equipment: boots, trailrunners, and sandals

updated 2021/8/22

As I discussed in my equipment guide about footwear, what you wear isn’t all that important, just go with the shoes you find comfortable walking distances and start figuring out what bothers you. You have more experience about your walking and hiking style than anyone else in the world, so your experience is the most important on what works for you.

With that in mind, below is a list of shoes we’ve worn on the trail and our opinions of them. I’ve also listed our method of purchasing them and the cost we paid, so perhaps it will give you some ideas of how to save a few bucks as well.

footwear index

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mens – John’s shoes

For reference, my feet are pretty uncommon based on the standard shoe sizes out there. I don’t have a long feet at about 8.5 size in length, but I do have very wide feet. I am also flat footed with very little arch. I use to twist my ankles a lot when I first start hiking, but I haven’t had too much problems through more hiking and ultimate.

trailrunners

  • Altra Lone Peak 5 (amazon affiliate link)
    • size: 10 Medium
    • owned duration: 2021-5
    • current status: backpacking shoes
    • acquired: REI members only garage sale
    • condition when acquired: used and returned, no reason was given
    • paid: $65.83 + $5.83 tax = $71.66
      • With the COVID pandemic, REI garage sales have changed their model. Most stores just have sections of garage sale items out and will continuously refill them. This meant the selections are picked over much faster and the stores can price them higher. As all my Altras are starting to wear down (as of 2021/8, only my 10.5 sized LP 3.5 is left with replaced insoles), I decided to spend a few more dollars for a Lone Peak 5.
      • So far, I have put 65ish miles on them in the trails around Glacier National Park while backpacking.
      • The fit seems decently comfortable and I don’t find my toes have any issues battling each other. I had no blister issues or hotspots to speak of both walking in 90 degree heat or soaked through.
      • The redesign of the shoe seemed to provide more structure on the sides of the shoe, where I had issues with holes in the LP4.
      • My only complaint is that this part seems have a slightly higher arch similar to the pair of LP 3.5 that fit me the worst (pair 3 listed below). This made my ankles feel more pronated making my ankles a bit sore after a 15ish mile day with a pack on. I think my feet are naturally slightly supinated. It didn’t help my left ankle was recovering from a rather series sprang and was again sprained during my trip. At first I thought it was just my sprang, but I found my right ankle sore as well after my 3rd day.
      • Overall, I like the fit but may try insoles with less arch support.
  • Altra Lone Peak 4 (amazon affiliate link)
    • size: 10 Medium
    • owned duration: 2019-10-19 to 2021-4
    • current status: retired backpacking shoes
    • acquired: REI members only garage sale
    • condition when acquired: used and returned after previous owner not liking how they start to fall apart
    • paid: $18.42 + $1.11 tax = $19.53
      • After wearing these over the course of a week long off trail backpacking trip in the Wind River Range, these felt pretty comfortable overall and generally matched my expectations from have the 3.5s.
      • However, going over talus and scree fields were very rough on them, so much so that holes developed on the side of the shoes by the end of the hike. So these trailrunners, as known, aren’t the most rugged. I think part of it is the new, more plastic or synthetic like, material they are using for top and side of the shoes. They are not durable at all.
        • The community guessed that some changes might come with the 4 series since they were bought by VF corporation (wikipedia) and who knows if cheaper materials was part of the cost cutting.
      • They still work fine for me as day hiking shoes, but now there are large gaping holes to let all the dirt and sand into them.
      • I was happy with the grip on these for all the boulder hopping and snow crossings we did encounter.
      • Overall, I probably will look for other brands than Altras and I don’t regret the USD$20 I spent testing them out. I guess I’d be ok with that cost range again.
      • These shoes are done and are in the trash. The holes on the side have gotten so wide, that my foot was slipping out. There was so much duct tape could do on a hike.
  • Altra Lone Peak 3.5 (amazon affiliate link)
    • pair 1
      • size: 10 Medium
      • owned since: 2018-6 to 2020
      • current status: retired, former hiking & backpacking shoes
      • acquired: REI members only garage sale
      • condition when acquired: used & returned after previous owner used for 1 week
      • paid: $45.83 + $2.75 tax
        • After several day hikes with the Merrell Moab 2, I was doubting about their comfort for my upcoming long distance backpacking trek. So when I saw these much talked about “clown shoes” for sale at the recent REI garage sale in my size, I thought it would be good to try these out since they are known to be good on wide feet.
