What is the optimal backpacking footwear for high routes, Alaska, and early-season conditions? Each year I field this question from dozens of clients, so here I’d like to provide a list of proven winners (and a few losers). These recommendations are relevant to anyone planning a trip to similar locations or in similar conditions, whether it be private or guided.
Footwear is extremely personal, and what works for me or for another backpacker will not necessarily work for you. My recommendation is to try on a half-dozen pairs at a well stocked local retailer, or order multiple pairs from an online retailer and keep only the pair that fits and feels best.
High routes, Alaska, and early-season conditions place very similar demands on footwear. Key requirements include:
- Durable materials and construction, to withstand extensive abrasion from rocks and brush, plus perhaps constant wetness;
- Aggressive and sticky outsole, for good purchase on rock and vegetation, sometimes slick and often uneven;
- Semi-stiff underfoot carriage, for easier edging on steep slopes and sidehills, and for efficient kicking of steps in spring snow;
- Breathable/non-waterproof upper, so that they expel water quickly after creek crossings, dry out relatively quickly, and prevent the foot from overheating; and,
- Stability on uneven ground, by having a low-to-moderate stack height to lower the foot’s center of gravity.
In order of approximate last width, from narrowest to widest:
La Sportiva Bushido II ($130, 10.5 oz) is my personal longtime favorite — it checks all the necessary boxes and has little room for improvement. However, it has a very narrow last — the narrowest in La Sportiva’s entire line, in fact — so it’ll be confining for those with average and wide feet. My full review.
Salomon X Alpine Pro ($160, 10.9 oz) is my second pick. Versus the Bushido, it’s more cushioned, less stiff, and a bit roomier. For me, it excels on adventure runs and trail hikes, less so for technical off-trail backpacking trips. But for many others, it will be more comfortable than the Bushido. The Quick Laces may fray in gritty environments. My full review.
Salomon X-Ultra 3 ($120, 13 oz) is the top pick of Dave Eitemiller, one of our guides who has used them in Alaska and on high routes in the Winds, Yosemite, and Colorado Rockies. For him, the Bushido are simply too narrow. The X-Ultra 3 has an aggressive and hard-wearing outsole, and a durable upper with a bit more padding than the aforementioned models. Like the X Alpine Pro, they feature Quick Laces.
La Sportiva Ultra Raptor ($130, 12 oz) fit and perform similarly to the X-Ultras. The upper feels almost boot-like, with a lot of structure and protection that can be can be unforgiving on feet if the fit is not quite right. The outsole is very sticky, but the smaller lugs wear quickly and are not as well suited for mud and vegetation.
Salomon XA Pro 3D ($130, 13 oz) has one serious flaw: its insoles absorb water, and when wet they fold underfoot like an accordion. But this can be overcome, and otherwise they’re a good choice: they’re made well, and have good edging and traction. The fit is perhaps marginally wider than the Ultra Raptor and X-Ultra.
Update (Aug 2020), per Anthony S: “The XA Pro 3D and the XA Pro 3D v8 are meaningfully different. Salomon replaced the plastic lacing grommets with fabric webbing loops, which failed on me after three hard days. Off-camber moves like talus and the like placed too much stress on the webbing and began to abrate through it.”
La Sportiva Mutant ($135, 10.7 oz) are the least rigid of this group, and among the widest. The laces should be swapped out immediately (at least for the 2019 production pairs), but otherwise the durability is very good. The burrito-style lacing system was universally applauded — it creates a sock-like fit.
La Sportiva Akyra ($140, 11.3 oz) is perhaps the burliest model on this page, with a very durable upper, very aggressive outsole, and very stiff carriage. It’s best suited for technical hiking and scrambling in drier environments — its dry time is exorbitantly slow. Fit is medium/wide. For more details, read this review from u/LowellOlson.
The shoes below look and sound promising, based on paper specs and reader feedback (see the comments at the bottom of this page, and read this r/UL thread). But I’ll reserve judgement until using or seeing them in the field first-hand.
- Altra King Mountain
- Inov-8 Trailroc and Roclite
- La Sportiva Akasha
- Scarpa Neutron
Lowa Innox Pro Lo ($175, 12.5 oz) is the most scaled-down version of the Innox, which is also available as a waterproof low-cut, mid-cut, and waterproof mid-cut. I recently received a pair, specifically to test them out for this application, but have no feedback yet.
