Light but durable shoes for off-trail and packrafting
May 24, 2021 at 9:57 am #3713941
I’m struggling to find a lightweight shoe for backpacking, off-trail hiking, and packrafting that will actually hold up. Maybe I’m harder than most folks on shoes, but I can’t seem to get more than a few hundred miles out of pair before they show enough wear that I worry they’ll blow up on a hike. For example, I pushed some Bushido II’s too far last summer:
I am about 190 pounds and regularly carry 40+ pound packs when packrafting, so I’m sure that doesn’t help. I’ve tried a number of the “usual” shoes other folks seem to use for this purpose. Salomon XA Pro 3Ds seem common but the fit was pretty sloppy for me. I have a narrow foot which is reflected in the La Sportiva bias:
- Two pairs of LS Bushido IIs. First pair is above. Second pair quickly showed wear in the toe mesh within 100 miles which is how the above failure started.
- LS Ultra Raptors. Quickly blew out seams on the toe box (non-catastrophic, yet) after less than 100 miles. These have rubbed me a bit, so given that they are already coming apart I don’t wear them much.
- LS TX2. Wore large holes in the sides of the shoe.
- LS TX3. I’ve probably had the best luck with these, I’ve had a few pair. Eventually I wear holes in the sides in the toe flex zone. Seems that the rubber rand focuses flex at a point. These are bit heavier and slower to dry than I like.
- BD Mission LT Approach. Less than 100 miles and the ankle cuff seams are already blowing out on both sides on both shoes. Probably a quality issue vs overall durability. Similar heft to the TX3s.
Perhaps I have unrealistic expectations, but I’m starting to feel the guilt/waste of going through at least one if not two pairs of shoes each summer.
Any recommendations?May 24, 2021 at 10:00 am #3713942
I should’ve mentioned that I prefer lighter trail running shoes, but am willing to give up lightness and dry time for something more durable. I’m not feeling guilty enough to go with anything with leather yet though :-)May 24, 2021 at 4:13 pm #3713960Dustin VBPL Member
It sounds like the water is what is so hard on your shoes.
I stumbled on some discounted shoes years ago that were built for muddy/watery races, so maybe check out shoes that cater to those races (Tough Mudder, etc). You may also want to check out shoes made by kayaking brands. Either kind may be made with stiffer and less stretchy materials that are designed to not absorb water, and will have lots of ventilation.
Good luck with your search. Post something here if you find your goldilocks shoes.May 25, 2021 at 9:23 am #3714000Kyler BBPL Member
I am suffering from the same issue. Do some offtrail hiking and lots of river crossings.
I keep buying Solomon speed cross and x ultras and they only last for around 500km. Pretty dissapointing.
I thought the x ultras would last longer but my old pair the sole delaminated and half tore off in a river. Now my newer pair is starting to show the same signs.
good luck to you.May 25, 2021 at 10:03 am #3714004rubmybelly!BPL Member
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
Dave Chenault posted an bit on using aquaseal on new shoes to extend their life. It was on his Bedrock and Paradox site, might be useful.May 26, 2021 at 4:06 pm #3714660John S.BPL Member
@jshannMay 26, 2021 at 6:11 pm #3715594Philip TschersichBPL Member
@philip-akLocale: Kodiak Alaska
I’ve been packrafting and hiking in the ‘mid’ height version of these and have been very happy. They are a bit wide.
Choose non-waterproof:May 26, 2021 at 8:40 pm #3715699Michael BBPL Member
Most of the light weight trail shoes are crap. I picked up a pair of Topo Mtn Racers and they seem to be built better in some ways compared to the Salomon Triple Crown and Altra LP4s I have. I am rotating through them to help them out a bit but I am convinced shoe makers would rather have us keep buying them as often as possible rather than not. When you find a light trailer runner that lasts more than 500mi, come back and let us all know. I don’t believe they exist, and I believe that is by design.May 26, 2021 at 9:57 pm #3715706lisa rBPL Member
@lisina10Locale: Western OR
I went through two pairs of Topo Mountain Racers last year and it wasn’t a particularly big year for me. I actually got a warranty claim on the first pair because they fell apart so quickly. I’m trying out the Topo Ultraventure Pro now, hoping they’ll last longer. But I’m just back from my first short trip with them and already the fabric inside the top of the heel has completely worn away on both sides. I don’t know why they’re using such shoddy fabric. Unfortunately for me the Topos are the only current option that work for my feet (Altras being too sloppy for off-trail). I love the Topos out of the box, but jury is still very much out on whether they’re worth the cost and waste.May 29, 2021 at 7:17 am #3716242
Thanks for the discussion and links to other posts. Sounds like I’m not the only one who struggles with this issue. In one of the suggested threads, it was mentioned that companies actually plan their shoes to have a short lifespan to sell more. Also so much gear/clothing/footwear gets used as lifestyle pieces these days that durability is never put to the test by a large portion of users.
