Ultralight Shoe Life
Feb 4, 2021 at 11:16 pm #3697493
So does anyone get miffed that we (UL hikers) are feeding a demand for short-lifespan footwear that will continue to waste resources and fill landfills? I personally own Lone Peaks and a couple pairs of Solomons, and feel they are poor performing shoes from an environmental standpoint. I read through a thru-hikers blog about his AT hike; he went through like 5 or 6 pairs of Altras. Maybe the members of this forum are a bit different, but when you have people like Darwin and his “give a shit” hype, then you look at what he has on his feet – I am sure he personally has thrown dozens of shoes into the garbage – it makes me wonder if we really do “give a shit”. We virtue signal about LNT practice, but then we have these buying habits that are the exact opposite of LNT. Am I off base? Maybe I am just a bit burned out on hyper-polarized rhetoric. I try to do my best to minimize my resource use in all aspects of life, mostly because I am cheap, but I get the feeling that most of the people grandstanding just are not being very consistent when I see these kinds of disconnects. Shoe choice is just one thing worth picking on.Feb 4, 2021 at 11:26 pm #3697494Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
I’m super happy you brought this up.
I am on a quest right now to find a durable yet “light enough” hiking shoe.
Honestly, at this point, the difference between a 16 ounce shoe and a 10 ounce shoe is not going to make that much of a difference for me.
I still want zero drop, lots of cushion in the midsole, a relatively wide toebox, low water absorption and fast dry time, and a very durable sole.
A 16 ounce shoe that meets these criteria, does not yet exist in a form that will last 1000 miles and be able to be resoled.Feb 5, 2021 at 5:24 am #3697508
I don’t think you’re off-base at all; discarding shoes is one of my biggest concerns, and my hatred of it is the greatest reason that I don’t wear ultralight hiking shoes that only last a few miles before being so worn that they’re ineffective. Instead, I wear an actual, resole-able boot; much heavier, but in terms of my overall impact on resources and landfills, they’re very light. I’m more comfortable with that particular lightness than the actual weight on my feet.
Insofar as virtue signaling is concerned…well, here’s just one more reason to not do it: sometimes, you don’t know exactly how un-virtuous you really are. I don’t know that this can really be held against people, though, unless one is willing to do some soul- and dumpster-searching and then make lifestyle changes regarding whatever is discovered. Even then, it’s better to quietly make changes and educate others about how much we throw away in order to enjoy the outdoors. Shoes, food packaging, plastic bottles, and a ton of other small items that only last anywhere from a single trip to a single season… hikers generate a massive load of trash; we just usually think we’re better than others because we don’t pitch it on the side of the highway.
If you want to do an interesting experiment: see how long it takes you to fill up a five-gallon bucket with trash…even when you’re doing your best to reduce its generation. Take everything that you are going to throw away – bags, wrappers, foods, packaging, receipts, etc, etc. – and put it in one container. Be honest about it and you’ll be shocked at how quickly you run out of space.Feb 5, 2021 at 6:24 am #3697514James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Pretty much true. There are several examples where synthetics are questionable when replacing a more natural item. Shoes are simply a symptom of this. I have accepted heavier shoes (about 1#2) instead of 6oz lighter shoes for hiking. I have used Salomons, Merrells,Asics, etc. I think the last pair I got was the New Balance GTX’s. All gave me blisters and required me to adjust to them. Good leather (biodegradable and durable) will adjust to your feet. I haven’t gotten any blisters in a long time.
The leather in my Timberland mids is adjustable with oils, creams, and stretchers and they hold up about a one to one and a half years or around 3000+mi. Unfortunately the Vibram soles are generally not recycled, though this is certainly possible.
Many parts are not usually recycled. Brass eyelets, Spectra laces, foam padding, etc. Anyway, for between 1#2 and 1#6, a fairly well balanced shoe. IFF you have trouble with the weight, simply wear some 5pound ankle weights for a couple weeks out doing exercises. Of cours, this is you adjusting to the shoes…Feb 5, 2021 at 11:52 am #3697584Luke SchmidtBPL Member
How about a leather hiking shoe with a replaceable sole. Sorry not going back to big clumsy hiking boots.
