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Unsure about this conversion from boots to trail shoes
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Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Unsure about this conversion from boots to trail shoes on 08/27/2013 15:47:48 MDT Print View

Hi Curtis

> By the end of the day our feet are sore and swollen.
TWO issues here.
Yes, your feet DO swell after a day's walking, and they will stay swollen the next day. But that is not bad swelling, it's what body builders call 'pumping'. It is perfectly NORMAL.

Where I suspect you came to grief was in not allowing for this. Your test walks before hand seem to have been all single day ones? The solution, as quite a few have suggested in this thread, is to buy 1/2 to 1 size larger, AND to make sure that the shoes you buy are WIDE enough. Measure your feet with a Brannock device, and never ever buy shoes of a more narrow width. Many many many foot issues are simply due to shoes which are too narrow (or too small).

As to your other questions - the rougher the terrain, the more dangerous are boots and the better are joggers imho. We find that on really rough terrain, such as huge steep scree fields, the flexibility of joggers saves us from countless ankle injuries and slips. We 'pussy-foot' across the rocks at high speed. Bulky, stiff, clumsy boots are just more accident-prone.

The wet business - we wear light joggers for week-long trips down rivers where we spend most of every day IN the river. When the shoes are the RIGHT size, and we have some nice thick wool socks (eg Darn Tough Vermont), we have ZERO problems with foot care. But we do dry our feet every evening.

Rule of thumb: if you have tender feet, 99% of the time it is a shoe size problem.


Jason Torres
(burytherails) - F

Locale: Texas
trail runners on 08/27/2013 16:01:05 MDT Print View


I think the problem is not getting "used to" your shoes so much as a wrong shoe for the job problem. Trail runners is a very large genre and a good amount of those shoes are designed for moderate trails with minimal "off trail" features like the ones you mentioned-especially water. Most are composite soles with foam and other materials that will only absorb water thus preventing them from drying adequately after a crossing. I worked for New Balance for a short stint and they are an amazing company however, the shoes will not perform well in the situations you mentioned as they are not designed for that type of activity.

That being said, I think the easy fix is the right pair. Someone mentioned Saloman. You should definitely look into Saloman. Do you know who Kilian Jornet is? You should look him up but the short story is he is an ultra marathoner/ mountaineer/ alpinist/ skier that has won every race and is shattering every speed record set in Alpinism. He has helped develop many of the shoes Saloman carries and runs in them exclusively. I have a pair and they are not like anything I have owned before. Exceptional quality that performs.

On a side note, I never wear short trail runners when I know there will be water crossings. Water pours in, and your feet will be soaked through. At the minimum, I wear a gore trainer/hiker hybrid (like the ones Saloman makes) with wool socks. Many times I am surprised how dry my feet stay after a good cinching of the laces. Synthetics will not dry in a wet shoe. In my experience a synthetic sock soaks up the water from my drenched shoe thus preventing any drying and causing all sorts of problems. My thicker smartwools however can be wrung out and while not dry, keep my feet reasonably dry by preventing further soaking as wool is naturally hydrophobic.


Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Unsure about this conversion from boots to trail shoes" on 08/27/2013 17:12:08 MDT Print View

1.) Are trail shoes better suited to smoother trails than what we experienced in the 100-Mile Wilderness?
That's not been my experience.

2.) Are trail shoes better suited to drier climates with occasional river fording than wetter/humid climes with extensive crossings?
My feet are often wet from the first hour of the hike to the last and I haven't found it a problem to date..

3.) Luckily we were able to treat hot spots before they became blisters, but I wonder how do you care for foot problems with perpetually wet shoes/socks?
I haven't found wet shoes and socks to have any effect. I use hydropel and dry my feet and put on sleep socks every night. also air feet during day if I have the chance.

4.) How much more acclimation is required than eight long day trips and 100 miles in 7.5 days, for a total of ~200+ miles in 3 months? I would've thought the feet would be far less tender by now.

I imagine this will vary a lot between individuals. Do you regularly do eight day long trips? Maybe it was just the multiple days that caused the problems? Also as mentioned previously the shoes maybe too small? I like to have about a thumbs width between the end of my toes and the end of my shoes, plus plenty of width. Finally, I have found that going bare foot and minimalist shoes day to day has increased my foot strength tremendously.

