Big Bend Chat

Big Bend National Park Q&A => General Questions and Answers => Topic started by: vickaiser on October 01, 2018, 12:54:02 PM

Title: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: vickaiser on October 01, 2018, 12:54:02 PM
New to the group.  I'm planning a backpacking trip in January and was just wondering everyone's thoughts.  For OML, Altra trail runners or go in for some hiking boots/shoes?
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: ggowins on October 01, 2018, 02:47:12 PM
I would definitely go with boots.  Plenty of chances to roll an ankle, so you want that extra support.  Because Mr. Murphy will insure than any kind of sprained ankle will happen the furthest spot away from help. 
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: wrangler88 on October 01, 2018, 02:56:24 PM
It depends on how much weight you're carrying and if you're used to backpacking in trailrunners. I hike or backpack only in trailrunners or sandals. I haven't had boots in 12 years. Did the OML in trail runners earlier this year and was fine. But if you are carrying a lot of weight, you may want the extra support from the boots.
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: badknees on October 01, 2018, 03:08:22 PM
I am a fan of boots for the support and protection they provide.

I guess trail runners would work on the "established" trails, if that is the limit of your exploration.

For off-trail hiking boots are essential. (IMO)
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: elhombre on October 01, 2018, 03:22:40 PM
Boots.  It's the desert.
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: mule ears on October 01, 2018, 03:24:28 PM
It depends on how much weight you're carrying and if you're used to backpacking in trailrunners. I hike or backpack only in trailrunners or sandals. I haven't had boots in 12 years. Did the OML in trail runners earlier this year and was fine. But if you are carrying a lot of weight, you may want the extra support from the boots.

I'm with wrangler88 here, if you regularly hike in the Altras, go with them as I assume that your pack weight and experience are commensurate.  I wear them all the time even off trail.
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: Homer Wilson on October 01, 2018, 04:46:23 PM
I recently talked with someone who hiked the John Muir Trail in trail runners. It appears runners are becoming the norm for trail backpacking now. But off trail, sturdy boots are a must in my opinion.

For the Dodson, I world wear boots. It's a rough trail and having a good tread and ankle protection are good. Plus, it protects you from lechuguilla at a vulnerable spot. That said, on our recent oml, two of us wore boots, one wore trail runners. We all complained about our feet hurting.
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: House Made of Dawn on October 01, 2018, 04:59:58 PM
Bring tweezers.


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Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: dprather on October 01, 2018, 08:38:08 PM
Tweezers  :eusa_naughty: I always bring a small multi-tool to pull the industrial-strength thorns out of the soles of my boot.

I vote boots for sure.  The trail is what I call "rocky-rolly."  That is, the trail is not flat or smooth and is totally primitive, there is a lot of elevation gain and loss (sometimes over short distances), and there are loose rocks almost every step.  Additionally, the plants out there love to bite unprotected ankles. 

Consider also that you will have a pack on your back, thus upsetting your natural balance - those ankles need support.

Disclaimer - once when I was out there, I was passed by a young married couple wearing el-cheapo flip-flops. 
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: BIBEARCH on October 02, 2018, 08:49:42 AM
My wife has hiked in Chaco sandals for years due to bone spurs and that if off-trail hiking.

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Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: ggowins on October 02, 2018, 08:58:19 AM
The disclaimer at the top of every page always is a good reminder.

Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death.
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: mule ears on October 02, 2018, 01:19:36 PM
I will wildly generalize.  Boots for clumsy people with heavy packs and trail runner/shoes for those nimble with light packs.

My father always told me not to make general statements.   :eusa_whistle:
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: badknees on October 02, 2018, 03:03:25 PM
I will wildly generalize.  Boots for clumsy people with heavy packs and trail runner/shoes for those nimble with light packs.

My father always told me not to make general statements.   :eusa_whistle:

I resemble that remark.
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: Buck on October 03, 2018, 03:40:34 PM
Barefoot is always an option  :eusa_dance:
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: mule ears on October 03, 2018, 06:18:28 PM
Barefoot is always an option  :eusa_dance:
As always Buck is the toughest around!