Btw I’ve made partially worn out trail shoes work for multiple years of knocking around town. They aren’t as bad as some make them out to be if you aren’t thru hiking. I doubt the total waist is a lot more then a throw away vibram sole.Feb 5, 2021 at 12:23 pm #3697591David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Sense of scale, folks. Have a sense of scale.
How many petro-chemicals went into a 1-pound pair of running shoes? 2 or 3 pounds, perhaps?
How much gasoline do you burn in that 150-mile round trip to the trailhead? 20 pounds in a Prius. 40 pounds in a small SUV. And presumably the shoes last more than one trip, unlike that gasoline.
Buy a fuel-efficient car. Carpool when you can. Consider a local hike.
Buy/build a smaller, well-insulated, well-sealed house.
You’re not going to save the planet by recycling a dozen steel cans, especially if you drive a few miles to take them to the recycling center.
I agree it would be lovely if lightweight shoes lasted longer on the trail. Because of their cost and the bother of finding the same model that worked last time before it’s discontinued.
Tires are rated by their “treadwear”, their estimated life – it’s molded right into the sidewall.
Short of standardized testing, someone could scour thru-hiker blogs for data or we on BPL could start a thread and self-report trail miles for different models. A shoe that averages 800 miles might start to sell better than one that’s toast after 450. I used to happily pay more for Michelin tires that gave 40-45,000 miles versus Firestones and off-brand ones that only lasted 20-25,000. (Now, I get fancy Finnish metal-studded snow tires cause, you know, moose).Feb 5, 2021 at 12:25 pm #3697592
sometimes, you don’t know exactly how un-virtuous you really are
i think you are much more kind than I would be in my assessment. I think there are a lot of people genuinely trying their best to do what they can. Then there are others who jump on whatever environmental bandwagon is popular, while maintaining a wasteful consumer lifestyle, not giving it a second thought, or worse yet, giving the second thought, and then rationalizing their position while not giving other people the option to do the same if it comes in conflict with their pet convictions.
As for going back to heavy hiking boots, I think there really are good options out there for long lasting shoes that will do the job. I am just bummed that there is so much demand by consumers for a product which actively leaves the LNT principle on the trail.
Bonzo, what shoes do you use that are able to be resoled? That is a relative oddity in today’s throw-away consumer landscape.Feb 5, 2021 at 1:22 pm #3697604JohnBPL Member
@johnnyh88Locale: The SouthWest
Even if my trail runners could be resoled, I wouldn’t bother. At the point the tread has worn out, the midsole is dead and the uppers are looking pretty bad. I never used a pair of boots I liked – most are too stiff, too narrow, have a high heel-toe drop, have an unnecessarily high stack height, don’t breathe well, slow to dry, etc…problems go on.
I tried a pair of Danner 2650 shoes – those probably came closest, but my feet can’t do a high heel-toe drop any more.Feb 5, 2021 at 2:07 pm #3697613
Bonzo, what shoes do you use that are able to be resoled?
I don’t use a shoe at all; I use one of those heavy, clumsy hiking boots that everyone hates… everyone that doesn’t have ankle issues, at least. It may seem counterintuitive, but that little bit of flexible leather and solid support for my foot help me avoid injuries, and it keeps me moving steadily and comfortably for longer than I could go in trail runners. And they’re nice in the snow, too.
Sense of scale, folks. Have a sense of scale.