Sara Marchetti
(smarchet) - MLife
Re: Unsure about this conversion from boots to trail shoes on 08/27/2013 17:38:58 MDT Print View

A few thoughts:

Did you try putting your wet socks with you inside your sleeping bag? The moisture will get absorbed into your bag. I don't prefer to do this for obvious reasons but it does help dry those socks out.

Have you tried lathering your feet in Vaseline each day? This is a trail runners trick and work to decrease friction between your feet and socks thus cutting down on blisters.

Do you wear gaiters? Great for keeping the debris out of your shoes.

Have you tried Swiftwik socks? They keep the fine debris away from your feet better than most socks. I personally find merino wool better for wicking than CoolMax/DryMax but that is most likely my personal preference.

Have you experimented with various sock thicknesses?

Are your trail runners oversized? It is not uncommon for people to get shoes that are 1/2 to 1-1/2 sizes larger. This is mostly a runners thing as you don't want your toes banging into the front of your shoes constantly.

Do you keep your toenails clipped short?

Try to take breaks every 3-4 hours or so to take off your socks, dip them in some cold stream water to reduce swelling.

Do you use treking poles? Helps to keep the pressure off your feet.

Do you actively avoid stepping on rocks, roots, pointy things on the trail like it is a video game? Every rock adds up on foot pain.

I know a lot of people say only carry 1 extra pair of socks. For the condition you describe, I'd have 2 extra pair to give your socks more time to dry out.

Insoles can wear out and get flat if you've put a lot of miles on a shoe. Most trail runners are good for 100-300 miles. I know that the NB MT100s are 100 for a reason :) You were going to get an ultramarathon from them before you tossed them in the trash!

Edited by smarchet on 08/27/2013 17:40:24 MDT.

shoes on 08/27/2013 17:47:57 MDT Print View

I did not see any mention of what your pack weights and body weights were. That is important with minimal sole underfoot.

For instance, someone who weighs 150 lbs and carries a 20 lb pack, will have a better experience than someone that weighs 200 lbs and carries a 30 lb pack in the same shoes.

You are correct, shoes, socks, etc dont try out in the humid east. Dont expect them too. Things left out to dry on the AT are often even wetter the next morning.

On trails out west, things dry in very short periods of time. However then its dirt and dust too.

My feet are often sort of sore at the end of long days on rocks. But they are always 100% the next morning.

I sleep with damp socks inside my bag to dry them sometimes. Mostly I just dont care.

I dont get blisters, or worry even with wet feet for days straight. If the shoes drain well, the feet will just be cool and damp.

The question is: Would you have hiked as far, as comfortably, with a few foot issues in boots? Although the runners may not have met your expectation, did they exceed what boots would have given you?

Edited by livingontheroad on 08/27/2013 17:49:40 MDT.

Jake S
Recalibrate your fatigue-o-meter? on 08/27/2013 18:46:09 MDT Print View

How do your knees and hips feel? Leg muscles? Lower back?

What was your mileage like? Was your pace above or below what you do in boots? About the same?

If you're transitioning from experience with boots, it could be that your usual signs of fatigue aren't there anymore. So, then, you're finally walking or moving at pace until your feet actually hurt. :)

Edited by spags on 08/27/2013 18:46:55 MDT.

Dale South
(dsouth) - M

Locale: Southeast
RE: Wet shoes, wet socks on 08/27/2013 19:02:23 MDT Print View

I can't speak for your sore feet. I hike in nothing but trail runners and have for over 30 years including the 100 mw 3 years ago. When doing water crossings I take off my shoes, remove the inserts and my socks. After crossing I drain the shoes, replace the inserts and put my socks back on. If it is not raining I usually walk my shoes dry in a couple of hours.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"Unsure about this conversion from boots to trail shoes" on 08/27/2013 19:09:12 MDT Print View

Curtis: to paraphrase Groucho Marx: who are you going to believe, bpl posters or your own lying feet?

Go with what works, man.

Edited by book on 08/27/2013 19:26:36 MDT.

K Magz
(lapedestrienne) - F

Locale: somewhere without screens
feet on 08/28/2013 17:23:15 MDT Print View

"New Englanders don't like switchbacks, I am convinced." Yes, Ben, you're correct! Straight up and over. :)

I also did the 100 Mile last summer, averaging about 20 miles a day, in trail runners. As far as terrain goes, it's nowhere near as gnarly as some parts of New England...Even with trail runners, I MUCH prefer stream crossing barefoot (with poles and a light pack, I don't think the danger of slipping is any greater than in shoes). My shoes stay dry, and my feet get rinsed off, which helps prevent blisters.

