Off trail shoes
Apr 13, 2022 at 2:53 pm #3746290
Hi all, I have always used off trail runners (actually in the 90s I’d used sneakers honestly before I had access to better info and something outside hiking boots). I have narrow feet and high springy aches that always felt best in flat relatively thin shoes that are flexible and I can grip/feel the ground in. Much of my hiking has shifted to off trail high alpine environments when possible and I basically use Altra superiors for everything with good effect. I have noticed that I get blisters (never a problem for me prior) and my feet slide around a bunch in scree and steep talus. I am going to try adjusting laces more and a different lace system, but I have also used inov-8 shoes for terrain where I need more traction. Do folks use other stiffer shoes for off trail trips? Some of the lasportiva stuff or inov-8’s more rigid shoes? My next pair is primed to be the terra ultras but saw the review here indicated it’s not the greatest for this purpose. I am a bit worried about doing long miles in a stiff shoe honestly comfort wise. Thanks for any advice/perspectives!May 16, 2022 at 11:30 am #3749498Dan BBPL Member
La sportiva tx3 or tx4
their bushido is good too.
i make a 1mm rock plate for the tx3/4 from a flexible cutting board, which if youre on rock for 7+ days can blunt effects but I’m carrying more weight generally so probably not necessary.May 16, 2022 at 11:48 am #3749501Brad WBPL Member
I love Altra Superiors-but they are horrible on technical on and off trails.May 16, 2022 at 12:38 pm #3749506CHRIS LBPL Member
You’re going to find a lot of personal preference here. Some folks do fine in trail runners in off trail terrain. I’ve had two pairs of Bushidos and destroyed them in short order. Same with Salomon XA Pro 3D and La Sportiva Ultra Raptors. Perhaps I’m harder on my shoes, I’m not sure. I’ve found the La Sportiva TX3 to be a decent compromise and are more durable. But I’ll still burn through a pair of those in a few hundred miles. I do actually prefer the stiffer sole for rugged terrain, but they’re a bit less comfortable when knocking out miles on trail.May 16, 2022 at 1:49 pm #3749522Alex HBPL Member
@abhittLocale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Another TX3 fan, for really rocky, off trail terrain particularlyMay 16, 2022 at 7:56 pm #3749556Steve ThompsonBPL Member
I like the Brooks Cascadia, which are on the stiff side. But for me the game changer for hotspots and blisters was injinji toe socks. The original weight coolmax socks, doubled up (or two on each foot). The toe socks alone eliminated blisters between the toes. Doubling up took up just enough room to eliminate blisters on the balls of my feet. YMMV, but I think this a better path than cranking down on the laces.May 17, 2022 at 12:00 am #3749572
Consider dive sox. In your water shoes, they can also double for getting across cold stream crossings without having your feet freeze to death.May 18, 2022 at 11:12 pm #3749868Daniel AllenBPL Member
@dan_quixoteLocale: below the mountains (AK)
if you have narrow feet, then wide shoes like Altras might be a problem of it’s own. A lot of folks find Altras to generally have a sloppy fit due to their width, and on relatively flat trails it’s fine but once the ground is at an angle and you can’t crank them tight enough. I have wider, though not beastly wide, feet and make Altras work for most terrain, but they get torn up pretty fast.
I love the zero-drop, but will compromise for more adventurous terrain and use some old inov-8s I have with a 8mm drop but much better traction and a more performance fit. Good for action, but I can feel it on more boring terrain or longer miles, but I don’t do as many miles on my more adventurous hikes these days. If I had narrower feet I’d probably avoid Altras and try to find other zero drop shoes.
I believe some of the more recent Altra lone peaks have a narrower fit (which is why they are selling lone peaks in wide widths now, and why the wide-footed among us are calling foul at Altra), so the narrower fit might be a perk for you.
I love me some good injinjis for minimizing my blisters. I’ll wear their woolly liners inside rocky goretex socks and that works in mixed snow really well for me inside porous trail-runners (often older lone peaks). I think the double-layers extends the injinji’s longevity some as well, but I don’t expect a lot of miles out of injinjis.
Hope this helps!
DanMay 19, 2022 at 12:20 am #3749889
‘Consider dive sox. In your water shoes, they can also double for getting across cold stream crossings without having your feet freeze to death.”
Sorry about that. Posted that on another thread. No idea how it got here.May 20, 2022 at 12:06 pm #3749981Erik GBPL Member
@fox212Locale: Central Coast
I’ve been using Brooks Cascadia shoes for almost a decade now, and they are an excellent shoe for the off-trail Sierra Nevada adventures I prefer. They are moderately cushioned and have a relatively stiff rock plate, and stiffer sole in general than a lot of other trail shoes. Excellent blend of comfort and protection, good grip, and high breathability are the main pros. The breathability is a bit of a double edged sword – they let a lot of dust in IME. But I have not had any real problems related to that, or any other foot problems for that matter since switching to them. I’ll grab a pair of Dirty Girls for this season and see how much they help.
