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Picking the proper footwear for the occasion

April 28, 2018
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Walking into an outdoors' gear store that has a wall full of shoes can be intimidating, but nothing can ruin an adventure like blisters or sore feet. So it's important to put as much thought and research into your backcountry shoes as with any other piece of gear.

Fortunately and unfortunately, the number, style and construction of outdoors shoes has expanded greatly in recent years. This means that for every adventure there's likely a number of choices. But if you know beforehand what sort of adventure you spend most of your time enjoying, your choices - and your stress regarding those choices - can be kept to a reasonable level.

Zander Connor, who works at High Peaks Cyclery in Lake Placid, explained the difference between trail runners, hiking shoes and the various types of boots one should look for, based on whether you'll be cruising the trails quickly or tackling a multi-day backpacking trip. Before choosing a hiking shoe, you should have in mind how much weight you carry and how long your hikes tend to be.

Article Photos

News photo — Justin A. Levine


Trail runners


Trail running is a sport that is growing in popularity, and while the image may be of a zero-percent-body-fat fitness model reaching a stunning summit, anyone who can jog can enjoy a run through the woods. However, trail running shoes are engineered for a specific sport and may not be suitable for longer hikes or heavier backpacks.

"With a trail runner, you're going to have your most agile feel," Connor said. "It's going to be low profile [and] light weight because you're going to be going for that efficiency.

"A trail running shoe is going to have little to no shank, maybe a little in the middle of the foot. It's got a full, biting tread. Light, breathable, grippy. Similar to a running sneaker, but with a more solid tread."


Hiking boots


Hiking boots, as well as low-profile hiking shoes, are often waterproof and heavier than trail runners. Meant for longer days with a heavier pack, hiking boots will feel more solid underfoot.

"They'll have a little more ankle support. Some of them will be waterproof, some not. That's kind of the teetering point," Connor said. "So, [in the] Adirondacks, United Kingdom, you want waterproof.

"[They] have a more endurance-based tread, so you get a little more long-term value. Kind of made for the long day-hiker and a mid-weight pack. And also just for someone who wants a solid piece of footwear on."

While many people opt for a traditional boot that goes above the ankle, manufacturers are coming out with sturdy hiking shoes. These are low-profile and lighter, but offer similar tread and construction. Most stores with a wide selection of hikering shoes should be able to help you decide which will suit your needs.

Connor said one important thing to check on hiking boots - particularly if you're springing for a waterproof pair - is that the tongue of the boot is stitched up to the top so that water can't seep in.


Backpacking boots


It's likely that for the bulk of people who hike in the Adirondacks, a hiking boot or shoe will do just fine. But if you're the kind of person who piles up a lot of miles, carries a really heavy pack or wants to tackle a multi-day trip like the Northville-Placid Trail, then backpacking boots may be the way to go.

"[Backpacking boots] will be stiff for good foot support," he said. "Big weights, long miles you want good ankle stability, good arch support. If you're coming down a steep, rocky trail, especially in the High Peaks - with a heavy pack on, you want to be able to plant your foot and not really feel it - have that weight dispersed on the sole of the boot.

"If you're not doing like 10 week-long trips a summer, the boot will probably last you 10 years."

When you're in the market for new hiking shoes, try to keep in mind the type of adventures you like to tackle. And while a solid pair of hiking boots will cover a wide gamut of trips, if you're looking to move faster or hike longer, then considering options on the edges of the spectrum will be worth your time.



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