Trail shoes that don’t make the cut
Conventional on-trail itineraries put both different and fewer demands on footwear. For example, whereas footwear optimized for off-trail footwear will have a stiff-ish midsole and tapered toebox for edging and precise control, footwear better suited for on-trail hiking will have generous cushioning and a wider toebox for more all-day comfort. Also, on-trail hiking does no require the materials and construction to be as bomber.
Altra Lone Peak 4.5 ($125, 10.5 oz) is the unofficial footwear of thru-hikers, who appreciate its extra wide toebox and generously cushioned 25mm stack height when putting in long days on well maintained trails. But the Lone Peak falters off-trail — the toebox is too wide for precise lateral control, and the midsole is too soft for holding edges. The Lone Peak 4.0 and 4.5 are more durable than their predecessors, but still lacking for these conditions.
La Sportiva Wildcat ($110, 12.4 oz) is the all-mesh sibling of the Ultra Raptor, with which it shares the same last and outsole. It’s a fine trail shoe and the pinch-free upper is more comfortable than that of the Ultra Raptor, but it’s abrasion-resistance is sub-par.
Brooks Cascadia 14 ($130, 10.7 oz) and Saucony Peregrine 10 ($120, 10.7 oz) are both time-tested trail running and backpacking shoes, but they’re less suitable for than other referenced models, lacking the durability and low-to-the-ground design. If you can’t find or test another model you like, stick with these, but don’t expect to wear them for another trip afterwards.
Leave a comment!
- What shoes have (not) worked for you for high routes, Alaska, and early-season conditions?
- What models are you curious about that are not on this list? I’ll try to speculate, or perhaps another reader can chime in.
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Tags: Alaska, Altra, Early-Season Conditions, High Routes, La Sportiva, Recommended Gear, Salomon
As a climber it is hard for me to imagine kicking steps with any of those shoes. When you say “efficient kicking of steps in spring snow”, your expected snow conditions must always be very soft snow.
This is not mountaineering. Spring snow in the Rockies and High Sierra is usually plenty soft by 8 or 9 AM, depending on slope aspect. If you want to get on steep snow earlier than that, then bring some traction.
The Akasha’s are excellent. They’re the most cushioned LS shoe I’ve used and feel relatively plush (not Salomon plush, but LS plush), and are still stiff underfoot with a solid toecap and durable materials. Only durability concern I have had is roughing up the fabric right behind the little toe (my foot bulges there and i tend to scrape that up a lot). Still only about half worn through in that spot after about 300 miles of rough trail/14er scrambling though. Everything else is dirty and beaten up but otherwise unharmed. Tread down to about 1/3 thickness in the most worn areas. Still sticky.
How do you find the dry time is with the Akashas? It’s difficult to tell, but when looking at them compared to the Akyras, I’d think the dry time would be slow if not slower than the already slow Akyras.
I have wide feet and these look like a solid option, but the dry time is concerning as I’m in the NE and shoes get wet and muddy regularly. Most of the time they just stay that way so maybe it’s not a big deal!
I probably don’t have the best answer for that, sorry. I’m in CO and pretty much anything that’s not gtx or a boot dries reasonably fast here. (Even the speedcross 5’s i used last season dried reasonably quickly for me, and they have high sidewalls that keep water from low puddles out, but also keep it in). I’d say the akashas are average. They have relatively burly construction, so they’re not gonna dry in ten minutes or anything like that, but there’s plenty of non-rubbery fabrics and the lower sidewalls by the toes actually let you squish a bunch of water out the sides while walking. I certainly didn’t find them to be clammy or anything. If you keep getting wet all day I wouldn’t expect them to dry out completely in between, you’d probably have to go with a lighter weight shoe for that.
La Spo. Akasha dry time is very fast. I normally run in an area with numerous creek crossings and shoes get wet most of the time. The mesh structure in the upper releases water quickly and efficiently. I live in Brisbane, Australia so climate is hotter than in the northern hemisphere, not sure if this factor helps in the drying time of the shoe. I run normally in temperatures ranging from 18 to 32 deg. C.
Hope this helps!
I’ve been training for Alaska in a pair of Altra King MT 2 and I’ve been impressed so far. I’ve used both the 1 and 1.5 iterations in the past and thought those were pretty mediocre. This latest design has been great: sticky outsole, durable upper, excellent drainage, low stack. I run primarily in Altra Superiors and the King MT 2 feels like a more rigid, secure, and less squishy version of the Superior. The fit is very similar between the two, which means it fits differently than the Lone Peak.
