May 1, 2012 at 8:17 pm #1289427
Does anyone make a really stiff sole, mesh top (or otherwise nice and breathable) hiking shoe? Something available in the US.
I weigh 175lbs, my fair-weather base weight down to 11lbs.
I need some new trail shoes.
I had ankle surgery a couple years ago (2009, ankle fusion) and last year I paid a physical therapist to help me overcome some foot pain I experienced after a couple overnighters in the eastern Oregon Cascades last year.
He and I worked up some exercises to strengthen the foot on the now non-standard ankle side, and I have this routine I'm going through in preparation for the hikes I want to take this season.
I asked him about footwear and showed him the pair of "Beast" (Brooks) shoes I'd been wearing.
He squished the shoes between his hands. Mashed the toes up, twisted the soles.
"You're gonna need stiffer soles."
I bought those shoes after they were recommended by the orthopedic surgeon in Bend who operated on my ankle. He thought they were good for the recovery period (which lasts for ages after ankle fusion) but I'm recovered … and I want to take the PT's advice.
I only have enough money for one major purchase this season, and I choose shoes.
Mrs Elliott and I were in Portland (Oregon) this morning (she visiting clients, me driving and enjoying the journey) and I had a chance to drive to Next Adventure on Grand St. Darn nice shop!
A nice young fellow in the Shoes department helped me. I explained I wanted something with a very stiff sole, suitable for lightweight backpacking.
He had several shoes with stiff soles. And, he said, they were all waterproof.
Waterproof. I mulled that.
"Goretex," he added.
Visions of my feet wrapped in baggies, skin softening, becoming waxy and prunelike, blisters growing like malignant mushrooms in the sweltering tropics.
I don't need waterproof shoes, I said. I want ventilation and a stiff sole.
He paused. He looked at the shelves of shoes.
"None of our mesh-top shoes have stiff soles. They are more for trail runners. For hikers we have waterproof shoes. For mud, streams, puddles."
Most of Next Adventure's clientele hike in parts of Oregon where waterproofing matters — places that fit the stereotype image of Oregon: a rainy land with mossy trees, translucent dripping newts, and banana slugs. You know, Sometimes a Great Notion-grade dank and drippage.
But I live in the Oregon high desert. It's arid here, and not only do I have little interest in slogging through mud, streams and/or puddles, it's also unlikely that I need footwear for such conditions.
So I hope to find some shoes available in the U.S. which have real stiff soles and breathable uppers — recommendations?May 1, 2012 at 8:43 pm #1873334
Running shoes dont work for me. Uncomfortable off-trail in rocky terrain, and long downhills result in lost toenails. I use La Sportiva approach shoes that I bought from REI. Not very light, but stiff sole and snug fit. Not super breathable, but no waterproof membrane.May 1, 2012 at 8:49 pm #1873336
Coincidentally, I happen to be looking for the exact same shoe, but for a slightly different reason. It appears I have a mild case of "hallux rigidus," basically a stiff, big toe, and it hurts when it bends. The podiatrist advised me to wear stiff-soled shoes.
So, I'm in REI today in Minneapolis, and once I told the clerk I wanted "a stiff-soled, lightweight hiking shoe, breathable, no Goretex," the choices narrowed from dozens of shoes down to two or three.
The Patagonia Drifter is stiff, no Goretex, but weighs 2 lbs./pair; I'm considering it. I'll be searching for others and will report back. I'd be wearing trail runners if it weren't for this darned toe.
JonMay 1, 2012 at 9:01 pm #1873340
@filsingerLocale: Pacific Northwest
You need the original 1990 Nike Lava Domes. I wish they would be brought back with the original glues, wide foot box, and tough as nails sole and uppers.
BillMay 1, 2012 at 9:38 pm #1873360
@lopezLocale: San Gabriel Valley
Okay so I think i have an interesting shoe for you.
The Altra Lone Peak. Very wide toe box, substantial upper but very breathable. Zero drop, so its flat, as in the sole at the toe end is the same thickness as the sole in the heel end. This is all typical of the very light trail runners. However, where this shoe differs is that it has a nice thick, stiff and super grippy sole. I saw the notably stiff sole as a problem and returned them, but for you they may be just the ticket.
