Loc: north carolina
Many, many hikers use running shoes or trail runners while backpacking.
Why I like trail runners over boots:
1. Much, much, much lighter on my feet. I cannot begin to describe how much better this is at the end of the day.
2. No blisters, ever (assuming they fit properly.) My perfectly fitted big heavy stiff boots gave me monster heel blisters every hike for years and years. Long after they were "broken in."
3. Mesh trail runners dry very quickly after they get wet. My big heavy leather boots would take days to dry, and on some trips they never dried.
4. Better for my ankles. The conventional wisdom that one needs boots for ankle protection turns out to be wrong, at least in my case -- I almost never "roll" my ankle any more, vs. several times per trip wearing boots.
5. More control over foot placement, more precision. I think this is mostly due to the light weight (and probably explains #4.)
I made the switch in April, 2000, and will never go back. I've worn trail runners with loads from 15-55 pounds, all four seasons, in all kinds of weather from blistering heat to blizzards. (I do switch to Goretex trail runners in the winter.) Love 'em.
99% of my hiking will be with trail runners. New Balance to be specific, only because they fit best. I tried hiking in running sandals a couple of years, and decided (after sticks stabbing me, as well as rocks and cactus spines) to only bring sandals as 'spare tires'. Boots however, have there place. If you ever hike across 'clear cut', you'll wish you had boots. Also in areas with brambles like 'wild rose' and brier. Trail runners simply won't cut it. So, it all depends on where and what you are hiking. If I'm on trails (not creek beds, clear cut, etc), trail runners are the shoe.
I find that trail runners are fine if it's not raining and I'm on a trail that isn't steep. I find that if I'm on trails that are so steep they're unpopular, shoes will apply uncomfortable pressure at the top of the foot when going downhill, and my toes will scruntch up. Boots are much more comfortable in that case.
Tried trail runners for a 4-day offtrail trip once. They died by the end of the trip. (I'd never seen a thumb-sized gouge in a shoesole before.) They were NB, too, which seems to be decently well built in my experience. Even if they had held up, I still wasn't happy because I kept getting twigs in them. I hear some people make up for that by wearing gaitors, but it seems like one more thing to pack.
So, I'll wear trail runners if I think I can get away with it. I've also thought of wearing ones that drain quickly when paddling so I don't have to take two sets of shoes.
Tried trail runners for a 4-day offtrail trip once. They died by the end of the trip. (I'd never seen a thumb-sized gouge in a shoesole before.)
True...they don't hold up in really harsh conditions. That's why I carry sandals as 'spares'. One place I've hiked is Nugent Mountain in Big Bend National park. I think I counted 3 shoe soles, all from running shoes, in the scree fields on the way down. This means that somebody had to barefoot it down hot, sharp, slick, brick sized rocks, then through the cactus and dagger plants. Yikes! I think it has something to do with the heat melting the glue and softening the soles. I wear leather boots there now, and still haul spares just in case, since most soles are glued on these days.
Fit footware to the conditions of your hike. On city streets and groomed trails I like low cut "hikers". Move it up a notch to a more "wilderness" location and it's mid cut boots. The suede and cordura type fit in here.
Finally up to wilderness travel with rough trails, rocks, including scree, talus, boulder hopping and snow and it's a full grain leather boot, preferably with a Norwegian welt.
Edited by hoz (05/06/0909:09 AM)
We don't stop hiking because we grow old, we grow old because we stop hiking. Finis Mitchell