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
Asolos Distance cross-trainer
I say that because I just dont 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 youre running, not so fine when supporting your body weight plus 30 to 40 pounds. And they dont 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, youre 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. Salomons Trail Pro SCS shoes ($100; www.salomonsports.com), Brooks Cascadia 2 Trail Runners ($95; www.brooksrunning.com), Asolos Distance cross-trainer ($115; www.asolo.com), and La Sportivas 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.