Showing posts with label Footwear. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Footwear. Show all posts

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Hiking Shoes vs. Hiking Boots: My personal thoughts on this discussion.

Sandals, shoes or boots: what to wear tramping? 


Hiking/tramping footwear comes in a plethora of shapes and sizes. Hiking shoes, hiking sandals, cross trainers, mountain running shoes, different brands and different versions – the options are mind numbing to contemplate!

What are the differences? When are boots better than shoes and vice versa? Is it worth the price difference to buy boots? We’ll start with some basic features of each and then elaborate on which conditions demand which type of “boot”.

Hiking Sandal

It may come as a bit of a surprise, but hiking sandals can be a great option for a casual hiker. Sandals are light, which means you aren’t going to expend as much energy moving your feet over the course of the trip. They are perfect for water crossings or as camp shoes. Many people prefer a sandal with some kind of toe guard to help protected against rocks and roots.

Keen Newport H2 sandal


Hiking sandals are best used for short well maintained trails or as a lite back up when their primary boots are temporarily out of commission. An example would be the Abel Tasman Coastal Track during summer. Nice, well graded tracks, a lot of tidal crossings, warm weather conditions.

For perspective, some chap walked the whole 3000 km Te Araroa Trail in sandals a couple of years ago, so just walking the Abel Tasman would be luxury...ay, sheer luuuxxxurriiieeeee!

Look for sandals with similar features to most good hiking shoes: tough stitching, quality materials, tough soles (Vibram if you have a choice), and good arch supports. Keen are one of the major brands for sandals, I own a pair of their Newport H2 sandals and they are rugged and comfortable to wear.

Trail Shoes or Hiking Shoes

Trail shoes are all the rage in long trail communities due to their compromise between comfort and functionality. They are sturdier than your average running shoe because of their thicker soles and leather reinforced fabrics while at the same time are lighter and more comfortable than standard tramping boots.
La Sportiva Lead trail shoes


Because of their versatility, trails shoe styles have started to become part of a more mainstream fashion. Be sure to double check standard quality measures such as stitching, arch support, waterproofing, and lace design so as to avoid buying shoes that look like trail shoes but don’t function the same way.

Good brands include: Salomen/Innov8/La Sportiva/Salewa/Merrell/Asolo

Trail Running Shoes

Asics Sonoma,  lite mountain trail shoes



Trail running has exploded in popularity in recent years. Shoes designed specifically for trail running are similar to standard trail shoes with a few subtle differences. Most trail running shoes have a bit more padding, tough soles, and slightly more ankle support. These shoes can be quite expensive, so if you aren’t planning on running up the mountain, you can probably go with a standard trail shoe.

Good brands include: Innov8/Salomon/Asics/La Sportiva/Salomen

Mid-weight Tramping boot

Many people would just call this “a hiking boot”. A mid weight boot is what most people think of when they think of tramping footwear. They will have extra ankle support, stiff foot support, and a reinforced leather or synthetic outer layer.

Synthetic Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid


They are versatile and rarely feel like overkill on a trail of moderate difficulty. Sure, they will be a bit heavier, but unless you are using them on a multi-day, long term trek, you probably won’t even notice. Don’t forget to look for the signs of quality: a toe rand, good quality soles (Vibram is best), quality inner soles and a Gore-Tex inner lining if that is your thing.

Leather Vasque St Elias GTX boots

Remember to give yourself time to break in all new boots. While modern boots take significantly less time to break in than old style all leather ones, you should still dedicate at least three to four days to breaking in your new boots. I wear mine to work for a couple of weeks, this usually does the trick.

Good brands include: Salewa/Vasque/Asolo/Lowa

Heavy Boot

Unless you plan on spending a significant amount of time out in the bush where there are no fixed trails, it is hard to justify a heavy boot. The heavy boot is therefore much favoured by mountaineers, hunters and bush bashers.

If you do fall into the category of hard arsed bush pig, then you know that a heavy boot can be your best friend.

Lowa Tibet GTX


A good heavy boot should feel like a cross between mountaineering boots and a hiking boot. They should provide extra grip with knobby soles and be crampon compatible. The ankle support should not only protect your ankle from twisting but also protect your lower calve area. Expect to see above the ankle lacing and a full rubber rand to protect against rock cuts.