        • Currently, I’ve hiked the John Muir Trail and Ausangate Circuit in these logging about 300 miles. They’ve fit comfortably and pretty good regarding my wide feet. I did have a couple blisters, but mostly due to holes developed in my socks. The main complaint I’ve had about these are the seemingly thinner soles (I’m just use to my platform sandals in Chacos). A few times I’ve had a few rocks that would stun my foot a bit.
        • These are now retired since the soles are worn down completely. I would guess I got 400-500 miles out of them since they had been by go to day hiking shoes for a while.
    • pair 2
      • size: 10.5 Medium
      • owned since: 2018-9-23
      • current status: hiking & backpacking shoes
      • acquired: REI members only garage sale
      • condition when acquired: used & returned after 20 miles by the previous owner
      • paid: $13.83 + $0.83 tax
        • I wore these during our return to the Huemul Circuit and Patagonia trip in 2019.
        • The half size higher seemed fine for me for the most part, though I did get the front of the shoe caught on rocks at times because I was use to my first pair that were 10 M.
        • The insoles on these shoes fell apart during my 2021 Wyoming trip. Luckily I found some Dr. Scholl’s on sale at the grocery store.
    • pair 3
      • size: 10 Medium
      • owned since: 2018-9-23 to 2021-7
      • current status: some wear, gave to my brother
      • acquired: REI members only garage sale
      • condition when acquired: used & returned pair with minimal wear with the reason of poor fit by previous owner
      • paid: $36.83 + $2.21 tax
        • I broke this in on our trip out to the Canadian Rockies.
        • Unlike my previous pairs, these were pretty much new so it was on me to break them in. This proved to be more difficult than I thought. Perhaps it was the way the soles were set or the arches being higher on the new pairs, but it put a lot of stress on my ankles. I ended up alternating with my Chacos for the hikes on the trip. I don’t know if this specific pair is different or I need to adjust it more before my next hike.
        • Having hiked a bit more with this pair, I noticed the padding in the heel was crunched down awkwardly pushing my foot more forward. This leads to some weird position for my foot. I’ve tried to pull it up, but I may have to do some shoe surgery at this point.
        • I gave this pair to my brother for his John Muir Trail hike. His foot is smaller than mine, so it should fit him better.
  • Merrell Moab 2 Vent
    • size: 9.5 Medium
    • owned since: 2017-10
    • current status: backup backpacking shoes
    • acquired: REI members only garage sale
    • condition when acquired: used & returned with description of lace issues
    • paid: $53.75 total
      •  This is about a half size up from what I usually wear and it has been comfortable to hike in without issues. Like most shoes, these are a little snug on me width wise and I do feel it squeezing on my right foot for a half mile or so before it feels comfortable. So far I’ve used these for around 10 hikes so it will get better with more ware. Generally, I’ve been liking them, especially that they seem to have good traction on them through some heavy scrambling on the knife edge route of Crib Goch. My main complaint about them is that the sole at the ball of my feet seem very thin and I also feel a hot spot there leading to some blisters after an 18 mile hike. I may be just so use to my thick chacos now.
footwear-5
Merrell Moab 2 Vent
  • Teva Surge eVent Trail Shoes Waterproof (affiliate link for female version)
    • size: 9.5 Medium
    • owned dates: 2015 to 2018
    • current status: retired, former default backpacking shoes
    • acquired: sierratradingpost.com sale
    • condition when acquired: new
    • paid: $38.98 total
      • This is very narrow for me, but I bought it out of curiosity and because Meg raves about it (see below). The stabilizers were interesting and it will even help support you arches, which is why it worked so well for Meg. The quality of the shoes were not very sturdy as the holes formed between the seams in the front and side. We used gorilla glue to close the holes, which was a decent temporary solution. The rubber sole also started peeling.
footwear-6
Teva Surge eVent Trail Shoes Waterproof (affiliate link for female version)
  • Asolo Predator Trail Running Shoes
    • size: 9 Medium
    • owned dates: 2012 to 2017
    • current status: retired due to wear and thrown out, former hiking shoes
    • acquired: sierratradingpost.com sale
    • condition when acquired: new
    • paid: $46.20 total
      • These were my default trailrunner and day hike shoes. The were very comfortable length and width for me. The sole was also decently stiff, but the grip wasn’t the best for the soles on wet surfaces. These were my main hiking shoes, but has pretty much fallen apart.
footwear-8
Asolo Predator Trail Running Shoes

