Backcountry Forum
Backpacking & Hiking Gear

Backcountry Forum
Our long-time Sponsor - the leading source for ultralite/lightweight outdoor gear
Backpacking Forums
---- Our Gear Store ----
The Lightweight Gear Store

Bivy Bags
Sleeping Bags
Sleeping Pads
Snow Sports
Winter Kitchen


Avalanche Gear
Hats, Gloves, & Gaiters


Ultralight Backpacks
Ultralight Bivy Sacks
Ultralight Shelters
Ultralight Tarps
Ultralight Tents
Ultralight Raingear
Ultralight Stoves & Cookware
Ultralight Down Sleeping Bags
Ultralight Synthetic Sleep Bags
Ultralight Apparel

the Titanium Page
WM Extremelite Sleeping Bags


Sleeping Bags


Ropes & Cordage
Protection & Hardware
Carabiners & Quickdraws
Climbing Packs & Bags
Big Wall
Rescue & Industrial






Men's Footwear
Women's Footwear


Mens Apparel
Womens Apparel


Black Diamond
Granite Gear
La Sportiva


Top Brands
All Brands

 Backpacking Equipment 

Sleeping Bags
Water Treatment

 Backcountry Gear Clearance

Page 2 of 2 < 1 2
Topic Options
Rate This Topic
#127404 - 01/26/10 11:29 AM Re: help with shoes [Re: OregonMouse]
BrianLe Offline

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Washington State, King County
OM, since you listed some benefits to shoes, I thought I'd list where I think shoes have the advantage and where boots might have the edge:

  • Best protection from stubbed toes, twisted ankles, things falling on or banging into feet
  • Typically waterproof, good in wet weather, in snow, or (quite) shallow streams
  • Provide better ankle support, increasingly important as pack weight increases
  • Best for kicking steps in snow, and some allow the wearer to use full 12-point crampons
  • higher top boots less prone to trail debris getting inside
    boots make some people feel more secure, protected
  • More durable (though more expensive)

  • Lighter weight --- “A pound on your feet is like five pounds on your back”
  • Breathe better; waterproof boots are too waterproof in both directions, the resulting internal hot sauna encourages blisters
  • Faster drying when wet; once boots get wet through, they stay wet
  • Little or no break-in needed
  • Reduces or eliminates need or desire to carry separate footwear for in-camp use and/or for stream crossings
  • less expensive (though less durable)

In choosing between shoes or boots, what was once a pretty "black & white" decision has become quite a spectrum of gray scale. There are fairly light and low-topped hiking “boots” that are quite shoe-like, and there are relatively high-topped waterproof shoes that have excellent traction.
Brian Lewis

#127408 - 01/26/10 12:34 PM Re: help with shoes [Re: BrianLe]
oldranger Offline

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
For your gray scale, I am strongly attracted to "approach shoes." Ideally, they are comfortable to walk in, but give good footing and stability when the going gets rocky.

I don't know how many times I have found myself in a four point stance, searching earnestly for my next foothold and thinking, "This wasn't on the agenda when we started this morning!"

#127409 - 01/26/10 12:37 PM Re: help with shoes [Re: BrianLe]
oldranger Offline

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
High top boots really work well in rocky scree or talus, preventing many scratches and owies.

#127414 - 01/26/10 01:22 PM Re: help with shoes [Re: BrianLe]
mmendell Offline

Registered: 03/21/06
Posts: 76
Loc: Western Iowa
IMHO, some, but certainly not all of the "knocks" on lighweight shoes just aren't all that valid because if the change in attitude they bring. I'm just not convinced that heavy boots provide all that much lateral stability, whereas wearing trail runners strengthen my ankles. My feet and ankles are in better shape to deal with the demands of the trail. I was much harder on my feet in boots. I stepped heavily and had a false sense of security with regard to my ankle stability in them. Because I wear trail runners, I'm more conscious of foot placement, which does more for ankle stability and sheer pounding/bruising/scratching of my feet than heavy boots ever did. Keeping my feet dry just isn't a concern, and I am able to wear crampons if needed. A pair if lightweight and inexpensive Dirty Girl or Levagaiters takes care of trail debris.

In cool, wet weather, even slogging through spring snow, I find my feet are warmer sopping wet in runners because the musculature is engaged the blood is flowing. Short of hard-core winter hiking, I can't imagine a situation that would convince me to go back to the boots.

Like OM, I was dubious when I first made the switch. My first trip was a 4 day trip in June in the Winds. The trip consisted of postholing through snow hoping to find an unfrozen lake in which to fish. No luck, but my feet were fine!

Just my 2 cents.