No arguments on those points, man, but none of that stuff has a great deal to do with the shoe question. They’re all relevant topics within the greater issue, but they represent…well, I guess it would be a subjective appeal to severity, perhaps? “Action X isn’t really that bad compared to Action Y”….which can be used to either justify or dismiss all kinds of things. False analogy, maybe? Either way, I agree with most of what you said. 👍Feb 5, 2021 at 2:56 pm #3697622
I also don’t argue with those suggestions, but to me, it seems disingenuous to say “it is ok for us to waste resources in this area, because the impact isn’t as big as this other thing”. Do you know how much petrochemical product, globally, is being used to replace shoes that wear out quickly? I did a precursory search for the market size of athletic shoes; one site states a 2017 market value of $64B (https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/athletic-footwear-market). I am sure the scale is very important when comparing it to other markets, but BPL folks take pride in “minding the ounces and watching the pounds fall off”. I am not sure if the athletic footwear industry set a collective goal of increasing the durability of their products, if it would result in all people buying and trashing fewer shoes, but it would likely reduce waste by a decent chunk. Every little bit counts.Feb 5, 2021 at 3:48 pm #3697633Brett ABPL Member
From this…to 5 or 6 pairs of Altras. Maybe Bonzo and James are right. Though, my feet hurt just looking at ’em.Feb 5, 2021 at 4:05 pm #3697636
Haha. Those were probably comfy for the guy wearing them. Heavy, though.Feb 5, 2021 at 4:16 pm #3697639Brett ABPL Member
I’ve stuck with Merrell Moabs only because I’m paranoid of switching to anything else. No more foot issues but the durability isn’t any better. Maybe 400 mi. I re-purpose them for yard work, car camping, etc. Seems criminal to pay more than $100/pr and not get more trail-life out of them.Feb 5, 2021 at 5:29 pm #3697644Mark VerberBPL Member
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
My first criteria is “it works”. I have spend most of my life wearing shoes that hurt me. More than 15 years ago I discovered zero drop minimalist shoe (vivobarefoot and then inov-8) which was literally life changing because I could walk for more than 10 miles without having to manage pain. If I have to replace my shoes every 300 miles… well that’s just the cost of doing things I love.
Of course, I hate what seems to be the waste. This year I picked up a pair of Xero TerraFlex because they have a 5000 mile guarantee for their soles. I was hoping for a pair of shoes to last a year rather than using a number each year. I put my Alta and Merrill Vapor Gloves away. The experiment was delayed when I got plantar fasciitis for the first time in my life and switched back to my Altas as a reference point. Recovery has been slow. Once I am 100% will restart the experiment see the lifespan of TerraFlex and to try and figure out if they were a contributing cause to my plantar fasciitis.Feb 5, 2021 at 6:10 pm #3697657
I agree that a tools utility should always be of paramount importance.
This thread was meant to shine a light on what seems to be an area in need of some improvement by us as a large group of people who are already seemingly on board with the notion of conservation. I acknowledge that everyone here will have different levels of what they feel is appropriate, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t always strive to reduce our impact where we can. The shoe industry will always make whatever we say we want (with our $$&, of course). If we can convince them we are willing to pay more for a higher quality, longer lasting shoe in this lightweight category, they will try to make it. 400 miles does not seem like it should ever have been a reasonable life span.
These shoes haven’t even seen 50 miles of trails yet… I’ll keep wearing them until they become a nuisance, but shoes have been around long enough that stuff like this should even be a thing anymore.Feb 5, 2021 at 8:14 pm #3697674
I’m not going to say that I’m “right” because that’s a blanket analysis of a very abstract moral conclusion, and I’m not a fan of blankets or moral conclusions… but I know what works for me, and I’ve found a way to make that discovery less-impacting to the places in which I find myself. Moreover, the boots feel good; I get more than a few scornful looks from the UL crowd, trailside, but I’ve learned to ignore the judgement…and every once in awhile, I succeed in avoiding judgement, myself.Feb 5, 2021 at 9:24 pm #3697679HkNewmanBPL Member
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
Probably the true test as the shoe gets continuous pounding (the military with its heavy boots have troops switch everyday fwiw). Gait and lower body conditioning could alter perpetrations. Many hikers only get 300 miles, while others maybe over 1000 (far fewer). Then there’s reports of a select one or 2 who find a discarded pair in the hiker box and then put another 1000 miles using tapes, glues, and maybe voodoo.Feb 6, 2021 at 4:33 am #3697705John S.BPL Member
Get trailrunners with vibram soles and shoe goo the exposed stitches.Feb 6, 2021 at 5:03 am #3697706Jon SolomonBPL Member
Have a look at Joe Nimble Wander Toes.
Zero drop, very durable, lightweight, leather (they also make vegan alternatives), good tread.
Also happens to be the first shoe I’ve worn that remain effectively waterproof for multi-week trips. And they don’t feel stuffy to my sensitive feet.
I’m really happy with them.Feb 6, 2021 at 6:58 am #3697712
Joe Nimble…interesting shoe concept, there. I’ll have to give those a try.Feb 7, 2021 at 8:04 pm #3697994Ethan A.BPL Member
@mountainwalkerLocale: SF Bay Area & New England
I wouldn’t use Altras for these reasons (durability and sustainability) and have stayed away from Topo shoes, which tend to have roomy toe boxes, because I kept hearing about them falling apart prematurely. Hopefully Topo is improving.