I recently ran across the Grand Canyon with some folks and a couple of the more experienced runners wore these, probably because they provide the natural fit and feel but dont sacrifice the nice stiff thick sole. check them out!May 1, 2012 at 9:38 pm #1873361
@saparisorLocale: Pacific Northwest
I think the best bet would be to get to a store (there is a REI in Bend) and look for a beefier trail shoe without any kind of waterproof liner. Something like this:
Or a Merrell, like this:
Ot these, with urethane shanks:
Don't forget to look at Superfeet or other insoles that maybe offer even more support.
These are overbuilt for UL loads and they may not breathe like a mesh runner, but at least you'll be outside. Its more important that you get the shoe you need.
I do like Next Adventure, but their footwear section is the one part that I'm not totally sold on.May 1, 2012 at 10:19 pm #1873371
@mzionLocale: Boulder, CO
They may not be as stiff as you'd like but the higher model number Inov-8s have pretty beefy outsoles compared to their uppers. Check into the fit tho – they tend to run on the narrow side but the Flyroc 310s may be the best fitting shoe I have ever worn. I have a narrow volume heel and like it locked in with room to move my toes. They're lugs sometimes seems over kill to me but this may be more along the lines you're looking for.
I actually have 5 pairs of 319s I got off the Clymb that are a little too high volume in the heel for me so I went back with to the 310s (suckered myself into the potential of saving money rather than using what I knew). Anyhoo, I wasn't going to GearSwap them until I got back off the PCT but if youre looking to experiment let me know – maybe go see locally if you can find something similar in build ie 295, 309 and if it'll work for you. I fly out for San Diego May 9th.
The Altra Lone Peaks are an interesting shoe I've been meaning to check out – we'll see though, looks like they're more suitable for stubby fat footed type!May 1, 2012 at 10:54 pm #1873375
Lowa makes one. It was designed as a "desert" shoe, but it's great. REI carries it, too.May 1, 2012 at 11:19 pm #1873383
@dbagnallLocale: El Portal, CA
I have been looking for this saem thing for over a year; very hard to come by as every manufacturer wants to
waterproof every shoe. I guess thats what sells to the masses.
One option is to buy a waterproof shoe and try to rip the gore-tex layer out of the inside
of the shoe.
I saw the Mindbender in REI the other day. It's looks great! stiff footbed and highly breathable upper.
I couldn't try one on as they didn't have my size (That is soo REI) I have a pair on the way from Zappos as we speak.
I would check out the Vasque Mindbender
Best of luck with your ankle and your trips this year!May 2, 2012 at 6:02 am #1873430
@jimmyjamLocale: Mid Atlantic
Have you looked at Keens? I just got a pair and I really like them. I forget the particular model I got, but the sole is fairly stiff ( which I need because of a past foot surgergy that still bothers me), they have partial mesh and a nice wide toe box.May 2, 2012 at 6:33 am #1873438
@abhittLocale: southern appalachians or desert SW
I would echo the Keens suggestion. I wear the Voyaguer in desert conditions and find it very supportive, I am testing the Alamosa for wetter conditions here in the East (they also have a mid) and the new Ambler Mesh looks promising too.May 2, 2012 at 7:38 am #1873459
Finding shoes in the rare 10-1/2 Wide (American) size can be challenging, but it does appear that there are some options out there, I just need to try them.
I need a bit of heel lift, as the surgeon was unable to set my ankle to a neutral position due to old fractures, so my foot is now and forevermore pointed very slightly down.
One thing about having a fused ankle is that when going uphill one cannot lower the heel to the ground, so one climbs on one's toes. A stiff sole is really handy.May 2, 2012 at 8:05 am #1873474
pm sentMay 2, 2012 at 9:57 am #1873526
Multiple shoes in the Vasque trailrunning line has a mesh upper and a rockplate in the sole. The combination of the rockplate with and aftermarket Smartfeet green insloes has worked well to making a very ridid sole.
I have used the Velocity and I have a pair of the Mindbenders on the way to my home.May 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm #1873601
“Does anyone make a really stiff sole, mesh top (or otherwise nice and breathable) hiking shoe? Something available in the US.”
