Q:

Which trail-runner will hold up on a backpacking trip?

I'm considering trading in my hiking boots for trail-running shoes on backpacking trips. Why? I've been backpacking for years with sore, uncomfortable feet. (I'm a bit hard to fit.) Other than the lack of ankle support, is there a downside to going with a good trail shoe rather than a boot for a long backpacking trip? Which trail-runners have the guts for this type of trail work? Tim Indianapolis, Indiana

Jun 7, 2006
Outside
Outside Magazine
Asolo’s Distance cross-trainer

Asolo Distance

A: That’s too bad, Tim. Most boots are made to fit what a boot-maker sees as the middle of the bell curve, foot-shape-wise. So people at the margins get left out. And you’re in that crowd. You might try boots from Montrail, such as the Torre GTX ($165; www.montrail.com). Montrail boots are built on a last that seems to accommodate an unusually large percentage of people. L.L. Bean’s Cresta Hiker ($169; www.llbean.com) are also a foot-friendly boot, and it comes in three widths. Maybe fiddling with boots and after-market add-ons, such as Superfeet insoles ($35; www.superfeet.com), can help you come up with a good combination.

I say that because I just don’t like the idea of doing much real backpacking with trail-runners. Most shoes of that type have quite a bit of cushioning, which is fine when you’re running, not so fine when supporting your body weight plus 30 to 40 pounds. And they don’t have as much beef in the sole as hiking boots, so rocks and sticks are more apt to bruise and otherwise pound your foot. Without good support and protection, you’re apt to find your feet are very sore and tired at the end of the day.

But, if you want to try it, just be sure to wear beefy trail-runners. Salomon’s Trail Pro SCS shoes ($100; www.salomonsports.com), Brooks Cascadia 2 Trail Runners ($95; www.brooksrunning.com), Asolo’s Distance cross-trainer ($115; www.asolo.com), and La Sportiva’s B5 Approach Shoes ($95; www.sportiva.com) all have lots of heft in this range. I especially like the Asolo shoes because they have a full rubber rand around the shoe perimeter, affording you some extra protection.

The votes are in: Check out the winners of Outside's 2006 Gear of the Year awards, including the year's hottest trail runners.

More at Outside

Not Now

Need a Gear Fix?

Open email. Get latest gear. Repeat.

Thank you!