If you want more options for more durable shoes, consider expanding your criteria to 4mm drop shoes. That’s a tiny drop. Two models of Saucony Xodus (4mm drop) trail shoes each gave me use equal to many pairs of Altras (haven’t worn the current model). For reference I weigh 170-175lbs, so I’m not the lightest but not the heaviest user.
@Mark Verber, I felt similarly moving from traditional high-drop narrower toe box running shoes to low drop (4mm) roomier toe box running shoes. Try using the Xero TerraFlex with a thin, flat (no-drop) insole – I highly recommend the Spenco Rx Comfort Insoles, $11. They have no hard parts to force your foot into a new shape and are only 4mm thick, yet provide significant cushioning and are incredibly long lasting. I met Steven, the founder of Xero and he shared that many people use their Xeros with a cushioned insole. He’s a runner himself and lives in running-crazy Boulder. Super nice guy. I also use them in my business casual shoes and in my old trail shoes that I repurposed for indoor rowing.
Also, a sudden change to insole shape and cushioning can cause plantar fasciitis. I experienced it after running in a new pair of shoes that fit well but which had fresh cushioning that felt very different than my previous worn pair, so kept my mileage lower until I was used to them.
@David Thomas, agreed about keeping a sense of scale. For example, buying a used vehicle or appliance can be a more sustainable choice than a newer, more efficient one. However, getting people to prioritize durability and sustainability and demand these from makers is a good thing. If Saucony can make a trail shoe that lasts +5 pairs of Altra, the technology exists for Altra and others to do much much better.Apr 16, 2021 at 12:23 am #3709075
curious if there are enough runners willing to spend the $200 for the opportunity to recycle their shoes. It doesn’t seem like Salomon has a detailed plan for how they intend to actually recycle “maybe we can turn them into ski-boot shells” – I kinda feel like they dropped that ball. I hope to see something good come out of this though, even if the project flops .Apr 16, 2021 at 8:38 am #3709087HkNewmanBPL Member
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
Going back on this thread..
How about a leather hiking shoe with a replaceable sole. Sorry not going back to big clumsy hiking boots
There is (or at least was until recently) user resoled leather approach shoes. The soles were a certain type that would be sticky iirc. I’d have gone for them but they felt very narrow.Apr 17, 2021 at 6:45 pm #3709298Geoff CaplanBPL Member
@geoffcaplanLocale: Lake District, Cumbria
Yes – it’s worth checking out the Joe Nimble range.
They have excruciating names and pretty excruciating prices, but I picked up a pair of the NimbleToes Trail in a sale a few years back, and they have outlasted my other trail shoes by a considerable margin. In fact they are still going strong and I just used them on a tough off-piste walk today.
They are hand-sewn in their own facility in India, and have replaceable soles. The materials seem superior, and they have been problem-free for hundreds of miles. The most comfortable walking shoe I’ve ever owned, and because they are foot-shaped (what a radical idea!) they actually fit my broad, high-volume feet true to size.
They also offer an interesting range of inserts, including an innovative corrugated steel rock-plate that works surprisingly well. Because there is plenty space in the shoe, it offers the opportunity to adapt it to different terrain by using a quiver of insoles – adding padding and rock protection as required.
BUT, the Vibram outsole is very poor in the wet. Lacks grip on slick rock, and the minimal lugs are hopeless on wet grass or mud. So dry weather use only, which in UK conditions is a major limitation! On the upside, the outsole is lasting extremely well.
My only other complaint – the lacing system isn’t the best at locking the shoe to the mid-foot.
They seem to be addressing the outsole issue in the latest range. They are now offering the leather WanderToes 2 boot and the synthetic NimbleToes Trail Addict shoe with a new Michelin sole boasting more versatile lug design and a stickier compound. It now becomes a serious contender for long distance walking. The high price should be offset by the longer life, and if you are patient they have occasional sales.
Unfortunately the colourway for the Trail Addict is absolutely hideous – what were they thinking??Apr 18, 2021 at 12:13 pm #3709360
I think most companies offering colorways like this genuinely believe they look good. I think those of us like you and me must be in the minority, otherwise they would stop this immediately after a round of poor sales. Maybe they have stats showing the louder colors increases sales for all the colorways.
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