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Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: JRD on October 04, 2018, 11:06:15 PM
I know I'm in the minority but I always hike in running shoes, not even trail shoes (Did MDA to the point in them). You don't need extra ankle support unless you have weak ankles. With boots you feel less of the ground. Running shoes have just enough give to help you feel your way, and have excellent grip, cushioning, and ventilation/moisture wicking. They are also lightweight, which makes a difference over a long distance.
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: RichardM on October 05, 2018, 07:51:57 AM
I know I'm in the minority but I always hike in running shoes, not even trail shoes (Did MDA to the point in them). You don't need extra ankle support unless you have weak ankles. With boots you feel less of the ground. Running shoes have just enough give to help you feel your way, and have excellent grip, cushioning, and ventilation/moisture wicking. They are also lightweight, which makes a difference over a long distance.
Speaking of lightweight, check out Xero Shoes (https://xeroshoes.com/shop/product-category/activity/hiketrail/). Personally, I think my feet are a bit too spoiled and used to cushioning, so I'll stick to trail runners (that and I'm cheap).
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: steelfrog on October 09, 2018, 10:10:57 AM
Definitely the Altras.  I use HOKAs but pretty much similar shoe.

If you are doing more scrambling/climbing, then not Altras, go with La Sportiva.  More grippy and sole stiffness.

I made the mistake in Yosemite this summer of scrambling the Tuolumne domes in HOKAs and besides the safety issues, they got tore to pieces.
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: VivaTerlingua on October 09, 2018, 04:31:56 PM
I've worn low top trail shoes for years now.  I don't think high top shoes provide any actual support, they just feel like they do.  Picture wrapping a piece of leather around two 2x4s at a right angle.  How much would that prevent them from moving if you supplied any force at all?   High tops will supply protection against thorns though.
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: House Made of Dawn on October 10, 2018, 12:56:58 PM
New to the group.  I'm planning a backpacking trip in January and was just wondering everyone's thoughts.  For OML, Altra trail runners or go in for some hiking boots/shoes?

Thinking about the OP's question ("January") and comparing it to my own experiences in the Bend. I've encountered sub-freezing temperatures and unexpected snow in the Bend most months between November through March. How does this possibility impact one's choice of footwear?

Ten or so years ago I was on a several-day trip through the Chisos in March with my 5-year-old daughter: temps in the 90's in the Basin, but freezing with snow in Boot Canyon a few days later. I was wearing tennis shoes and hiked out in the rain and snow without incident over the next day or so. My feet were wet and cold and miserable, but no long-lasting problems resulted because I was able to get back to civilization quickly and the temps were never really that low.

Last December I was in the middle of an intended 24-day cross-park float/hike when I got caught in the Deadhorse Mountains by an unexpected winter blizzard that dropped almost a foot of snow. After a hellacious all-day and all-night rainstorm, temps dropped into the mid-teens, the precipitation turned to snow, and it stayed on the ground for 24 hours. I was several days from the end of my hike and at least a couple days from the closest bail-out point.  Though my body was freezing and near hypothermia, my Oboz Bridgers kept my feet dry and safe throughout.

I would love to switch to light approach shoes like the genuinely amazing La Sportiva TX-3, but I just can't wrap my mind around how I'd manage to bull my way through a few days of deep snow and seriously sub-freezing temps in the deep backcountry without losing a toe or two. I think for some seasons and hikes, approach shoes or trail runners may simply not be a reasonable option.
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: steelfrog on October 10, 2018, 01:47:48 PM
That would be easy; carry plastic bags.  Plastic bags are a regular staple in the big mountains, and when you run across bad conditions, just wrap your feet in them (over the socks) and put your shoes back on.  Problem solved.
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: House Made of Dawn on October 10, 2018, 02:17:05 PM
That would be easy; carry plastic bags.  Plastic bags are a regular staple in the big mountains, and when you run across bad conditions, just wrap your feet in them (over the socks) and put your shoes back on.  Problem solved.

I've thought about that. Much like the old VBL socks I used inside my boots back in the 90's in the Rockies during winter.  Now, with trail runners or approach shoes they'd definitely keep the feet dry, but I'm not sure they'd stave off serious conductive cold.  I'm not sure I'd want to spend a day or two or three walking through ankle deep snow in sub-freezing temps with nothing but a thin layer of nylon mesh and a plastic bag between me and the snow.
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: mule ears on October 10, 2018, 04:19:37 PM
That would be easy; carry plastic bags.  Plastic bags are a regular staple in the big mountains, and when you run across bad conditions, just wrap your feet in them (over the socks) and put your shoes back on.  Problem solved.

I've thought about that. Much like the old VBL socks I used inside my boots back in the 90's in the Rockies during winter.  Now, with trail runners or approach shoes they'd definitely keep the feet dry, but I'm not sure they'd stave off serious conductive cold.  I'm not sure I'd want to spend a day or two or three walking through ankle deep snow in sub-freezing temps with nothing but a thin layer of nylon mesh and a plastic bag between me and the snow.