Every time I’m getting new shoes I try several out, only to return to the trusty ol’ Cascadias. The various iterations have had their pros and cons but fit has stayed close enough, and in the last couple of years they added wide sizes for those interested in them, and they offer Gore-Tex versions too.May 20, 2022 at 1:28 pm #3749986Brad WBPL Member
@Erik G do your feet actually fit in the toe box? It’s so narrow and pointy.May 20, 2022 at 7:01 pm #3750019Bill in RoswellBPL Member
@roadscrape88-2Locale: Roswell, GA, USA
<p style=”text-align: left;”>Narrow heels yet wide forefoot, high arch. Tried a few Altras which were OK, but not a good fit really. Tried Topo which reminded me of wide Salomons: narrow heel, wide forefoot, some arch support. As for wide mid-heights that would otherwise be considered, Goretex seems to be the only game, and that is a huge turnoff for me. The more mesh to let water out, the better.</p>May 21, 2022 at 7:56 pm #3750095MinerBPL Member
After New Balance dropped their Leadville shoes, I ended up in Brooks Cascadias also. I use them pretty much everywhere including the Sierra Nevada, both on and off trail. Their shape is pretty normal for most shoes I grew up with, though obviously different than the Alteras more flat footbox. I don’t find the footbox confining, though I got into the habit 15 years ago of upsizing my shoes that I do long distance hiking in by at least a full size so there is plenty of room for the toes. Reason being, my feet swell in hot weather after hiking for hours; after a few weeks of hiking, my feet tend to lengthen though they will eventually return to their normal size after a few months when I return home; and I found that I stopped getting blisters in all but the hottest desert conditions since there is more airflow in the toes in the shoe.
Issue with shoes like these is all the mesh. It’s great to keep your feet drier as you don’t sweat as much which reduces blisters. Downside of all the mesh is all the sticks encountered off trail love to punch holes into them. My current pair has 2 holes in the mesh on one shoe and 1 hole in the other, though in all fairness, the tread is getting pretty thin on the ball of the foot area so I’ll have to replace them soon.May 21, 2022 at 10:48 pm #3750100
“Off trail shoes” can mean just about anything. But as implied in some previous posts, it depends on what is found ‘off trail.’ Hiking away from developed trails can be more comfortable in walking near timberline in the Rockies. Or it can be a nightmare if you end up on loose shale, sink holes, and steep drops that you have to go out of your way to find a way around. A lot depends on weather, good maps, open terrain, and a feel for finding a route. None of this relates directly to what is a good trail shoe and what is not. So what often happens, you pick out what feels the best in the store and check them out on day hikes before taking them on serious trekking. You can’t even recommend what survives this process, because the shape of feet varies. But it’s nice to know what wears out quickly so they can be avoided. From reading this thread, it sounds like a lot of popular trail shoes fall in that category. You can have a similar experience with other gear, like packs for example. Then it becomes more ‘deja vu all over again,’ (Yogi Berra).May 22, 2022 at 5:16 am #3750103
Thanks for the input all! I should have said by off trail I basically mean the talus and scree of the high Sierra. Likely I’ll mess around with the cascades and Rockies soonish, otherwise my hiking is on trail in the humid tropics.
I do have a set of inov8 trail talon 235s that I use for muddy trails. They fit me great but have a narrow toe box and are very rigid which tires my feet out. I’ve never sought out or used rock plates because I don’t like the rigidity but want to make sure I’m not making an error given that I used to hike in sneakers for decades lol. I’ve tried on la sportiva bushidos in the past but they don’t fit me well. I’ll check out those other models just in case. Thanks!May 23, 2022 at 2:10 pm #3750213Steve ThompsonBPL Member
I’ve yet to find terrain the Cascadias cannot handle and after the longest days (16+hrs) sure my feet are tired but they are right in line with the rest of me.May 23, 2022 at 3:10 pm #3750220MudjesterBPL Member
Todd – like you, I’ve found Altras great on trail – SO cushy -, not so much off. Above treeline in the high Sierra (and everywhere else for that matter) I’ve had excellent experience, and wear, with Solomon X Ultra 3s. They are burly enough yet not toe-squeezing for scree, boulder hopping, bushwhacking and such. Most important: they fit my feet! Which is always the wildcard. There’s a number of fine off-trail shoes out there, and for 3 season Sierra romps I stick to non-GTX, but there is always the Goldilocks challenge: finding that shoe architecture that suits your particular dogs. This is where REI comes in handy. Buy em, give em a good test, and swap out if they make you cry. FYI re: the Solomons, I find they need a little breaking-in before rocking the high stuff.May 26, 2022 at 4:27 pm #3750388Mike MBPL Member
I’ve been using La Spotiva Akasha’s on and off trail with pretty good luck for the last 6-7 years (including a 2-3 year stretch where they discontinued them, but now back in the lineup).
