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M Lightweight Mid-Height Trail Shoes State of the Market Report 2011

by Roger Caffin with Will Rietveld

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Article Summary:

Low cut trail runners are the de facto standard for UL backpacking and can be worn most anywhere - on trails in the mountains of America and Europe or off-track in the Australian bush, for instance. But, some walkers still prefer mid-height or even full-height shoes, and there are quite a few brands on the market. We have seen claims that some of these mid-height shoes weigh no more than many lightweight low-cut trail runners and provide more support and ankle protection for off-trail hiking. Several of the mid-height Innov-8 shoes are a good examples of this. We examine the reality, both for the manufacturers' claims and for what is available for walkers with wide feet - because the authors/testers all have wide feet. Sadly, because of our duck feet, we were not able to include the Innov-8 mids in this article; we simply were not able to wear them.

We decided to survey mid-height shoes weighing less than 450 g/shoe (16 oz) for a Men's size 9 (since many companies quote weight for a size 9). We were hoping to find a mixture of waterproof/breathable and highly breathable shoes with synthetic uppers and (preferably) no leather. We decided to focus on genuinely wide shoes, a 4E if available, to fit all the testers: Roger and Sue Caffin and Will Rietveld. In addition, a few selected low-cut shoes were included in the survey to serve as a comparison. The reason for saying 'genuinely wide' will become obvious soon.

However, it should be noted that while Roger and Sue really do take a 4E width, Will is technically an E fitting. To quote Will:

'Shoe size is 12 E; my feet are wide in the toe area, with a high instep, slightly narrow heel, and moderate pronation. I took the Phil Orem boot fitting class, and that is my foot description according to their diagnostic method. I have tried EE width shoes, but they don't seem to be much wider than a D width, so I go to 4E. Size 4E fits well for width but the shoe volume and heel cup are often too large. My solution is to wear a 4E width with thick cushy socks to adjust the fit. Some manufacturers' shoes in an E width fit me better than a 4E, but it depends on the manufacturer and shoe model. Footwear is complicated when you have wide feet, and the choices are few.'

It will be seen that this made a huge difference in who could wear what.


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