Dec 6, 2012 at 12:27 am #1296783
Long winded, so bear with me…
The last two winters I've been using wool socks inside Rocky GTX socks inside lightweight trail runners with gaiters. Temps in the low teens-30's. This system is part of the ultralighter's playbook, but I'm not convinced. I've got two issues to address.
My biggest issue is my right foot. The metatarsal of my big toe of my right foot causes me discomfort whenever there is ANY pressure/restriction in any direction. Barefoot? Perfectly fine. Vibram FiveFingers? Fine there as well. Most shoes, even with ample toe room, can cause me discomfort even when simply sitting with my shoes on. I think it has to do with lateral pressure against the side of my big toe, no matter how minimal. Its weird, I know, and I should get it looked at. I recently bought a pair of Merrell Orbit Glove shoes for everyday use, and those are the most comfortable shoes I've found. Its part of their barefoot series and has a 0 degree heel drop. (Highly recommended, in fact.) So, AMPLE toe box room is needed.
The second issue is the need for simplicity and temperature comfort. In my combo listed above, my feet have been kept safe, even when stepping into a partially frozen puddle. I thank the GTX socks for that. But ya know, at the end of the day, my socks are damp from sweat, GTX socks are damp on the inside from sweat and outside from tromping in cold nature, and my shoes are usually wet as well. I warm my feet up with down booties for night, but in the morning, my feet go into socks that have at least mostly dried during the night, dampish GTX socks, and frozen shoes. Yes, I could stuff them in a plastic bag and take them in my sleeping bag, but I'd rather not have to. In the morning, my toes get COLD for at least the first 45 minutes of hiking. They do warm up and sometimes feel hot, but there are times throughout the day when my toes are just frozen–like I can't feel the tips of my toes.
I'm looking to simplify, and here's my thought. It may not be as light, but possibly more comfortable:
Start with toe sock liners to keep blisters at bay. Over those, wear a VBL sock (or produce bag from the grocery store). Then, depending on conditions, a comfortable wool sock. Finally, a pair of waterproof shoes with gaiters to shed snow. Waterproof shoes would negate the need for GTX socks, which are narrow in the forefoot, and wouldn't be frozen on the inside because of my VBL liner.
I know that waterproof shoes have their own problems, like when they get wet, they stay wet. In winter, that is mitigated by gaiters, snow usually being frozen, and from the inside, the VBL layer. If I can keep the inside of my shoe dry and find a pair that doesn't irritate my funky big toe, I may wanna give that a shot.
Thoughts and comments greatly appreciated.Dec 6, 2012 at 4:14 am #1933508
I had a similar foot problem develop two years ago- severe pain along the edge of my first metatarsal almost regardless of which shoes I was wearing. Ultimately, this lead to bursitis (a sizeable lump) in that area. Switching to minimalist shoes ( I wear the trail gloves) fixed the pain, though I still have the bump as a reminder. When looking for a minimalist type shoe that could accommodate snowshoes in winter, I didn't find any perfect solutions. Ultimately, I went with the new balance MT101s, sized up a full two sizes. The sock combination I use is similar to what you were planning:
Smartwool sock liner
VBL sock (ID or baggie)
Mid weight wool sock
I took this whole mess of socks into my local running store and tried on all the minimalist-ish shoes with rock plates in various sizes until I found the one that was most comfortable for me.
The VBL prevents your insulation socks from dampness and really changes the game in winter hiking. If out for days, I take the VBL off at nights to air and dry my feet.
If I know I'll be wearing snowshoes the entire trip, I switch to:
In this case, the goretex (which is not that breathable) acts as a partial VBL and the overboot keeps everything dry from the outside. This is really nice because the shoes sty dry too, so even if you leave your shoes out, nothing freezes overnight.Dec 6, 2012 at 7:53 am #1933550
Ike, why not This instead of using Sealskin GTX
Vbl(waterproof not used as VBL)
I will be testing this combo as soon as it decides to get cold and snowy in PA. The GTX seems like an unneeded overkill since in theory there should be no way for the insulation layer to get wet from either the inside or outside.Dec 6, 2012 at 9:53 am #1933571
It just gives me a little more versatility in the setup. When weather is above 15-20F, I usually drop the inner VBL but can still use the goretex sock as an outer waterproof layer. It's breathable enough that my feet don't get too damp.Dec 6, 2012 at 10:02 am #1933574
Makes sense, I was planning on the same versatility. I may end up evolving toward your setup after further trials.Dec 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm #1933614
Thanks guys. I may just have to take my "whole mess of socks" to a store and just try, try, try.