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sandals

  • Merrell Breakwater Sandals (Amazon affiliate link)
    • size: 10
    • owned since: 2021-7
    • current status: hiking and backpacking sandals
    • acquired: REI members only garage sale
    • condition when acquired: used & returned with description:
      • lightly used, left strap slightly longer than the other shoe
    • paid: $20.83 + $1.26 tax = 22.09
      • Having lost my ZCloud Sandals, I got these cheap ones as replacement.
      • The soles aren’t the platform that chaos are.
      • I haven’t had a chance to use them so the jury is still out.

equip_shoe_merrell_breakwater_sandels-1

  • Chaco Zcloud Athletic Sandals (amazon affiliate link)
    • size: 9 Medium
    • owned since: 2018-6 to 2020-9
    • current status: lost, former hiking and backpacking sandals
    • acquired: REI members only garage sale
    • condition when acquired: used & returned with description of wrong size
    • paid: $29.83 + $1.79 tax
      • As I alluded below, the Z/1 classics had changes to their arch sport that bothered me. However, I don’t feel it on the Zcloud line when I saw these at the recent REI garage sale. As noted, the larger feeling fit might was the reason for it’s return.
      • This was a size up from my previous pairs, so that might also be there reason for my better fit.
      • These feel lighter than my original Chacos.
      • Part of the lighter weight might due to the soles being softer and less dense. This is inline with the “cloud” name as you feel very cushioned.
      • I have preferred to backpack with this in comparison to trailrunners at times.
      • When backpacking with these, I have to take extra care of my feet. Specifically, I have to use moisturizer so my callouses doesn’t crack due to dryness either from open air or evaporation from my feet drying after water crossings.
      • I lost them at some point on the trail as they fell off my backpack. 😦
18_7_JMT_5-69
rockin my Chacos at McClure Meadows
  • Chaco Z/1 Classic Athletic Sandals
    • size: 8 Medium
    • owned since: 2017-10
    • current status: everyday wear and hiking shoes
    • acquired: REI members only garage sale
    • condition when acquired: used & returned for description of slight fray on the strap
    • paid: $30.49 total
      • Since my old pair of Chacos had started to wear out, I bought a new pair at a REI garage sale. The previous version usually run big and their normals are wide enough for me. In their updated versions, these feel more narrow and it is due to the higher arches. For typical individuals, the higher arches probably provide better support. However for me, it prevents the back of my foot from sitting flat and angles my foot so much that my foot slides laterally. Consequently, my front of the foot angles medially. It was an uncomfortable mess going downhill on the hike I’ve used these far, while flat and uphills seems to be ok enough. I will have to re-adjust the straps and try these again.
      • With more wear, they are starting to conform to my feet better. They are fine for more mild trails, but punished my feet on tougher and less groomed trails.
footwear-7
Chaco Z/1 Classic Athletic Sandals
  • Chaco Z/1 Unaweep Sandals
    • size: 8 Medium
    • owned: 2015 to 2018
    • current status: retired, strap finally broke; former default hiking shoes
    • acquired: sierratradingpost.com sale
    • condition when acquired: new
    • paid: $32.65 total
      • These run big for their size and fits my wide feet very well. This has been my go to for warm weather hiking. It is awesome for rain and keeps my feet cool.
footwear-9
Chaco Z/1 Unaweep Sandals
  • Columbia Footwear PFG Reel Deal Sport Sandals
    • size: 9 Medium
    • owned since: 2011
    • current status: worn once
    • acquired: sierratradingpost.com
    • condition when acquired: new
    • paid: $30.22 total from sierratradingpost.com
      • This was terrible, no support and make my feet hurt for days after walking only a mile or so.

