creeks on expeditions. Keep in mind tevas were originally invented for river stuff. And people on bpl backpack in them too, which means, to put matters in a different frame, using teva like shoes for areas with frequent stream crossings, they have thick soles, they grip well, and you can easily backpack in them. Then when the stream crossings slow, you change back to the hiking shoes. But I have to admit, I have not found the perfect mix between light weight and solid soles, teva just is not going for that market, nor does it appear that anyone else is.

I still just do not see the point of dipping my feet into water all the way and soaking my shoes, that's just something I wouldn't do as a rule, and I particularly wouldn't do it in arctic terrain/climate, but I can see the other things you noted, but if you attach the other shoes to somewhere on your pack that you can reach without taking it off, the change doesn't have to be that time consuming.

To me, sometimes this UL stuff at times just loses site of the functional part of gear, ie, the weight should reflect the function required, not function dictated by weight. So if extra wool socks, some solid sandals, and lighter hiking shoes is what function calls for, that's what I'd bring, base weight with UL gear is so low that there's plenty of room to add gear that you need to deal with more challenging terrain and conditions, but, again, I'd just see what the locals do and figure they have it pretty much figured out.

By the way, I've been searching for a year or so now for odd out of the box solutions to the entire stream crosser/camp shoe thing, trying all sorts of things, one thing I did discover is that if you take normal flipflops and either tie or sew flat cord or webbing to them with a tightener, ladderlock, cord lock, you can get them to really stay on your feet quite well, at almost no weight penalty. But you have to pay attention to the soles, some are, as you noted, very slippery, but others are quite good and stick decently to surfaces. My latest thing to try is cheap chinese sandals, the kind molded in one piece out of a sort of tough foam, weigh close to nothing, but are ok for light use, again, I make a heel strap to keep them on, that really works, and is light. Would be better if someone like teva made a version that was tougher, but they don't. I've thought of trying to make my own, all you need is reasonably non slipping soles, teva like toe/heel attachments, with light straps instead of their heavy stuff, would be super easy shoes to make. Would weigh something like 5, 6 ounces I believe if done right.

By the way, I think that the softness of the rubber is a key factor in how well they handle slippery surfaces, so soft rubber soles that are nice and sticky will tend to wear fast, or faster. I know all my trail runners have what I would consider mediocre, at best, traction in slippery conditions, trekking poles help in that situation, but it's something quite noticeable when comparing them to their heavier hiking shoe brothers. Also tread depth I think makes a pretty big difference there too.

There's also a mind component, if you treat a stream as not part of the path, but as its own thing, and just stop, handle it, like you'd handle deadfall, or a landslip that pulls away the trail, I think a lot of these things just vanish in terms of being obstacles, and just become one more feature of the trip. Not sure if that' makes sense, oh well.

Good luck.

Edited by hhope on 08/02/2012 17:37:54 MDT.