While I agree with you on not wanting to spend several days that way, you have to admit that the storm you got caught in was unusual for the desert and so if you had plastic bags or goretex socks it would have gotten you out.  Even that snow was gone across most of the park in a day.

If you are going to snowy country on a purpose then yes, wear higher boots, probably with gortex liners and gaiters.  When I do snow hiking I use MId height Keens sized larger to accommodate thicker socks along with insulating insoles and gaiters if the snow will be more than a few inches deep.  There are folks who will wear overboots over their trail runners in the snow, especially if snow shoeing.
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: House Made of Dawn on October 10, 2018, 05:46:08 PM
While I agree with you on not wanting to spend several days that way, you have to admit that the storm you got caught in was unusual for the desert and so if you had plastic bags or goretex socks it would have gotten you out.  Even that snow was gone across most of the park in a day.

Fair enough: I admit I've never personally experienced a Big Bend snow that stayed on the ground to any serious degree for more than 36 hours. I suspect the storm last December probably blanketed the bowels of the Deadhorse Mountains for that long. Had I still been in Telephone Canyon and not already in the northern end of Ernst Basin by the time it started snowing, that would have made for a long, long slog out of there in the snow. But possibly one that was tolerable with just waterproof liners over my socks.

You guys may be convincing me.
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: badknees on October 11, 2018, 06:29:18 AM
I've worn low top trail shoes for years now.  I don't think high top shoes provide any actual support, they just feel like they do.  Picture wrapping a piece of leather around two 2x4s at a right angle.  How much would that prevent them from moving if you supplied any force at all?   High tops will supply protection against thorns though.

A study archived in the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine actually disagrees with your theory

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1323436/
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: mule ears on October 11, 2018, 06:59:12 AM
I've worn low top trail shoes for years now.  I don't think high top shoes provide any actual support, they just feel like they do.  Picture wrapping a piece of leather around two 2x4s at a right angle.  How much would that prevent them from moving if you supplied any force at all?   High tops will supply protection against thorns though.

A study archived in the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine actually disagrees with your theory

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1323436/

I give this study a somewhat lame rating and their conclusion was "high-top shoes may help prevent some ankle sprains".  I think the bigger question on the trail is how strong and conditioned are your feet and ankles.  Most hikers who were low shoes regularly have strong muscles in the lower leg and ankle area from training.  As a kid I used to roll my ankles all the time, I have never rolled an ankle backpacking, I know anecdotal  :P
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: Hang10er on October 11, 2018, 08:04:13 AM
I would say what I've mentioned a few times, sometimes it's HOW you hike/walk.  WIth boots, you might go a little faster over rougher terrain with less attention to where you place your feet.  I have boots but started wearing running shoes more.  With the running shoes I am so much more attentive to my foot placement.  It's like the discussion we had on snake guards, if you have them on, are you more likely just to storm through an area more likely to have snakes paying less attention?

HMOD does get me to thinking though, would I still like my trail shoes in the snow or wet weather?  I used to run Spartan races and wore some specialized shoes that had treads that didn't pick up mud, soles that drained water (and pebbles and sand).  You could wade a creek and then run over a mountain in them.  Yes, I wore them for hours not DAYS, so they wouldn't work for snow or extremely wet hiking areas.

Plastic bags?  I think it would save you from snow or wet ground, but you'd probably still soak your foot from the inability to wick away your sweat and moisture. 

I think for Big Bend and other desert environments it's whatever your personal preference is.  I don't think boots are a necessity and personally wear trail shoes.
A wet or snowy area, I would say you have to go with warmer, waterproof boots. 
Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: PacingTheCage on October 13, 2018, 07:51:18 AM
Switched to trail runners earlier this year.  Pack weight around 30 pounds. No issues and asked myself why I took so long to switch. Hiked about 8 miles a day over 6 days. No blisters. Feet were never “tired”.  As always, watch where you’re placing your foot.


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Title: Re: Trail runners vs. hiking shoes
Post by: House Made of Dawn on October 13, 2018, 08:51:09 AM
Switched to trail runners earlier this year.  Pack weight around 30 pounds. No issues and asked myself why I took so long to switch. Hiked about 8 miles a day over 6 days. No blisters. Feet were never “tired”.  As always, watch where you’re placing your foot.


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PTC - thanks for that post. We’re almost exactly the same age. We carry about the same weight and hike about the same daily mileage. Your experience in making that transition to trail runners is persuasive and encouraging.


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