Walking The HR: Kit Essentials – Footwear

TMB 2005 - Coming up to the Rifugio Bertone  

“Suitable” footwear – What’s “suitable”? To me and to an increasing number of others it’s “approach shoes” or even “trail running shoes“.

The difference between having lightweight well designed approach shoes and clunky old leather boots is amazing. A pair of these can make the largest immediate difference to how easy I find it to move about – except perhaps for not carrying a pack!

Ask anyone that’s been with me recently in South Wales – I’ve started running up hills (with a pack on) for no apparent reason. It’s just such a pleasure, and I don’t normally enjoy running.

This isn’t some crack-pot idea used only by a few crazed thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail. One of the foremost advocates of the use of approach shoes for summer and winter (using “mid” height versions) is Chris Townsend. Who, apart from having a truly awe inspiring amount of walking experience in all conditions has just become head of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (congratulations Chris!). Someone whose opinion it’s therefore hard to dismiss.

I used approach shoes the first time I did half the TMB in 2003 but for some reason persuaded myself to go back to boots until this summer. I’ve got a pair of Montrail Hurricane Ridge XCRs but it’s a bit of a hard choice between them and the Keen Targhee IIs for me (LB has a pair that she loves).

However, there’s no way to be sure without trying them on. Remember to bring any insoles like Superfeet that you might use! Even then, walking around the shop isn’t enough, you must try to hammer your toes into the front of them by stomping down a slope (any good shop outdoor shop should have one).

It’s also vital to try walking across a slope (the edge of some stairs with someone’s shoulder below you to steady you will do it). You need to let your ankles start to “turn over” and see if the cuff starts to push hard into your foot just below your ankle. Almost any shoe will do this to some extent so it can be hard to judge. But if it’s quickly uncomfortable then beware, a few kilometres of walking could bruise and/or blister it.

Finally, like anything else, remember to check for stitch faults in the pair you decide on. I was surprised to find a bad one in a pair of Montrails that I got from Snow & Rock (who replaced it of course – but they also have a three month “half your money back if they don’t fit” policy that applies no matter how much you’ve worn them).


5 Replies to “Walking The HR: Kit Essentials – Footwear”

  1. Think it’s still 3 season boots for me, just to boost the weight up a little ;)
    Actually for 2 weeks walking my approach shoes just don’t fit well enough and i can’t find any that fit well :(

  2. Yeah approach shoes can still fit badly just like boots. LB had to take back a pair of Scarpas but has found the Targhees very comfy.

    And someone else who’s coming on the HR with us always has a nightmare with any kind of walking footwear. Buying some approach shoes (mids as it happens) hasn’t solved it… but I still have hope there’s something out there that will.

    Obviously I’d say it’s well worth being persistent when looking for appoach shoes since once you have them they beat boots every time!

  3. Did you notice any difference in breathability between the Keens and the Montrails?
    In theory the eVent in the Keens should breath better but in reality the surface area in shoes is so small compared with clothing that you might no be able to recognize it.

  4. Well I’ve only been able to try the Keens in the shop so far, but LB thinks they may actually be slightly warmer than her old Scarpa Ranger boots.

    But she’s so pleased with the comfort and weight she’s willing to take that.

    But as to the breathability – I reckon that even if the Montrails are less breathable from their textile panels for having the Gore Tex than the Keens are with their eVent – the Montrails will still be more breathable overall simply because there’s not very much textile and lots of rubber panels on the Targhees.

    That being said… who knows – with the astonishing ability of eVent to chuck out moisture there may not be as much in it as I imagine.

    I’d still like a pair of the Keens regardless!

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