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Can I hike with trail runners instead of full-on boots?

I having a very tough time finding hiking boots that are comfortable; they all seem to hurt somewhere. I did find a pair of comfortable trail runners, and I'm wondering if I'd have any trouble day hiking in Glacier National Park using these instead of hiking boots or shoes? How much of a difference is there? Laura Jefferson City, Missouri

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Sure, you can use trail runners for day hikes in Glacier National Park. You’ll be somewhat restricted to trails or dry cross-country routes, but they’ll work fine. Actually, lots of people use trail runners for exactly this purpose. In women’s shoes, the Asics Eagle Trail ($90; www.asics.com) has lots of cushioning and a grippy sole for trail work. Merrell’s Reflex ($85; www.merrell.com) is built more like a very light hiker, as is Montrail’s Kinabalu ($100; www.montrail.com), a new shoe, and a really good-looking one at that.

That said, I’m a little surprised you can’t find a comfortable hiking shoe, unless you’re one of these people who takes a size 14EEE and wonders why no one makes hiking boots that fit them. I can suggest three boots that are renowned for both comfort and fit. One is the Asolo FSN 95 GTX ($150; www.asolo.com). This shoe appeared in 2001 to wild acclaim—it has the support of a midweight hiker, but feels more like a solid trail runner. Very comfortable. L.L. Bean’s Cresta Leather Hiker ($169; www.llbean.com) seems to fit nearly everyone—it’s available in widths and on a women’s last and is an extremely capable all-around midweight boot. Lastly, Montrail’s Sandia Peak ($120) is a light, women-specific trail boot—it doesn’t even appear in men’s sizes.

There are several advantages of a hiking boot over trail runners: better support, better protection from rocks and sticks, and better weather and water resistance. They weigh a little more, true, but the above models all are admirably light.

Have a good trip! I’ll be in Glacier in September on a bike tour.

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