I can’t seem to find a pair of La Sportiva or Salomon that fit my feet, which has been frustrating.
Scarpa and LS often fit different kinds of feet. Could also try Dynafit. In my experience Salomon has lots of different fits, but I dunno. The new Speedcross 5’s are magic (not the most optimal for scrambling, but they still work, and they are definitely optimal for off trail mixed mud/rock/undergrowth).
I’ve had a pair each of Altra King Mountain 1 and 1.5s. The grip was very good on both. The toebox is roomy but I was still happy enough doing light scrambling in them. I did find them to wear out extremely quickly. Both pairs developed holes in the front of the shoe near the upper/lower seam that let rocks, dirt, twigs, etc. in within maybe 250 miles of mostly on-trail travel. I switched back to Cascadias for my latest pair of shoes for more durability of the upper. I would not recommend the King Mountains for off-trail use just due to the lack of durability.
I have a bit of a love hate relationship with the King Mt 2. I’ve worn them for maybe 400+ miles and they are definitely falling apart at this point. In terms of fit, they are narrower and lower volume than the Lone Peak, but I did need to go a full size up on length (which is typical for me in any Altras). For comfort, they have a low stack height, and fairly little cushioning compared to other shoes I’ve worn off trail (Peregrine 6, 7, 8, ISO, Lone Peak 3.5, Salomon Sense Pro 3, etc). I didnt find this to be an issue, and the nearly full length rock plate adds some extra protection. I really like the velcro strap, and feel like it comfortably locks your foot in, and helps with the usual high-volume feel with Altras. I can’t really speak to how fast they dry…I hike in the desert and don’t think I’ve even hiked with these in the rain or snow…I would assume they dry fast based on the venting and low profile mesh, tongue, and padding.
My main issue was durability. Granted 400 miles is more than I expected, but the Vibram Litebase Megagrip soles have been the biggest failure. Holes in the flat areas between lugs in the sole go down all the way through the rubber to the rock plate/midsole under both the heel and big toe. This means that the plastic rock plate will stick out of the rubber, tearing itself further on each step. The upper has been surprisingly durable, the mesh is lightweight and only has holes in high wear areas like next to the pinky toe. I did cover all the seams with aqua seal before using these, and that helped a bunch with durability! The only seams which are starting to come apart are on the toe box/guard.
These have primarily been worn for off trails trips in very rocky, steep, a d sharply vegetated terrain in the Grand Canyon and Guadalupe Mountains, including lots of caving, canyoneering, backpacking, day hiking, and a thru hike of the Guadalupe Ridge Trail.
Have you ever tried Topo Athletic Shoes (Ultraventure, Terraventure)?
I have not, and I don’t think I’ve seen any of my clients with them either.
Topos are also having quite a wide toe box and a low heel, but they seem to be stiffer and sturdier built than the Altras, and may thus offer more control (in the steep) and wear resistance. Founded only in 2013, they’re not very well known yet. I’d like to test them.
Flirting with high route planning. I was wondering if topos have come across your bows for this application in the last few years since this post? T.I.A. if you have time for any response.
Would you use the same criteria for shoes for hinge-season trips in the New Hampshire White Mountains? Or are western high routes so much more demanding that you would be comfortable with one of the “thru-hiker shoes” instead?
I like the fit and feel of the Keen trail shoes I bought from REI, but they have not held up in durability even on typical trails in northern New England.
(I’m wondering if a high route is even possible to define in the East…)
The northeast is definitely tough on shoes — lots of rocks, roots, mud, water. So all of these shoes would work pretty well for that area.
But typically you’re following trails, and some of these shoes can be a little thin for extensive trail hiking (especially rocky trails). So maybe look at some of the more cushioned suggestions.
“Hinge-season” is a term I picked up from Chip Rawlins in Complete Walker 4. It refers to the time that things are shifting from late-winter to early-spring, or from late-fall to early-winter. It’s the time when you are on the edge of “3-season” backpacking, but not in full winter conditions.
I definitely prefer more cushioned shoes, as well as thick socks. And I agree that northeastern mountain hiking is hard on shoes, even on the trails.
Does anyone have info/experience with TopoAthletic shoes? On paper it seems like the Terraventure 2 would be the most suited for backpacking but I’d be curious about other models as well..
Thanks Andrew for the great list!
Due to bunions I have to have the Altra style wide toe box; and coming from a mountaineering/climbing background I prefer to use trails only as transport to more interesting terrain. Also, low effort/high miles really hurts my feet.