But if I were to switch out the GTX socks with a beefier, waterproof shoe and utilize a VBL to keep the inside dry, what do you think?
Ike—- do you know what caused your toe issue? I've also been re-reading your awesome Pictured Rocks in Winter trip report. We want to do a multi-day winter trek soon and we're limited to either the Porkies or Pictured Rocks. We did two nights in the Porkies last year and for the most part, things were ok, but we could have been more comfortable in camp. We were still in the process of developing our winter system and didn't have adequate head or foot insulation for in camp. This year, down hoods and booties!Dec 6, 2012 at 3:45 pm #1933654
The first question regarding the foot pain is are your shoes large enough?
I hate cold, and don't do very well in the cold. But this set up has worked well for me. I sized up my Salomon's by 1.5 sizes and my normal hiking shoe is plenty roomy. This is what I use
1. Liner sock
2. Rocky GoreTex sock
3. Wool sock
4. Salomon Comp 3D NON-GoreTex shoes
4. OR Verglas gaiters
But given my physiology, I may sweat less than most folks anyway.Dec 6, 2012 at 3:47 pm #1933656
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
You probably know what I will say.
* Skip the GTX and VBL thing until it's sub-zero at least.
* Make sure the shoes are WIDE enough: many shoes are too narrow for some people.
* Stop worrying about feet by themselves. Instead focus on keeping your legs warm, so the blood going into your feet is still warm (or hot). Btw – tight shoes measn restricted blood flow through your feet.
* Wear gaiters – they keep snow and ice out of your socks and shoes.
CheersDec 6, 2012 at 4:43 pm #1933684
Skip the GTX and VBL thing until it's sub-zero at least
Is that Aussie or American sub zero?
:)Dec 6, 2012 at 7:11 pm #1933727
@stephen-mLocale: Way up North
I was on a trip in Canada last weekend where the temps ranged from 15-35f I was toasty warm all weekend wearing trail runners (montrail mountain masochist with outset liner) Rocky Goretex socks and Darn thought winter socks and shortie event gaiters.
I did have to use my micro spikes on one of the days for better grip.
I found placing my gaiter over the trail runners at night time helped stop them freezing.Dec 6, 2012 at 8:57 pm #1933744
Up until last year, I wore a 10.5 – 11. Within the last 12 months, I've noticed that my right shoes all seem small, and so I've bumped up to an 11.5. I even have a pair of new balance MT 110 in a size 12! I can't go any bigger, else my left foot (which is about a 1/4-1/2 size smaller) will simply slop around inside the shoe. I may have to specifically search out wide shoes, which leads me to my next point…
I figured you would show up! :) Continuing on from where I left off, I have had my feet measured on a Brannock device quite recently, and I am squarely a size 11 with a regular width….except that size *feels* too small on my right foot, and my first metatarsal becomes irritated. Just so we're clear and to make sure I'm not using medical terminology incorrectly, the irritation feels very internal, in the center of the ball of my foot. The odd thing is that the new Merrells I bought that I mentioned in my first post are only a size 11 and they feel really good. I wonder if there's something about the shape of most footbeds rather than the shoe size itself is what causes discomfort. And when you say sub-zero, are we *F or *C? [on a side note, any updates on your tent?]
The problem with skipping GTX socks is that with traditional trail runners, feet and insulating socks will become soaked from snow, slush, etc. I once stepped on a snow covered puddle with a thin ice crust on it. My foot sank into icy water up to my ankle and was only saved by my GTX socks. My shoe eventually froze that night. I know you're adamantly opposed to waterproof shoes/boots, but I'm wondering if it'd be worth trying something more traditional, like a lightweight waterproof mid.
Edit: I've been frustrated with all of my footwear for nearly a year. I just spent the last hour poking, prodding, and examining my feet. I can't find any motion, pressure, or movement that irritates my big toe area, yet often by simply wearing shoes, it is irritated. Once my big toe was starting to go numb, even as i was in the car! I should bite the bullet and get it looked at…Dec 6, 2012 at 11:22 pm #1933757
"I should bite the bullet and get it looked at…"
Good idea. Sounds like something is wrong. Maybe an x-ray might help.Dec 7, 2012 at 2:29 am #1933764
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
CheersDec 7, 2012 at 8:44 am #1933806
I think it is pretty well accepted that bursitis in that area is caused by poorly fitting shoes. The funny thing was that up until the point that I was in constant pain, it never occurred to me that it was my shoes. I too had my feet sized with a brannock device yearly, my shoes felt fine, and I couldn't narrow it down to any one pair of shoes. I guess I thought I was just getting arthritis in my big toes. At first it was intermittent, but finally became constant. The bursitis developed a little later during training for an ultra marathon.
