The Boot for Ultralight Backpacking?
"Highly breathable ultralight paragliding boot." - 2008 Inov-8 Spring/Summer Workbook
Who would have thought that backpackers could capitalize on gear made for paragliders?
I know, the analogy here is pretty stupid. To their credit, Inov-8 follows up with "...also ideal for lightweight hill walking..."
There we go. Grounded again in reality.
Now, back to the keyword that caught your eye: boot.
La Sportiva Makalus and the Backpacker Editor's Choice Award logo notwithstanding (sic), the very word 'boot' conjures up images that make the best of us ultralighters cringe. And when 'boot' and 'Inov-8' are used in the same sentence, we're pretty much ready to check into the asylum.
These "boots" are 370 grams. For you statesiders that don't care whether we go metric or not, that's 13 oz apiece.
Nope, not a typo. I'll spell it out: thirteen.
What weighs thirteen ounces and can still be worn on one foot?
About four pair of midweight wool socks. Enough duct tape to blister feet that have been festering in leather boots. Vintage 80s Cordura gaiters. The weight of unnecessary pant leg length on jeans worn by today's youth.
Or the Montrail Vitesse II that I wore into the Arctic last summer - when I sprained my ankle in the tundra carrying a 50 lb pack...which led to an 85 mile walk off route to reach a gravel bar for a bush plane pickup...which led to physical therapy...surgery...and more physical therapy...and a very long story (see Backpacking Light Magazine, Issue No. 8, and http://www.arctic1000.com/).
OK, "so what" you say. Inov-8, after all, offers a variety of other shoes with smaller numbers, like the 330 (terroc), the 315 (roclite), the 310 (flyroc), the 280 (mudclaw) and even a 230 (f-lite). Yes, those numbers indicate the gram weight of the shoe. So, back to the question: "so what?" I mean, you've read the likes of Jardine, Dixon, and heck, even me, in enough other places to have been sold on the benefits of low-top shoes.
Now, enter the ankle, stage left.
The ankle has the ability to allow for the flexion of the foot in four directions: inward (inversion), outward (eversion), upward (dorsiflexion), and downward (plantar flexion). Muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the ankle stabilize the ankle when the foot is out of a neutral position (as in inversion, eversion, dorsiflexion, or plantar flexion), preventing damage to the soft tissue structure. Damage to the soft tissues results from weak ankles, extreme stress, or both. It has been hypothesized by myself and others that wearing traditional backpacking boots, which limit the range of motion in these four directions, inhibits the ability of the ankle to strengthen, and thus, provides an environment that creates an inherently weak ankle.
Another disadvantage of traditional backpacking boots is that they limit range of motion to the extent that if extreme stress is created on the ankle joint, stabilizing tissues are not allowed to do their job - absorb that stress - so the stress is transferred upward, resulting in damage to muscles in the shin or calf, or the dreaded "boot-top fracture".
While hiking, motion depends primarily upon the very efficient transfer of energy during dorsiflexion and plantar flexion, while fatigue during long distance days depends primarily upon weakening of the ligaments and tendons that stabilize the foot during inversion and eversion. So, it follows that while backpacking boots tend to limit efficiency of the range of motion by inhibiting dorsiflexion and plantar flexion, low-cut trail shoes tend to result in the fatigue of ligaments and tendons that stabilize the foot during inversion and eversion.
So, shouldn't the perfect backpacking shoe stabilize the foot during inversion and eversion while allowing for complete freedom of motion during plantar flexion and dorsiflexion?
Now, enter the Inov-8 Roclite 370 - yes, the boot.
Built upon the same last as the lighterweight Roclite 315 shoe, the Roclite 370 boot differs only slightly in the configuration of materials in the upper. The more dramatic difference, of course, is the height of the ankle cuff, and the material used to build the rear of the cuff: it's stiffer and more robust, thus providing the exact type of resistance to inversion and eversion that will be appreciated by off-trail trekkers, trekkers with weak ankles, trekkers who've bit the big one before in the Arctic, etc.
Remarkable about this design is that the forefoot construction remains nearly identical to Inov-8's lighter trail running shoes, and thus, dorsiflexion and plantar flexion remain uninhibited.
Finally, we've seen the merging of the best features of a boot with the best features of a shoe. It took a company that builds ultralight shoes and worked up to a boot to do it. Boot companies have been striving for years to make a lightweight trail shoe that offers the best properties of their boots, but have utterly failed, because all they've been doing to date is chopping off the tops of their boots and leaving the rest the same.
The Roclite 370, and it's waterproof-breathable cousin, the Roclite 390 GTX, will be available Spring 2008.
Now these boots were made for walkin'.
Roclite 370 Weight: 370 g (13 oz) US Size 9 / UK Size 8 (Color Grey / Orange)
Roclite 390 GTX Weight: 390 g (13.7 oz) US Size 9 / UK Size 8 (Color Grey / Navy)