Ditch The Hiking Boots; Why Trail Runners Are The Way To Go

I’ll be publishing a post some time in the next month or so that lays out all the gear I’ll be bringing with me to China, but I’ll also be making a series of posts that spotlight specific pieces of gear, and my rationale for choosing them. This is the first post in the series.

Unless you’re hiking the Inca Trail or the Annapurna Circuit, a pair of full-on hiking boots it probably overkill.I have a bad habit of bringing hiking boots when I travel. And I mean, ALWAYS bringing hiking boots, even if there’s no hiking in the cards.

It used to be a heavy pair of Zamberlans, but about five or six years ago, when they’d gotten too beat up wear, I switched to a pair of Scarpa Kailash Gore-Tex day hikers. They saved me about 400 grams compared to the big, heavy Zamberlans, but at ~1.4 kg (roughly 3 pounds) for the pair, they were still pretty dang heavy.

While the Scarpas were great in the Grand Canyon – especially considering how much it rained – I definitely didn’t need them for a week-long trip to Nova Scotia. Even bringing them along on the off chance I went for a hike (I’d injured myself climbing a couple weeks before heading on that Nova Scotia trip, and did not, in fact, end up going for a hike), they just weren’t worth the weight; an extra pound on your feet takes way more energy than an extra pound in your pack, as you have to put so much more work in with each step.

And even though they served me well on my Grand Canyon trip, my legs were killing me after the hike. I figured it was time for a change, so, on the roadtrip home, I stopped at a sporting goods store in Durango, Colorado, and got a screaming deal on a pair of the previous year’s New Balance 980 trail runners.

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Boom! Trail runners!

Aside from looking significantly dorkier than the Scarpas, the trail runners have a clear advantage: The pair weighs about 800 grams (~2 pounds) less than the hikers, tipping the scales at about 600 grams for the pair. On top of that, they breathe better than the hikers, the grip is still aggressive (though not as good as the Vibram soles on the Scarpas in really gross mud), and once I broke them in, they were just as comfortable as the boots.

And as for looking dorky, really, who cares? Considering the rest of my attire, and my general appearance, a pair of bright-soled shoes is going to be one of the things that stands out the least. Comfort and ability trumps appearance when it comes to travel shoes.

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Seriously though, pretty dorky.

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