In other words, I just deal with all the shortcomings of the Altra, such as wobbly, imprecise, overly soft, poor thread and durability. And it’s not that bad. Trailrunners are trailrunners. Once decided on that type of footwear it’s all the same, more or less. Experience and familiarity on rock and ice makes up for a lot of gear compromises too.
Hi, yes I have 2 pairs of Topo Athletic. Never tried the Terraventure 2, but just got the MTN Racer and they are fabulous. I wore them on a 17 mile hike up and down 4 peaks in the Bay Area and they excelled scrambling up and down. Maybe consider ordering several pairs to try and keep the ones you like. They are a great new company.
I used the Solomon XA Pro 3D’s for a decade until they updated the tongue a few years ago and it annoyed me enough to try other shoes. I settled on the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor and they fit like a glove. My only complaint is the outsole wears VERY fast on granite, and they feel less stable than the Solomons (though I think the stack height is the same which is odd). I’ve tried the Bushido’s but they just didn’t fit my feet right – they seem to be narrow overall but wider in the heel than the Ultra Raptors as my heels get blisters in the Bushido’s and not the Raptors. I have a very narrow heel and the Raptors work well with that.
That’s a nice list of shoes overall. I’ve used the Solomons in Brooks Range (wet feet for 11 days) and off trail in the Sierra, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wind River, and the Ultra Raptors on the Wind River High Route, in Wrangell St. Elias, and a section of the Sierra High Route. I’m planning on wearing them on the Southern Sierra High Route in August if we’re able to travel by then.
Another vote for the Topo Mtn Racer. It will eat up hard side hilling and the vibram grip is very good. I think it’s a good option for for people that need the toebox width but also has a strong upper.
As far as prospects for inov-8, I’l lean towards the Roclite over the Trailroc. I like running in the Trailroc but the lugs are quite small and I feel you’d have some issues with mesh durability upfront. Super comfortable, just not a lot of protection with the mesh. Roclite is a little more structured with an outsole more capable for off trail mud and vegetation.
Love my Lone Peaks, but 100% agree that they’re not off-trail material (as much as I’d like them to be). I’m excited to see what you think of the Lowa’s, as they look pretty much like an ideal shoe for me but I haven’t quite had enough reason to buy them yet.
If you love the LP’s I don’t think you’ll like the Lowas, which fit me (like Mr. Bushido me) well in the toebox and perhaps a little loosely around the midfoot and heel.
Interesting. The LP’s are my go-to for long non-technical trail days when my feet have a tendency to swell up, but my favorite trail running shoes of all time are the Salomon Sense Pro line because I like the precision of the fit. That’s a quality I feel like I need in anything I’m taking off trail (too much sliding around in Altras), so the Lowas may still end up with a place in my closet. I think I might be in a bit of a minority who loves the ultra-wide and ultra-narrow, just at different times.
I love the bushido’s, I have a semi wide foot, but i relace the shoes and skip the first and sometimes second rung of the shoe (works for me), and for how narrow it is, my feet seem fine. Though, I have not used these for long distance hiking (i usually use sandals on trails, or wider toe box) so I have not experienced my feet swelling and I probably wont use them if they do swell to a size bigger.
But off trail, they are my go to shoe!
Like other the King MTs (1.5) worked well until the uppers developed sudden, near catastrophic rips. Never had tears large enough to sew up shoes in the field with anything else.
Using an older Adidas at the moment (closest current thing seems to be the Agravic XT) and so far so good. All conditions traction on par with Bushido, good dry time and durability. A hair wider overall but still fairly skinny.
Used the Lone Peak 4 mid-mesh on my PCT hike last year, they fit my wide feet, zero blisters. Got about 500 miles per pair … but the rocks/lava hurt. Salomon, La Sportiva just don’t fit my wide forefoot, which gets wider with the miles. Still searching for alternatives
BTW I also have a very narrow heel (triangle feet) and can get a lot of friction on steep uphills, the mid helped lock down the heel.
I wonder why we don’t see a wide forefoot option from other brands, not enough market share?
Neil – I have the same problem. It seems I’m floating between a 2E and 4E now – but I continue to purchase 2E that may be a 1/2 size to big for hiking / scrambling – as long as I dont expect any 4th or 5th class climbing.
Have you tried the Hoka One One Speedgoats? The Hoka ATR 5s fit amazingly well, but they dont last worth a damn.
It’s funny to me how people can come to two very different conclusions about the durability of the same shoe. I’ve run 549 miles in the ATR 5’s, and they still have some miles left (600-650 probably before they’re too worn for me).
