Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » 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.

(livingontheroad) - M
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.
(spags) - M
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.

Kate Magill
(lapedestrienne) - F
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
( - M

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 - M
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.