#127418 - 01/26/10 02:48 PM Re: help with shoes [Re: mmendell]
OregonMouse Offline

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6764
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Good list, Brian, except that I disagree with the ankle support. My experience (with easily turnable ankles and a history of a couple of severe sprains) is that any ankle support provided by boots is strictly psychological. Having something around your ankle feels good, but unless the boot tops about your ankle are completely rigid (not allowing any bending of the ankle), they will not provide any sideways support. That's unless you have found boots with excellent pronation control built in--and that's provided by the footbed, not the boot tops. I already mentioned that I really tested my first trail runners by deliberately trying to turn my ankles, and couldn't do it. The same trial wearing boots almost resulted in an injury.

I still use my boots for hiking in snow. Should I be hiking through scree (I don't, for fear of injuring my dog), boots would be nice, too. For minor stuff like gravel and loose soil, low-rise gaiters do just fine to keep them from getting into my shoes.

Edited by OregonMouse (01/26/10 02:50 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#127421 - 01/26/10 03:49 PM Re: help with shoes [Re: OregonMouse]
BrianLe Offline

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Washington State, King County
"Good list, Brian, except that I disagree with the ankle support."

Yup, this is something I don't have a lot of experience with, being mostly a shoe-user myself. I think this too might be a "gray scale" area: downhill ski boots offer a great deal of ankle support, but I wouldn't care to walk too far in a pair!

I listed ankle support because I find that boot proponents often list that as a primary benefit, not from any personal need or experience.

In terms of other benefits of higher top shoes or boots for scree and such: I suggest that an appropriately selected gaiter can provide at least some of the same benefit, with less weight and more flexibility (i.e., wear it when needed, leave it off when not).
Brian Lewis

#127444 - 01/26/10 11:07 PM Re: help with shoes [Re: OregonMouse]
phat Offline

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

I am somewhere in the middle, and will attest to OM's statment about ankles - I also tend to turn 'em easy, and I'd say I definately find I do not turn them *more* easily in good trailrunners. I still wear boots most of the time If I expect off trail, lots of rockbashing and stuff. but not always.

for example, I did west coast trail on vancouver island two years ago in a pair of montrail hardrocks, this was after much soul searching and I did it *for* my ankles. The main reason was that I knew WCT was very wet, rough, and muddy. With the trailrunners, when I started hiking through mud I *knew* my feet were going to get wet, and so therefore didn't try to dance down logs, hop from rock to rock or perform other such trail ballet to keep my boots from getting it. I could just plow through and go on. This approach *did* work. I had wet feet, which a rinse of the shoes and socks on getting out of the mud onto the beach mostly cured. My feet and socks dried off quickly in decent weather. I did NOT turn an ankle in a lot of very rough trail.

OTOH, I do like boots and gaiters for rougher trail, off trail, or perpetual rainy sog. So I still use both quite regularly. my choice still really depends on my mood, weather, and what I'm willing to tolerate. On dryer trails in the rockies I find I'm often in trailrunners for on-trail stuff.
off trail and unfamiliar places I have my hanwag's and full gaiters. Snow, forget it.. boots and gaiters or mukluks.
Any fool can be uncomfortable...
My 3 season gear list
Winter list.
Browse my pictures

Page 2 of 2 < 1 2

Shout Box

Highest Quality Lightweight Down Sleeping Bags
Western Mountaineering Sleeping Bags
Lite Gear Talk - Featured Topics
Replacing a 2002 Mountain Hardware Tent
by Loquinho
08/21/21 01:35 PM
Boil in a bottle?
by DustinV
07/23/21 06:29 PM
Can't find a tent for me and the Mrs.
by edfardos
04/26/16 05:19 PM
Backcountry Discussion - Featured Topics
Do You Bring Booze on your Backpacking Trips?
by Ian Campbell
08/09/16 05:49 PM
Make Your Own Gear - Featured Topics
Carrying My Dog LOL
by Hey
07/07/21 09:20 PM
Featured Photos
Spiderco Chaparral Pocketknife
David & Goliath
Also Testing
Trip Report with Photos
Seven Devils, Idaho
Oat Hill Mine Trail 2012
Dark Canyon - Utah
Who's Online
0 registered (), 45 Guests and 0 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Newest Members
Keirv87, nmjhyu, Paul Devil, Loquinho, Ted J Forema
13060 Registered Users
Forum Links
Site Links
Lightweight Gear Store
Backpacking Book Store
Lightweight Zone
Hiking Essentials

Our long-time Sponsor, - The leading source for ultralite/lightweight outdoor gear:

Backcountry Forum

Affiliate Disclaimer: This forum is an affiliate of,, R.E.I. and others. The product links herein are linked to their sites. If you follow these links to make a purchase, we may get a small commission. This is our only source of support for these forums. Thanks.!

Since 1996 - the Original Backcountry Forum
Copyright © The Lightweight Backpacker & BackcountryForum