Thanks! I’ll try a pair on once things open up. I’ve always heard that the Hokas were narrow but never tried a pair on.
I updated my post with more info. Hopefully it is useful to others.
La Sportiva is coming out with the TX Guide. Almost by default this should be added to your list. The only question will be sizing and if it follows La Sportiva’s general narrow fit.
The Bushidos didn’t fit me well (I checked the size on my order history and I had sized-up plenty) and I’ve never liked the feel of Salomon’s lace-up system. But all of these suggestions are either La Sportiva or Salomon, so I’m not sure what to try. In general Brooks fits me well.
The Bushido’s are really, really narrow. They’re known as being representative of narrow shoes.
The Akyra, Wildcat, and XA Pro 3d will fit a foot with more volume. Guaranteed.
Innov-8 fits a more voluminous foot as well. Depends how far down the rabbit hole of ordering, returning, and fine tuning you want to go.
Thanks Lowell. fyi, I have narrow, low volume feet…it’s the bony back of of my heel that gets me. Anything that curves in too much at the too of the heel rubs wrong.
No experience in North America, but for off-trail backpacking in northern Scandinavia, Scotland and the Pyrenees I’ve used:
– Adidas Terrex Swift R2: Very burly but stiff uppers and stiff chassis, wide fit throughout, excellent grip on wet and soft ground (mud, moss, grass, tundra), durable outsoles, dense outer fabric keeps out most mud and debris, slow to dry, slightly harsh cushioning under heels, high stack, wide fit around heel can cause slippage, quicklace system less durable than Salomon’s.
– Salomon Outpath: Wide fit around forefoot, narrow fit around heel, durable and dense upper fabric keeps out mud and debris, stiff and sharp edge on outsoles improves edging in snow, seems to dry faster than Terrex Swift, low volume fit around midfoot not great for high arches, Ortholite insoles absorb a lot of water, good all-round grip pattern but better on rock than on soft soil.
– Salomon XA Pro 3D: Wide fit around forefoot, narrow around heel, open mesh lets in lots of debris and wind, lots of vulnerable stitching around forefoot, shallow lug pattern provides poor grip on soft or loose soil, better for on-trail hiking.
I have liked the Inov-8 Roclite 315 (except the first pair before they redesigned didn’t hold up). Had 2 more pairs after that (and still have one of those). They no longer make the 315 (at least not non-WP) so I now use the 295. I bought enough of those to hopefully last my lifetime. I wear them everyday as well (all black works well enough for business casual)!
Topo Athletic is definitely worth looking into. I’d recommend the Ultraventure. The Terraventure 2 is worth looking into also. As someone with wider feet, none of the suggested/ recommendations work for me. Salomon & La Sportiva shoes are uncomfortable for my foot profile.
Slightly off topic, but a word of warning: I do most of my hiking around the Ozarks, usually in a ‘light hiker’ style boot (that’s not the warning – wait for it). I didn’t have any experience hiking in trail runners, but boots made creek crossings a real pain. I knew enough to know you were supposed to take a gradual approach to a zero drop shoe, but I found a great deal on a ‘used once’ pair of Altra’s and thought, ‘surely those few millimeters can’t make THAT much of a difference!’ I was wrong. They were easily the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn, but I began experiencing knee pain, which I’d never had before. I’m not 100% sure it was the shoe, but I thought I’d throw that out there for those who want to make the switch to trail runners. If I could do it over, I’d pick something with a heel to toe drop that I was used to and transition to zero drop, as recommended, if that’s the type of shoe I still wanted to try.
As another user and Andrew mentioned, I find these shoes valuable for any rugged hiking, in my case off trail or minimally maintained NE trails as well as high routes and more traditional western mountain hiking.
I hike a lot of minimally maintained state lands in PA and WV and their profile is usually lots of roots, rocks, mud, overgrowth, brush and not much level land. I especially appreciate these shoes for side hilling on loose soil or fallen leaves.
I’ve had luck with the Salomon XA Pro 3D, but they’re a bit heavier and more “boot like” than I’d prefer. I’m going to try out the La Sportiva Akyra and Akasha to see if they’re a bit more nimble but their slow dry times are concerning.