Foot conditioning, I have learned, is a very individual thing. I spend a lot of my time barefoot when I'm at home, which includes walking around on bare rock, gravel, etc. I've never worried about wearing heavily padded shoes at work, even back when I was on my feet all day in hard-floored warehouses/grocery stores/etc. So I'm probably not a good person to speak to issues of foot pain. I think adapting your feet to lighter/more minimal shoes can take years, and for some people it just never clicks. Don't beat yourself up over it, just find what's most comfortable.

I love leather hiking boots for their durability; the arguments for them are as compelling as the arguments against (but this is backpacking LIGHT, so, you know...). Boots often run a little wider than trail runners, so it might be worth seeking out trail runners with an extra-wide last (something with a boxy-looking toe like Altra's offerings, perhaps) and see if that helps.

Lastly, ditch those Drymax socks. Synthetic can be a killer, especially if it has some kind of treatment, whether antimicrobial or hydrophobic. Treated, synthetic socks make my feet blister--and I don't have blister-prone feet. Go with lightweight merino socks, like Darn Tough's lightweight crew. They're way more comfortable when damp and offer superior climate control if your feet sweat much. I switched entirely to wool socks years ago and never looked back. Darn Tough may seem pricey, but they last just about forever.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: feet on 08/28/2013 21:05:30 MDT Print View

" , ditch those Drymax socks. Synthetic can be a killer, especially if it has some kind of treatment, whether antimicrobial or hydrophobic. Treated, synthetic socks make my feet blister--and I don't have blister-prone feet. Go with lightweight merino socks, "

ditto .
i had some years back a beautiful pair of totally synthetic socks. i Could Not wait to try them in the canadian rockies. ohh dear me, they felt great. until i walked in them. so i tried a few days later. and then again. and then they went into the campfire.
syn socks actually made my feet HURT.

merino wool, perhaps one mid weight, and one pr in a lighter weight might be the way to go. No Need for anything heavy in a sock.
socks are fun to test. you put one each kind left and right. then you get a good controlled test.

i have not had good luck with lighter footwear. it rolls on sidehills and it hideously uncomfortable under any meaningful side load.

peter is like, The Last Advocate of Real Boots. but even then, i'm falling towards the ever lighter and more flexible side of things. just received today Meindle Light Hikers in 11w @ 1-10oz ea.
my normal somewhat too stiff boots (many pairs) run right at a solid 2#+ ea.
Keen's Gypsem boots are 1-7, and seem to weigh nothing at all (like slippers). so for me, the difference between too heavy and nothing at all is about 9oz per boot. keep in mind that the Keen's are so deficient in grip as to be dangerous. they also are falling apart quite quickly. not hardly a solid value @140 a pair.

for 30% of the difference i hope to enjoy a substantial increase in traction, durability, and safety.

we shall see ...


Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: feet on 08/28/2013 21:18:51 MDT Print View

"Yes, Ben, you're correct! Straight up and over. :) "

Woo.. Kate gets it :) should come do some of the Terrifying 25 trails this fall.

Mark S
(gixer) - F
Re: Unsure about this conversion from boots to trail shoes on 09/03/2013 14:35:39 MDT Print View

If boots work better then go back to boots, i do.

A lot of folks preach about trail running/approach shoes like some sort of religious evangelism, fact is though it's your feet your choice.

I don't buy into all this "you need to get your feet used to them" rubbish, my feet didn't need to get used to hiking boots or any shoes i wear in my daily life, so why should you compromise comfort while hiking.

I'm of the belief that if your feet need to "get used to them" or you need to "not step on rocks" then they are not suitable footwear for the purpose.

I have several pairs of trail running type shoes, i wear them daily as i find them comfortable in daily life, I also wear them on some hikes.
There are also many areas i hike in where trail running/approach shoes are wholly inappropriate footwear for the terrain.

I have had the scarred ankles and sore feet to show for it.

I think that in your case stiffer soled shoes will cause less fatigue on the soles of your feet.

I also think that boots are more appropriate footwear in certain situations on certain terrain though.