Well, that description matches my teva terra fi2 (and 3). It’s stiff, has great lateral hold on the ankle, and of course as breathable as you can get. Mine are 10oz each.
I’ve been backpacking in them for about 10 years now. I’ve worn out at least a dozen sets. And I can usually pick them up at STP for $50 or less.
I buy them about 3/8” longer than needed for toe protection. I like the adjustable back strap so I can center my arch. I go off trail a lot. When I see scree I get excited; foot massage! I just like that feeling of walking on scree.
Good luck in your footwear choice.
-The mountains were made for Teva’sMay 2, 2012 at 12:41 pm #1873607
My solution was going two be buy some 4-E new balances at big 5 for $30 then get them resoled… I just asked to cobblers and one said $60 and it might not work depended on the shoe. the other said $38-$68 depending on the shoe. I suppose it would still be cheaper than buying a nwe minimalist shoe, but kinda pricier than I was hoping.
anyway, might be an option for you.May 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm #1873632
Hi Barry, thanks for the suggestion. I checked out Tevas before a recent trip to sunny Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) and found they lack sufficient (or any) heel lift, which I need on account of my ankle being fused with the toe end of the foot a bit lower than the heel end. But it would be cool to hike in sandals.May 2, 2012 at 1:30 pm #1873634
“…found they lack sufficient (or any) heel lift…”
My wife likes a heel lift and she wears her orthodics with the tevas. She doesn’t do it all time; only when she’s trying to get rid of a particular pain. Maybe it’s me :0
-The mountains were made for Teva’sMay 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm #1873655
I have a nice pair of custom orthotics made to the surgeon's specs, and they provide heel lift. So in theory I could use them with sandals, like Tevas. Does your wife find that the straps on the Tevas are sufficient to keep her orthotics from sloshing around underfoot?
And what about the issues of wearing socks with Tevas? I refer, of course, to the risk of being cited for a fashion violation by a ranger or sheriff.May 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm #1873684
“Does your wife find that the straps on the Tevas are sufficient to keep her orthotics from sloshing around underfoot?
And what about the issues of wearing socks with Tevas?”
The straps work great on her orthotics. Of note, I find her orthotics has this slight rubbery feel to it so they stay in place very well. In fact, she wears a couple of styles of tevas (that I can’t remember right now) with them.
Because of fashion police my wife will not wear socks in public. But backpacking– she wears socks religiously for several foot-comfort reasons.
I have to wear socks all the time or I will get extreme sweaty feet underneath the sole (cracked prune feet from my own sweat!). If I’m in a world of fashion police (non-backpacking world) and I’m in my shorts, then I wear black coolmax ankle socks w/ my black terra fi3s. Then it almost looks like a shoe to the casual observer. Otherwise I wear permethrin sprayed coolmax calf socks in the wilderness.
-The mountains were made for Teva’sMay 3, 2012 at 1:38 pm #1874057
I was thinking maybe a solution to the problem would be to add a stiff orthotic insert into a shoe with a normal bottom. Much like framing a backpack. Foot levelers makes a good one.May 3, 2012 at 3:06 pm #1874094
It's a cool idea. But it's already tough enuff to find shoes with sufficient space inside to accommodate my prescription orthotics and my foot. Something thin would work, like 16-gauge steel, but it would be pretty darn heavy.May 5, 2012 at 6:15 pm #1874759
@ericmLocale: Southcentral Texas
I just saw these at Marshall's for 29 bucks in my size. I'm gonna have to go back and get them. Wide toe box, nice heel lift, fairly thick and stiff sole, and, yes, waterproof, BUT…they're eVent. Not sure how much of a difference that'll make but for that price who cares. They're pretty cheap online as well as may be worth a peek.May 5, 2012 at 8:21 pm #1874786
@flriderLocale: The Southeast
I'm probably going to get laughed out of the site for even suggesting this, but…
Have you thought about the Vietnam-style GI jungle boot? Very stiff sole (most of 'em have a steel plate in there), great tread, very breathable upper, drainable footbed. Heavy as sin, and probably too much ankle support, but…
Anyway, it's a thought.May 5, 2012 at 8:51 pm #1874792
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"Very stiff sole (most of 'em have a steel plate in there)"
Most of the time we don't worry about punji stakes anymore.
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