I have slightly wider feet than most and a higher instep. (For reference, all La Sportivas
I’ve tried are too tight, especially the Bushido.) My previous go-to was the Inov-8 Roclite, which I can recommend; they easily check all the boxes. I am currently trying a pair of Altra King MT 1.5 because I like how the toebox better conforms to the shape of my foot than the Roclites. I haven’t used the King MTs that long yet so I can’t speak to durability. However, I will say that I do miss the toe guard of the Roclites and the King MTs are significantly less grippy on smooth or wet rock.
Two questions: what are the blue slippers the guy in the lower right is wearing? I need to find better camp shoes and those look great.
Second, I have the Solomon XA Pro 3D and like them, but mostly on trail. I am planning a several week cross-country trip in the Sierra this and am concerned about stability, foot-fatigue and a neuroma that heats up if I don’t have sufficient cushion on the ball of my food. With food, my pack will be 30 pounds for the longest section, which is not great, but about the best I can do. Thinking of going with either my old Solomon Quest 4D or Keens Voyageur (which have worked well in the past), but wondering if this is overkill.
I’ll ask Bryan.
I’ve done a lot of XC in thinner shoes than the 3D Pro (specifically the Bushido). I find that when off-trail, you don’t need nearly as much padding because you’re not grinding out the miles and repeatedly striking the ground in the same way. But YMMV.
“I stole the idea from Buzz and bought a cheap pair of water shoes from Amazon. The uppers are mesh but they have a rubber bottom which offers a bit of protection.”
As someone who has wider feet (doesn’t typically work well with Salomon and La Sportiva), I used the MQM Flex Goretex for the YHR – good lateral stability and grip, reasonable durability. If there was more snow or warmer, I would’ve gone with the non-Goretex version for faster drying after it gets wet.
Hi, how would you compare the forefoot width to say Altra Lone Peak 4.x?
I’ve seen a few questions regarding Topo Athletic shoes and am happy to shine some light on them.
I wore the Salomon Speedcross while hiking the JMT in 2016 and after getting off the trail I knew I needed a shoe with a roomy toe box. So I spend an afternoon trying shoes on at REI. An employee pointed out the Topo Design Terraventure (first generation) and I was immediately sold. The shoe provides enough room in the toe box to keep my yoga feet happy and the heel locks down enough that I don’t experience any lift while hiking. I destroyed this pair of shoes on a section hike of the PCT in 2017. They preformed beautifully on all terrains: dirt, rocks, mud, snow. I replaced that pair with the Topo Design Hydroventure and was equally impressed. Despite the partial waterproofing of the shoe, my feet never overheated. I was unable to take them out on a long trip in 2018 due to the fires in the Sierra but took them out on a weekend trip of the Yosemite High Route in September of 2019. Again, they preformed well on all terrain including the scree field up Don’t Be a Smart Pass.
I’m fortunate to have secured a spot on an adventure trip this July in Yosemite and will be purchasing my third pair of Topo Athletics for this trip. I’m hoping the third generation of the Hydroventure to be available in time otherwise I will invest in the Terraventure 2.
Thanks for taking the time to write this article, Andrew. The article was informative and it conveyed nuances of hiking that I have not read elsewhere.
What footwear do you prefer for hunting? I imagine you are not on trail much, pack-outs can add significantly more weight, and given the variability of fall weather (especially early season vs. late season), I was wondering if your go-to was still a trail runner?
Here you go, https://andrewskurka.com/conditions-hiking-waterproof-footwear-winter-system/
For hunting, especially a late season hunt, the only thing I’d add is that personally I’d benefit from an insulated boot. Standard 3-season waterproof backpacking boots can feel pretty cold on a hunt, during which you’re often moving slow or not moving at all, with high temps in the 20’s to 40’s (at least in Colorado in October and early-November).
Currently have the Salomon Ultra 3 mid aero. Was thinking of getting another shoe for Colorado 2B trip. Are approach shoes good for the type of terrain we will encounter? Thanks!@
Approach shoes would be overkill. Any of the shoes on this page would work, as would yours.
Inov-8 Trailalon 290 worth a look. I have been impressed so far after many years of Roclites, but haven’t used the Trailrocs on anything demanding yet.
IMO the stack on the Salomon xa pro 3d is definitely higher than the Saucony peregrine which has only 4mm of drop and less overall padding in the sole.
I own both and the Salomon is my choice for off trail walking.
Topo Trailventure “boots” have a wide forefoot and decent volume. I wouldnt say high volume but medium to medium high. Definitely would say they should be in your list. Don’t know about the uppers durability yet but it feels like it should holdup (though not compared to suede approach shoes)
Thx, I’ll try a pair of these on!