Wear what feels right for you and if trail running shoes don't work then just wait till shoe companies find another "must have" shoe design to market to death.

Edited by gixer on 09/03/2013 14:36:39 MDT.

Adam Klagsbrun
(klags) - MLife

Locale: Northeast US
late to the party... on 07/24/2014 09:49:27 MDT Print View

I know I'm late to this party but I was just reading this thread because I've been going back and forth myself. I think conditions in the northeast are generally different than they are in the southwest and midwest of the USA. Roots and sharp rocks make up the majority of our trail systems here. Avoiding all of them takes a LOT of extra time AND energy. Stepping over and around everything can really increase your effort and energy and ultimately, the time it takes to hike each mile significantly. I find that the most important thing is that the sole is padded just enough, or is at least thick enough, to be able to take the hits. I find the best option are sneaker-like boots, like the salomon designs. They keep you dry until you submerge them above the ankle. Then you're on your own. I'd hike with some water shoes or "crossing" shoes and just remove your boots or shoes when you really need to just walk through water. Worth the weight for the comfort. When I tried minimalist shoes, even after giving it plenty of training time, I found that it was just too much effort and even slightly dizzying to spend the entire hike looking down at your feet and where you are putting them. I really find that light weight boots or somewhat padded hiking shoes are much better than very lightweight trail runners or minimalist shoes, simply because I can walk where I want and optimize my hiking - spending less time worrying about where I step means faster hiking, more distance covered, and less fatigue overall.

Edited to add a sentence or two for clarification.

Edited by klags on 07/24/2014 13:07:44 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: late to the party... on 07/24/2014 10:18:56 MDT Print View

I like a stiffer soled hiking shoe vs trail runners for the increased support and protection from stone bruising. They are still a far cry from heavy boots. In other words, there are lots of alternatives other than trail runners.

Merrell Moab Ventilators are about as light as I want to go.

I've been using Pataginia Drifter AC shoes with great satisfaction. They have a stiff sole and very aggressive tread. .

I use Keen Targhee II mids for cold/wet/muddy conditions.

Adam Klagsbrun
(klags) - MLife

Locale: Northeast US
Lightweight boots on 07/24/2014 13:28:19 MDT Print View

Yes Dale, I agree with you. In fact, it might be worth starting a thread about just this. I am on a quest to find the best UL boot that I can find, since I really do prefer a boot to a trail runner in most of my backpacking. I too found that you can get stiffer soles and some padding without it being some big heavy, clunky boot. So far I've tried:

1) Salomon xa Pro 3D mid gtx - very light and comfortable, seems almost like it isn't a boot. But the waterproofing seams to fail at the flex point on the upper of the boot, where your toes meet your foot and create a crease. I've owned 3 pairs of these, and each took a different amount of time to lose the waterproofing. Most were within 1 season of regular use.

2) Salomon quest 4D GTX - a little heavier at 2 lbs 14 oz per pair. Too rigid and too supportive around the ankle. These are great for really heavy loads but I just never need this much support. Has as much support as a prime leather boot that weighs twice as much

3) Adidas Fast R Terrex GTX - Have a strange fit for me, too tight in the toes and too loose in the heel. Very light and otherwise great boots. Also very sneaker-like. This fit is pretty specific, but if it had worked for me I probably would LOVE the boots.

4) Asolo Reston WP - this boot was *almost* THE BOOT for me... but not quite. This boot is amazing in principle - very light, very durable, looks good, feels good, fits the foot like a glove... zero drop, minimalist but stiff enough to comfortable over any roots or rocks... BUT it has to have THE WORST traction for wet rock I've EVER used. I fell in 3 rivers, almost destroyed 2 phones and a camera because of it, and dislocated a shoulder in the wilderness because these shoes CANNOT get a grip on a wet rock for the life of them. 20 years of backpacking and I never fell like this EVER. So I burned them after dislocating my shoulder. I swear, if they change the grips on these boots, there is no contender that could touch them in the category. Period. For now, for your safety, DO NOT wear them if you hike on wet rocks and need to hop across streams. Period.

5. Salomon Synapse mid - another really great sneaker/boot from Salomon. Very flexible, very light, very comfortable. Great all around boot. They make it in waterproof and non waterproof versions. I'm using them currently and have nothing but great things to say about them.

6. Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX - the boots feel heavy even though they don't weigh much more than others in the category. They absorb TONS of water and dry very slowly. They were durable but just not worth it. This is the kind of boot that I now stay away from because I find it overkill. Plus the waterproofing failed after 3 weekend trips. BOOOO. I'd rather have sneakers with no waterproofing than these.

7) Teva Men's Raith eVent boot - I expected great things from the eVent here. They did breathe ok, but not noticeably better than any of my waterproof Salomon boots had. Very light, very comfortable, and very reasonably priced. Wasn't a fan of the grips on the bottom and I ended up returning them. Seems like a great boot that more people should try out... if they still make it?

Those are the boots I've been trying in the last couple of seasons. Anyone else have anything to add? What about the montbell boots? And has anyone tried the tactical research mini-mil UL boots? What else is out there in the "boot that feels like a sneaker" category?

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: Lightweight boots on 07/24/2014 16:44:27 MDT Print View


Edited by rmjapan on 06/22/2015 01:44:05 MDT.

Dan Dru
(Dandru) - F

Locale: Down Under
Re: Unsure about this conversion from boots to trail shoes on 07/24/2014 17:07:36 MDT Print View

OP, out of curiosity, how heavy were your packs? That will have a lot to do with how your feet feel at the end of the day.

Kevin Haskins
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
I like boots on 08/02/2014 20:31:59 MDT Print View

I have found that with footwear you have to blaze your own trail. I've tried an assortment of options and know what works for me. You just had a valuable experience. Trust your own experience.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Unsure about this conversion from boots to trail shoes on 08/02/2014 21:00:05 MDT Print View

I agree with everything roger has said. I will go one step further and say that minimalist shoes are the safest shoes for rough terrain. I like to do off trail hiking in canyon country and I only feel safe in thin soled shoes. Proprioception is much more effective in preventing ijury than high tops. But I do not have typical modern world feet.

That being said, this is a hike your own hike thing. My main hiking buddy wears hot weather high top side zip composite toe combat boots. He has hiked in very light shoes but prefers the boots and he can still hike fast in them.

If you don't like light shoes, then stick with your boots but try and find lightweight boots.

But don't give up on light shoes so easily. Give them a real try.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: late to the party... on 08/03/2014 10:05:10 MDT Print View

I have been experimenting with carbon fiber inserts in trail runners (they go under your insoles in shoes that I otherwise felt were perfect except for a bit too soft a sole). They weigh only a fraction of an oz and come in 3 stiffness grades, though only the thinnest are probably useful for hiking. (

I have even switched them in an out while hiking. Initially this was to check on the difference, but later it was like changing gears on different terrains. This has only been over the past 6 month and I don't have any final conclusions, but something to try.

Also with respect to stability - the usual kind people seem most worried about is the ankle twist question. I have had to design my own alterations on my footwear over the past 15 or so years - an issue too long to get into detail here. But as a result I can confirm to a large degree that the likelihood of turning an ankle is made much less by having a wider heel - increases the angular range of stability when you step on an uneven surface or a rock. The place where you will turn you ankle is right when you initially load it, and if you proprioception isn't good enough to catch this at the last moment. So heel strike. One it is actually turned and your weight is going down on it the boot can do nothing to protect your ankle. Boots sometimes have a wider heel, but they are worse for proprioception. In my opinion the "stuff" up high on a boot does almost nothing for this kind of stability.

I'm not sure how much this will help the average person as a lot of my observations are based on actively modding my shoes, including widening the sole at the heel and resoling them with a stickier outsole. I have done this out of necessity to get the most trail mileage out of a surgically fused ankle, but I have had such amazing result designing these mods myself that I recently have gotten greedy and started adding mods onto the shoe for my normal ankle. LOL This experimentation is kind of expensive, but in my case I don't have the option of just trying different shoes - one of them will always need to be modded so experimentation can be done as part of the process.

But there is a point, and that is if you are unhappy with the ankle stability of trail runner maybe start by looking for one with a wider heel. Gt some of the benefit of boot style shoes without the loss of as much of the proprioception. If your feet hurt on rougher terrain and long miles look for a stiffer sole. Kinda sucks that we have to buy these features in bundles that are, in a lot of cases, chosen by advertising folks.

Just some things to try. Of course there are tradeoffs for everything, depending on your body, activity and environment. YMMV

Edited by millonas on 08/03/2014 10:23:57 MDT.