Seems like Inov8 gets mentioned as one of the more durable trail running shoes.May 29, 2021 at 1:00 pm #3716269Diane “Piper” SoiniBPL Member
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara
I think maybe some of the Xero shoes are pretty durable and light. I have yet to see any in person though.Jun 11, 2021 at 12:02 pm #3718128Patrick RBPL Member
I see you’ve been through lots of La Sportivas, so you may have already looked at them, but for this category I’m absolutely stoked on the TX Guide. Much heavier synthetic fabric vs most trail shoes that use mesh, and a very supportive midsole. Not really heavier than Ultra Raptors. Buy a half or full size bigger to account for width and toe room, and give them two or three days to break in.Jun 11, 2021 at 12:49 pm #3718133
Thanks Patrick. The TX Guide has been on my short list. Do you have enough time on yours to assess durability?Jun 13, 2021 at 10:38 am #3718359Paul McLaughlinBPL Member
For years I used various generations of the Asics Trabuco, they seemed to be pretty tough. But I haven’t had a pair in 3 or 4 years, so I don’t know if they have changed significantly since then.Jun 15, 2021 at 9:37 am #3718707David ChenaultBPL Member
@davecLocale: Queen City, MT
For off trail, packrafting type stuff I’ve never had a mesh or fabric upper shoe last long enough that I retired them due to either midsole or tread wear. It always ends up being (catastrophic) fabric wear. The old Sportiva Crossleathers dried slow as anything, but they lasted. I imagine the TX4 would do similarly.Jun 15, 2021 at 10:40 pm #3718901
The areas where your shoes are showing wear on the fabric… when you buy your next pair, also buy a tube of Aquaseal+SR by GearAid. Coat those same wear areas and seam threads right out of the box and you will not have any wear in those areas. You will wear out the tread before the uppers. It does run a bit, especially in hot weather, so I set my timer and keep turning them every 10 or 15 minutes minutes for a couple of hours. There is a little bit of a learning curve. As with any glue or caulk, clear first with alcohol and rough up any slick surfaces with fine sandpaper… everything sticks better that way. If you want straight lines, apply masking or other tape first.
I do this on ALL my trail runners and never have a fabric problem…Jun 16, 2021 at 4:27 am #3718909wiiawiwbBPL Member
“Seems like Inov8 gets mentioned as one of the more durable trail running shoes.”
Some of the INOV-8 models have a graphene bottom which makes the bottoms of the shoes seem to last forever without wear. Models that have a “G” as it means it has a graphene bottom. I’d look at their Roclite G275, the X-Talon Ultra 260, or others in the X-Talon line.
As David said above, the uppers will likely fail long before the bottoms do.Jun 16, 2021 at 2:17 pm #3718938Dan DurstonBPL Member
@dandydanLocale: Canadian Rockies
I’m in the same boat, as I’ve never had much luck with lightweight shoes lasting for off-trial use. However, I value the lightweight enough that I just keep buying them. I heavily Seam Grip them all over right out of the box and that helps a lot but they still rarely last beyond 300 miles. It really depends on the conditions.
The only time I’ve truly worn out the sole was when I pre-Seam Gripped some Inov-8’s and then used them on the PCT (really good trail). I think I Seam-Gripped those at least twice and nursed them 1200 miles. But that’s very unusual because normal hiking conditions are not so friendly and especially not off-trail conditions. My norm is to pre-Seam Grip my shoes and I still don’t do much better than 200-300 miles before the upper is destroyed. I finished off another pair of Inov-8’s last weekend.
Conditions play a big factor in that (e.g. scree and brush can wear through shoes so quickly). Mesh uppers are simply not that durable, but great for weight and breathability, so mesh is just not going to last for a long time off-trail. Shoes that use more solid material do better but breathe so much worse and tend to be heavier.
I think I’ve destroyed most brands out there….Inov-8, Xero, LaSportiva, Altra, Merrell etc. Altra’s seem like the worst, but it’s hard to generalize. LaSportiva tends to be a bit heavier but more durable, but of course individual models vary.
A big problem with all of this is that shoe models come and go so quickly that even if you find something good you probably can’t buy it again.
It would be cool if someone made shoes with a dyneema mesh. That might actually last.Jun 16, 2021 at 3:07 pm #3718943
Aquaseal+SR by GearAid is not seam grip. It was previously called Free Sole and was designed to repair boot lugs and make boot toe caps… VERY tough stuff. Basically, I make a toe cap and extend it down the sides where there would be wear from rock abrasions. I have not had a trail runner upper fail since using this stuff.Jun 17, 2021 at 12:54 am #3719004Dan DurstonBPL Member
@dandydanLocale: Canadian Rockies
I’ll check it out.Jun 17, 2021 at 2:38 am #3719008John S.BPL Member
DWR D, it would be cool to see before and after weights of aqua sealed shoes…maybe not even an ounce difference per shoe?Jun 17, 2021 at 8:57 am #3719027
Before: 11.8 oz
After 12.2 oz per shoeJun 17, 2021 at 1:57 pm #3719082William ChiltonBPL Member
Aquaseal+SR by GearAid is not seam grip. It was previously called Free Sole and was designed to repair boot lugs and make boot toe caps… VERY tough stuff.
I’ve used Aquaseal+SR/Freesole on nearly all mys shoes except one time when I’d run out and used Seam Grip instead. The Seam Grip didn’t seem to hold up anything like as well. Not a scientific experiment, but another data point.
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