I had an enthusiastic recommendation for wet and snow Sierra type shoulder season from an experienced hiker of Salomon Jungle Ultra boots – suggesting they are quick drying, solid, lightweight – mesh construction, hydrophobic inners, lightweight (1.1 lb), good support and protection. I expect you have not tried them, but, thoughts? They seem to have the advantages of boots without the disadvantages.
Jungle boots can be decent but still heavier than an approach shoe or runner. But usually are also quite durable. If you like that style boot checkout the Belleville Minimil and also the One Xero model (Rocky boots also makes a light, low drop boot). Many companies have tactical likes and make boots similar to what your asking as well.
Approach shoe/boots can be somewhat similar as well and more on the durable side – I would recommend whatever fits best. A big advantage to many jungle military style boots though is they often have a wide width option and a regular width which can be a huge advantage if your foot is either wide, high volume, or both. A lot of people like the La Sportiva TX4 shoe (or the similar TX boots) and the equivalent Scarpa Mescalito or Mescalito boot. Approach shoes generally will have a softer, grippier rubber outsole that will wear a bit faster vs the military boots though – which can be good or bad depending on your intended use. For jungle boots make sure it uses a quality outsole like Vibram or Continental and not a cheaper rubber or other material that has low grip.
I’m sure Andrew has more experience than me but I also strongly recommend a VBL sock in very cold weather. Light, non waterproof footwear in combo with a waterproof overboot like a NEOS is also an interesting one to look into for very variable conditions.
Do you tend to keep the stock insole for trail runners, or replace with an after-market insole? I’m asking mostly for hiking situations, not actually trail-running.
Sorry if you have posted about this elsewhere; couldn’t find anything with a quick search.
I always keep the stock insole. I find that aftermarket insoles fundamentally change the volume and shape of the shoe, which was not what the designer had intended. If the shoe does not fit me out of the box, I’ll look for something else.
Unfortunately the X Alpine Pro has been discontinued (which I found out after trying to find them at several local retailers). Sounded like a great alternative to the bushido IIs, whose narrow forefoot gave me bad toe blisters after ~10 mile days but are otherwise quite good
That’s disappointing. Loved that shoe for adventure runs.
This is such a disappointment! These were my go tos last season. Do we know if there is a replacement or upgrade planned from Salomon?
Andrew, is there a shoes that you can recommend for people with wide feet for off trail use? Salomon feels tight, even in their wide. I’ll be working in trails up at Glacier and will be backpacking on my off days. Thanks!
Keep working your way down the list, like with the La Sportiva Mutant or Akyra.
I’d like to add a couple of things not mentioned here:
– Astral TR1 Merge. Review by Dave C.: https://bedrockandparadox.com/2020/11/20/my-favorite-shoes/
– Scarpa Ribelle Run (coming April 2021). Ribelle being originally light&fast alpinism line https://www.scarpa.com/alpine-running/ribelle-run-men-s
I’m currently trying out the Topo line.
The ribelle run looks like scarpa’s answer to the tx guide, which is an excellent shoe if you anticipate more scrambling than trail running.
The scarpa looks like it might lean a little farther towards runnability than the tx guide?
Why you don´t use hiking boots? I think they will be survive your trips.
Versus boots, these shoes will generally be lighter, dry faster, and be more comfortable, while still having sufficient grip and protection.
Anyone tried the La Sportiva Kaptiva as a high route shoe? Looks similar in shape to the Bushidos but maybe more cushion?
Thanks for the informative blog post Andrew. I have a slightly off topic question. I’ve recently switched from using Altra Lone Peak’s to trying out both the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor and Salomon X Ultra 4 and will be using one of those for my upcoming trip to the Wind Rivers. My question is: what shoe do you recommend for running R2R2R? In the past I used the Altra’s but I’ve been disappointed in their durability and want to make a change. What’s your go to shoe for something like that? Thanks!
We fit different shoes (you run wider/larger), so my recommendations will not be spot-on for you.
With the shoes I’ve been using recently, for R2R2R I would select the Nike Terra Kiger, the Nike Wildhorse, or Salomon SLAB Ultra. I really like the Salomon Sense Pro, but they’re a little minimalist for me for a 40 mile run with 7000 vertical feet of climbing. The Salomon Ultra Pro might be a good option for wider feet, similar performance to the SLAB model but a bit wider.