Of course, for all of this protection you pay a price. Heavy boots are, well, heavy! In fact they can be god-damn soul destroying heavy if you are walking a long way. They are also expensive, most are European made and you will not see much change from $600-$700 dollars.

Meindal Bhutan MFS boots


 Don’t expect them to be super comfortable either. These kinds of boots are designed for hard work and will be overkill for anything else! Think combat boots: you are the soldier and nature is the enemy...vanquish it with your colossal boots!

Some well known manufacturers include: Haix/Lowa/Meindl/Carrimor/La Sportiva

When do I need hiking boots?

When trails are particularly rocky, covered in roots, or are made uneven by other objects in the trail.
When the trail is wet/very muddy.
When there the possibility of rolling your ankle is high.
When trails are exceptionally steep.
When hiking in the snow.

e.g: walking up the Joe River to the Olivine Wilderness area, crossing Waiau Pass, hunting in Fiordland

Boots are useful in muddy conditions

When will hiking shoes be OK?

Well maintained even trails.
Day hikes
Trail running
Camp sites

e.g: Most of the Great Walks, The Queen Charlotte Track, most of the Te Araroa Trail, Te Ara Pataka

Walking a section of the Christchurch 360 Trail in Asiacs

When will sandals do the business?

Well maintained trails, in warm weather.
Short beach walks.
River journeys
Camp sites

e.g: The Abel Tasman Coastal Walk, the Wanganui River Journey

What about Jon's footwear? 

What you may ask does Jon wear on his feet: good question!

Jon Tramping: boots and gaiters on the Lewis Pass Tops


I have used all these types of footwear at one time or another, starting with full leather ex army combat boots and going right down to trail sandals. I seem to be going lighter as I get older, lunking about in those kilo a boot combats just don't appeal like it once did!

Currently I am wearing sandals, trail shoes and mid weight boots.

La Sportiva boots on the QCT


I use Keen Newport H2's as my hiking sandals, wear Asic Sonoma's for walking and some day walks and have La Sportiva Valojets as my leather mid weight boot.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Camp Footwear: Is this the perfect camp shoe?

A tale of camp footwear...or footwear for camp!

Wearing your tramping boots/shoes 24/7 while tramping can lead to many foot problems. The damp, warm conditions are ideal for blisters, chaffing and a number of fungal foot conditions. Once you arrive at your destination you need to remove that wet footwear, but what should it be replaced with? Your choice is simple: either nothing, socks or some other kind of footwear.

Jon sans boots in Nina Hut, 2017
Personally I love getting into a hut or camp and slipping off my boots to let my feet breath au natural. Not the nicest thing for other hut mates though, and your feet will get dirty and cold. Socks...much the same so the main solution is another kind of shoe.

Camp shoes for evening attire

I find it hard to quantify exactly what I am looking for in a camp shoe... always I have been unable to balance weight, utility and comfort.. I have experimented with a number of different types: shoes, sandals, jandals...
From classic Kiwi jandals...

I've even tried Crocs (knock off's, not the real ones, real Croc's cost $70+ in New Zealand...). None were 'quite right'.
...to knock off Croc's


I think that may have changed, introducing my new camp sandal: the Bedrock Gabbro Lite:

Bedrock Grabbo Lite

The Bedrock Gabbro Lite is super light (just 116gm) and has a quality Vibram sole. I first saw these on an American hiking site I visit, and thought they looked like a good solution. You are able to buy both replacement soles and straps for these sandals which is a great innovation.If it is cold or the bugs are biting you need to team these with toe socks.

Bedrock Gabbro Lite

I brought a pair off Amazon and had them shipped to New Zealand for a very reasonable price. I took them with me on my last trip to Hawdon Hut and they performed well: they are hard wearing, stiff enough and light to carry.

Obviously,  these type of sandals offer no protection to your feet at all, so wear your boots/shoes when cutting wood etc. Many is the tale of the chopped up foot clothed in a flip flop...just don't do it!

You can of course forget about camp footwear but then you are liable to get cold, dirty feet and the ground is often rocky or hard. Not great when they are your only means of transportation.

You should check out the website for Bedrock gear