I’ve tried many of the LaSportiva trail runners’ in the past only to find they didn’t have enough room in the toe box, the Akasha’s do. They have a little more protection than most trail runners (and subsequently are a little heavier) and the outsole is nice and sticky- a LaSportiva trademark. In the scheme of things they aren’t overly stiff, perhaps stiffer than many trail runners, but not really stiff.
Recently I acquired a pair of Salewa Mountain Trainers. These shoes were exactly what I was looking for- stiffer and more protective than the Akasha’s for harsher environs (read rock). Salewa evidently also has done their homework with the outsoles as these are sticky.
While the room in the toe box was perfect, they were too roomy in the midfoot and heel. I tried a higher volume insole which helped a little. Then a couple of different lacing schemes, which might have help a little more, but not enough. Oddly the shoes don’t come with a second eyelet at the top like most shoes do, so I’m going to try and install second eyelets to see if that will take a little slop out of them.
If I can make these fit, they will rock the rocks :)May 26, 2022 at 10:59 pm #3750424
Haven’t seen a Backpacker gear guide issue yet this year; but Outside, which bought the magazine, has put out a summer gear guide. Noticed a couple of low mids in the guide that I’d not seen, and that might fit me; including a Tecnica and a Keen that were much lighter than what I use now, and still had a WPB sock sewn into the lining. There may be other footwear in the article that might appeal to readers.Jun 17, 2022 at 11:12 am #3752428
Just a follow up. I tried on the tx3/4, scarpa approach shoes, akasha, damn near every salomon model and nothing fit my foot well. I like the feeling of the shoe to be flat like a board more or less. The only thing that sort of worked was the la sportiva wildcat but I was worried by the durability reviews and the extreme (for me) drop. I ended up grabbing bushidos and it’s been great so far!Jun 18, 2022 at 9:04 am #3752712PaulWBPL Member
@peweg8Locale: Western Colorado
I only recently found that if I went up 2 sizes I can fit into the Ultra Raptors and they have turned out to be a great off-trail shoe. I can’t speak to longevity yet, but they perform really well on the technical stuff I get into here on the Colorado plateau. I found they fit quite similarly to the Wildcats. I passed on the Wildcats due to the durability issues you mentioned. The Ultra Raptors, V1, have a 9mm drop vs 12mm for the Wildcats which was another factor in my decision.Jun 18, 2022 at 9:39 am #3752728JohanBPL Member
You’re pretty much SOL for approach shoes if those options didn’t work.
Here’s another idea, just get a different pair of trail runners.
I have the Topo Terraventure 3 shoes. While not approach shoes, they are a lot better off-trail than my Altra shoes (but not as good as my TX3s). They have Megagrip and a tread pattern that works well in loose stuff. The wide toe box is similar to Altra shoes.
Might also be worth looking into insoles that are completely flat? I find that swapping insoles completely changes every shoe or boot I used.Jun 18, 2022 at 10:25 am #3752741Murali CBPL Member
On the SHR, three of us used 3 different La Sportiva’s. I used La Sportiva Lycan’s which I am not sure if they make it anymore. I usually get 1000 miles out of these. They are wide and have very good cushioning. One of the the other guys used Mutant – which I also tried at trails nearby. Mutant is really really good. The other guy used Ultra Raptors which I found to be too stiff and was giving me some knee issues after long hikes. I like Lycan’s the best and second was Mutant. I have used Inov’s and thought they were not as durable as La Sportiva’s.
I love Lycan’s so much that I have been hoarding a few pairs as they are stopping to make them.Jun 25, 2022 at 9:19 am #3753629
Just a follow up. I had to bail on an off trail route in part because of bad conditions but also because I got some pretty bad blisters than needed treatment. In total I developed 8 which is not normal at all for me. It probably was the bushidos as I could feel my feet move subtly even though much less than any other shoe I’ve ever used and I’ve never had blisters really. Other factors were the terrain was rough, lots of dirt ended up in the shoes, it was too cold and cloudy to wash/dry clothes and then a sustained snow/ice/rain storm that soaked everything. So bad luck. But I had one blister day 1 (none on prior day hikes) and then progressively each day. So now I’m a bit back to the drawing board since sloppy alturas never gave me these kinds of problems?Jun 25, 2022 at 9:54 am #3753631Murali CBPL Member
I find the Bushido’s to be thin/soft…I used them on the JMT and could feel the ground. On my subsequent hikes, I have been using Lycan which has lots of cushionining on both on trail and off trail and swear by them. But, they are being discontinued I think. I use Injinji socks and then Rockywoods Gore tex liner and then actually my Lycan GTX:-) Never had blisters – touch wood. Also my feet and socks are so clean it looks like I have not hiked a single mile and just got my feet out of a spa. I have used this setup even in Arizona heat on the AZT, SHR, PCT-Washington etc.
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