New Options for the Fleet of Foot
By Karen Berger
Illustrations By John R. Fulton, Jr.
Durable, lightweight, and comfortable, these trekking shoes and sandals may eliminate your need for old-fashioned waffle-stompers.
When hikers step into the backcountry, they want to protect their feet from rocks, puddles, mud, roots, and any other obstacles strewn in the path.
For decades, Scouts and leaders have laced their feet into a protective armor of heavy-duty hiking boots.
Today, there is a new generation of trekking shoes and sandals that weigh less, are more comfortable, and still provide adequate protection for your feet.
Trail sandals are excellent choices when hiking in varied terrain. They are especially versatile if your hike includes numerous river fords of the late-spring and early-summer snowmelt. Be sure any hiking sandals you choose have a snug fit, good arch support, and toe guards to protect you from rock and rubble.
Remember that grit and sand can accumulate in open sandal shoes and cause blisters. In cold or wet weather, some hikers combine sandals with Gore-Tex (or similar) socks to add warmth and reduce the chance of blisters.
Even though manufacturers have made great strides in footwear, don't throw away your old hiking boots. You will still need them if you:
- frequently haul heavy loads on rough terrain
- travel off-trail
- hike in tough weather
- have weak ankles.
But for most hikersespecially day hikers on well-marked trailsthe new breed of trekking shoes and sandals offer backcountry traction and support without the weight and discomfort of old-time waffle-stompers.
Founded in 2003, Keen combines the best features of sandals and shoes in designs that provide both comfort and stylish looks. (Top, right) The Taos fully encases and supports the foot without actually enclosing it. It offers the ease and ventilation of a sandal with the full protection of toes and heel. (Below, right) The Newport H2 is a true hybrid with waterproof uppers (capable of withstanding the abuse of saltwater and dirt) and a 3mm. lug rubber outsole for superior traction.
Need more spring in your step? Shock Doctor's Ultra2 footbed forms to the heel, midfoot, forefoot, and toe areas to provide maximum support and protection for walking, hiking, skiing, and snowboarding. Simply remove your old insoles and insert the Ultra2 footbed. Ultra2's composite materials actively absorb impact to reduce foot fatigue and joint pain. A deep cradle cup stabilizes the heel and helps reduce bone spurs.
Bite's "Orthosport" fit system helps people with difficult-to-fit feet customize their shoes. (Top, right) The Xtension 2 OS is a running sandal that can also be used for day hiking. (Below, right) The Accel RS features adjustable tabs and a locking mechanism that makes the sandal "remember" its fit.
Twenty years ago, Teva (pronounced Tay-vah) pioneered amphibious sports sandals that were a quick hit among kayakers and river runners. Their popularity soon spread to hikers, who used the sandals as camp shoes. (Top, left) The Steep XCR has a Gore-Tex lining and is designed for hiking in mixed terrain. (Below, left) The Ricochet Pro is a fully amphibious shoe, highly ventilated, quick-draining, secure, with a high-traction outsoleexcellent for hiking along slick riverbanks.
Known for its mountaineering and hiking boots, this German manufacturer also offers a wide selection of lighter hiking and trekking shoes. (Top, right) The Dragonfly XCR LO is a multisport shoe with Gore-Tex lining that can handle wet days as well. (Below, right) The Renegade II GTX LO is a quick-drying boot designed for day hiking in warm weathergood on trails where you want the support of a full-fledged shoe, without the weight and constriction.
Best known for its trekking, climbing, and ski boots, Tecnica now has a complete line of lighter outdoor shoes. (Top, left) The Torrent is more appropriate for warmer weather. It is an amphibious sandal shoe with good traction and drainage ports, so you can hike from river to trail without a second thought. (Below, left) The lightweight (1 1/2 pounds) Immersion FLT is a fully amphibious hiking boot. The custom fit, shock-absorbing heel, drainage ports, and excellent traction make this a good choice for hiking on tricky riverine terrain.
Karen Berger's new book, Backpacking and Hiking (DK Publishing Inc.), is now available. Visit her Web site at www.hikerwriter.com.
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