Happily, since switching to minimalist shoes (and after a long period of adaptation), my feet are pain free and stronger than ever. I now run 30-40 miles per week, something I could never do previously without injury.
Our early and late season snow (like yours) tends to be pretty wet when temps are in the 20-30 degree F range, and because the shoes I now use are pretty insubstantial, I do rely on goretex socks when there is snow on the ground to avoid soaking wet socks. This happened to me about a month ago during a freak snowstorm in October in the UP and it was a pretty uncomfortable couple of days.
Pictured Rocks is awesome in winter. I try not to duplicate trips, but I know I'll be going back there at least once. The ice in that place is magical. Hope you have fun.Dec 7, 2012 at 9:05 pm #1933963
I went to REI today and brought my sock layering system: the thinnest toe sock liner Injinji makes, a light-mid weight wool sock, and my GTX socks. I re-measured my foot on a Brannock device and I'm actually just under a size 11 and a regular width.
I tried on every pair of trail runners they had and all of them, even when I sized up to a 12, just weren't comfortable. My toes felt restricted and I realized that the GTX socks, in all their narrow glory, were part of the problem.
I then tried on more traditional footwear with the same socks minus the GTX ones. Literally the only pair of shoes that I felt at ease with were the Keen Targhee II Mids. They're waterproof. *GASP* O, the horror!!! :) But they also have a very wide toe box that provides the room.
I've read the replies here and in articles and other threads, of which I appreciate all of it. I think this may be a situation where I can't reason out the best option, but rather I need to broaden the scope of my trial and error, even if it means trying non-trail runners.
I still will very much welcome discussion in this thread.Dec 8, 2012 at 4:00 am #1933990
Go with what fits the best. All others considerations are of secondary importance.
Check out Will R's excellent 3 part series on footwear for winter travel if you haven't already. There's definitely a place for waterproof shoes.Dec 10, 2012 at 10:40 am #1934517
Travis, it might make sense to see a podiatrist about this problem. Check with local running clubs for recommendations.
Altra has a nice very light hiking shoe with a wide toe box, which sadly doesn't fit me well. Vivobarefoot has a nice wide toe box; this is what I've had to use since I developed a bunion.
My Vivobarefoot shoes are not very good for winter here (cold temps down to -30F, -35C in NH mountains). The things I'm considering for very cold hiking are:
mukluks (e.g. Steger mukluks), good for very cold not good at all for wet.
NEOS overshoes over my vivobarefoot shoes.
NEOS overshoes worn with just a felt liner like Sorel boots use; this is really warm, but since the NEOS are waterproof I probably need to add a VBL to the mix.
The NEOS are reasonably lightweight and have a good lugged sole (good for snow). They work well with snowshoes, microspikes or Camp Magix 10 point crampons or Hillsound Pro Trail Crampons. I think the insulated overboots are designed to be used only with crampons or snowshoes and have a smoother sole than NEOS, so are not as good on snow without crampons.Dec 12, 2012 at 11:31 am #1935019
Throw out the standard no waterproof footwear guideline for winter. If feet need insulation to stay warm, then that insulation needs to be dry.
I use GTX socks which are way over sized. They work, but I don't like how my feet still feel a bit compressed in them. I'm sure they're a little less warm because of it. I'm thinking of switching to lightweight GTX boots for winter–boots over trail runners because I think the extra height is needed to keep out the occasional snow under the gaiter.