Great article, thank you. Do you have any recommendations for a light boot with ankle coverage? I have tried trail runners (Altra Lone Peak and Salomon Speedcross), while they are great for some trips, Rocksylvannia has made pudding out of my ankles over the years and I’m finding I need more ankle support for longer backpacking trips these days.
p.s. I never listen to The Trail Show
Would love to see you revisit this topic, as footwear changes far too quickly and a number of these options are no longer available (and the ones that are are pretty rough for high volume feet). Also curious about your thoughts on approach shoes (la sportiva tx3 for example) for use on high routes. In my experience they have been great on unstable terrain and generally have higher volume options available, but I have yet to experiment with extended use in remote conditions
I have a pair of TX3s, and I would much prefer a solid trail runner because of (1) weight, and the resulting agility and (2) the increased flexibility, as a matter of walking comfort. I think long days in the TX3 (and other models like them) would feel, well, long.
Curious if you had the chance to try out the Akasha II or any other new footwear you are liking since this article was written? Thanks
I’m still in the Bushidos for this type of terrain.
Have not tried the Askasha.
I have tried the La Sportiva TX3, but for trips in southern Utah. I wouldn’t want to hike in AK or on a high route in them. Too stiff, too heavy, rubber too soft, hold onto too much water.
Since my last comment in may I’ve put around 200 miles on a pair of inov8 trailfly g270s in the white mountains – and they have become my favorite shoe for technical terrain with a few caveats. Not a perfect shoe, but as close as I’ve found for my feet
Pros: relatively low stack height (12mm), 0 drop (pro for me, maybe a con for others), amazing hard wearing rubber compound, great lugs, upper durability is very good so far, very secure fit in heel and midfoot, good room in toe box without being a massive floppy Altra mess, solid performance on wet granite, good enough performance on the really slick stuff (wet logs, algae coated rocks, etc)
Cons: footbox size (while comfortable) can make edging and climbing more difficult, not very stiff, dry time is not as good as some other options, tounge is thin and if you don’t have lacing done correctly you can definitely feel pressure from them
All in all I haven’t found another option that I like as much. The roclite 270s from inov8 crushed my feet a bit too much on first try on, otherwise they looked like another attractive model. For now – I’ll be alternating between Altra superiors for non technical terrain and the trailflys when it gets a bit more dicey.
Curious what your clients are taking on trips this year! Happy trails!
Thanks for getting back to my comment and answering my question!
I’m surprised to see the La Sportiva TX line shoes omitted from this list. I saw you mentioned you find the TX 3 a bit uncomfortable over long days, but I find easier travel on loose and steep terrain and being able to be that slight bit less careful with every step makes up for the decreased flexibility. I’ve done everything from 40 mile days on trail to 12 mile intense Adirondack bushwhacks in TX 4s and find them the near perfect all around shoe.
Yeah I agree Leah – I love the TX line. I went on a day hike the other day and all 5 of us randomly were wearing different variants (men and women and we all had different shaped feet). The lace to toe is awesome and they are durable as hell (at least the suede upper ones I have) and some places will even resole them!
Personally I am very interested in the new TX Canyon “boots” – I have been looking for something like these for a long time – they are designed for canyoneering but I think they would be great for heavy off trail use with lots of scrambling and also are designed to dry very quickly and absorb little water (as opposed to trying to be waterproof).
Andrew, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the SpeedGoat 5 and the newly released Altra Lone Peak 7. I’m looking for something I could do training runs/hikes in and also take on trips. My foot is on the wide end of the spectrum.. I’ve been using the X Ultra 3’s and really like them but I’m interested in consolidating since I need a trail runner as well.
I’ve not worn or even seen either shoe, so take this with a grain of salt.
If you really like the X Ultra 3’s, I’d stick with those for hiking. Unless you live in a tiny NYC apartment, there is very little value in “consolidating” shoes, and I actually wouldn’t recommend it. If you have one pair of shoes for both activities, you’re just going to wear out those shoes more quickly. If you have two pairs, one for hiking and one for running, you’ll spend more up front but the long-run cost will be the same. You also get the benefit of having an optimal shoe for each activity.
That makes sense. I do not live in a tiny apartment, but I am a dad to 4 young kids so I go on one week long backpacking trip per year right now, and try to run the rest of the year. So in this season, I think I could maybe pull off one shoe for both activities. With Salomon discontinuing the X Ultra 3, I’ve been looking at several options and keep coming back here because I want something that can handle a high route.
Has anyone here had experience with the Scarpa Rush? I haven’t tried one on yet but based on what I’ve read it sounds like it could be a good fit.