For cold below 0-10F, I'm planning to get waterproof Steger mukluks, which are called Camuks. (They're intended for hunters and are camo.) Currently, I use mukluk liners inside Tingley rubber overboots (and with VBL) for this range of cold. My feet stay warm even standing around, but the overboots are a bit too floppy. I have to stuff an extra sock into the top of each one to be able to hike in them.Dec 12, 2012 at 12:14 pm #1935031
Though I was reluctant to do so, and after much thinking and observing, I've come to the realization that if I want to actually begin to fix my foot issue, I'm going to have to see a podiatrist. (Yeah, Duh!) While I can increase my comfort with certain shoes, no shoe is actually going to correct the problem. You can only keep a finger in the hole in the bottom of your boat for so long…Dec 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm #1935664
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
LINERS> thin polypro sock liners
ISULATION SOX> thin neoprene dive socks (that you seam seal)
This combo will:
1. keep yer feet warm
2. keep yer boot insulation dry
At the end of the day remove neoprene sox, turn them inside out to dry.
Remove polypro liner sox and put on clean liner sox.
Been using this for literally decades. Works very well, esp for winter camping.
BTW, I DO disagree with Roger on using a VBL only in sub zero (F.) temps. I feel that you MUST keep your boots dry and a VBL is the way to do it.
Personally I use seam sealed thin neoprene Diver's sox over a pair of thin Polypro liner sox. Turn the neoprene sox inside-out to dry at night and have a clean pair of liner sox for each day. Put GTX boots or felt pack liners or ski boot liners in a stuff sack and into the foot of your sleeping bag overnight. This avoids painfully cold toes in the morning.Feb 10, 2013 at 2:21 pm #1952965
@elliott-willLocale: Juneau, AK
I've worn canvas and leather mukluks snowshoeing, with Sorel liners inside. The bindings were painful through the soft footwear. Are Steger mukluks more padded around the foot area? Are they comfortable with snowshoes?Feb 23, 2013 at 6:24 am #1957657
I've worn Steger Mukluks quite a bit snowshoeing and they are very comfortable. Make sure you size up 1-2 sizes and go with a wide or double wide if you want to go below 0F with them.
I am also a minimalist shoe / barefoot runner and love the feel and flexibility of the mukluk. My feet have gotten a little bigger as I've transitioned to minimalist shoes. I started with a pair of Yukons in size 12 (the canvas does not breath well), and the switched to the Quetico's in 13 wide, and now just got a pair of the Arctic's in 14 double wide. I am generally a 12.5-13 size narrow depending on the shoe manufacturer to give you an idea. I partner the mukluks with a pair of RBH VBL socks and they've work great!
They are definitely only for below freezing temps and dry. Unless you get the Camuk version as mentioned previously as they are waterproof.
For wet cold weather hiking and running, I've been using a merino wool liner sock, Sealskinz as a VBL sock, and Vivobarefoot Breatho Trails. If necessary, I have enough room to add another pair of socks over the VBL sock.Mar 12, 2013 at 10:43 pm #1964981
@butts0989Locale: Northern Rockies
I read through the previous posts but havent found the 40 below light energy overboots mentioned. I havent used them but I remember seeing them on Steve Evan's website (suluk46 dot com). From reading over some reviews I've decided on the following for my set up:
-Midweight Darn Tough Wool
-(shoe, in this case probably my brooks cascadia 7's)
-Light energy over boots
This seems pretty perfect to me, although the overboots are a bit pricey….Mar 13, 2013 at 10:56 am #1965092
"I read through the previous posts but havent found the 40 below light energy overboots mentioned. I havent used them but I remember seeing them on Steve Evan's website (suluk46 dot com). From reading over some reviews I've decided on the following for my set up:
-Midweight Darn Tough Wool
-(shoe, in this case probably my brooks cascadia 7's)
-Light energy over boots
This seems pretty perfect to me, although the overboots are a bit pricey…."
Yep, that's my system. Not Darn Tough but a midweight wool.Used with New Balance trailrunners. I'm very happy with it. Absolutely love the L.E. overboots.Mar 14, 2013 at 7:23 am #1965472
@bigmitchLocale: Minneapolis-St. Paul
Gortex trail running shoes are great for very cold conditions because they are warmer than normal trail shoes. But, you have to work around their tendency to trap moisture.
This is what works for me on six Arrowhead and Tuscobia winter ultras with temps from 30F to -30F.
1. coat your feet with anti-perspirant
2. change socks every 12 hours and reapply anti-perspirant
3. if you bivy at night, place a chemical heater in each shoe and plug the opening of the shoe with clothing. Shoes will be nice and warm in the morning.
For the Arrowhead, where conditions are likely to be below zero most of the time, I attach a felt overboot on the outside of the shoe. No chemical heaters are needed until the temps drop below -20F or else your feet burn up. Not too bad.
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