21_1_equip-1-5

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hiking boots

  • Asolo Synchro Gore-Tex Hiking Boots Waterproof
    • size: 9 Wide
    • owned since: 2014-12
    • current status: default backpacking boots for snow crossings
    • acquired: sierratradingpost.com sale
    • condition when acquired: new
    • paid: $101.97 total
      • These are my default backpacking boat. It is good, but the soles feels harder than my first Asolo FSN 95. However, these were built very tough.
footwear-11
Asolo Synchro Gore-Tex Hiking Boots Waterproof
  • Vasque Taku Gore-Tex hiking Boots Waterproof
    • size 8.5 W
    • owned since: 2013
    • current status: winter boot for walking around up north after 2 backpacking trips
    • acquired: sierratradingpost.com sale
    • condition when acquired: new
    • paid: $69.57 total
      • These were very disappointing as I started to look for a replacement boot. After 2 treks – 12 days in 2014, the front rubber separated from the boot rendering it useless as a waterproof boot.
  • Hi-Tec Natal Mid Hiking Boots
    • size: 9 W
    • owned since: 2011 to 2020
    • current status: retired, former winter boot for walking around town
    • acquired: sierratradingpost.com sale
    • bought new for $22.50 total
      • These had been relegated to everyday snow boots for visiting up north in the winter. It’s a nice fit, but not tough enough to withstand backpacking. After hiking with it for 9 miles, the sides begin to slant.
      • After a few seasons, it was really starting to fall apart. So I threw them out.
  • Asolo FSN 95 Gore-Tex hiking Boots Waterproof
    • size 8.5 W
    • owned since: 2011 to 2020
    • current status: worn down but usable still, donated to a friend
    • acquired: sierratradingpost.com
    • condition when acquired: new
    • paid: $104.96 total
      • These were the first hiking footwear I ever bought in anticipation for our first backpacking trip to Yosemite near the end of my time in California. These were pretty good fit the toe box gave me fits on the down hills and I always got blisters on my toes due to width still a little restricting.
footwear-12
Asolo FSN 95 Gore-Tex hiking Boots Waterproof

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womens – Meg’s shoes

For reference, Meg’s feet are very narrow and she has a very high arch.

trailrunners

  • Solomon Speedcross 5 (Amazon affiliate link – they only have the wide version)
    • size: 8 Medium
    • owned since: 2021-8
    • current status: Meg’s backpacking shoes
    • acquired: REI members only garage sale
    • condition when acquired: used & returned with description that it was worn a couple of month and the customer didn’t realize it was a trail specific shoes
    • paid: $42.83+ $0 tax = $42.83
      • Meg really liked the X Ultra 3 so I’ve looked out for similar pairs when I see them. The Speedcross is more leans more toward the ultra trailrunner than the X Ultras. So it is lighter.
      • Meg likes the fit, but may need to size down on next time as there is a bit more room in front of her toes when she put them on.

equip_shoe_solomon_speedcross5-1

  • Solomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero (Amazon affiliate link)
    • size: 8 Medium
    • owned since: 2019-10-19
    • current status: Meg’s backpacking shoes
    • acquired: REI members only garage sale
    • condition when acquired: used & returned with description of worn 3 times and noticed they are not a great fit
    • paid: $22.92 + $1.38 tax = $24.30
      • Meg has really liked these for backpacking so far, this includes a week long off trail trip into the Wind River Range over many talus and scree fields. She didn’t have any issues with traction or fit for her narrow feet. So I think we found a winner.
      • One bonus about these shoes is that she doesn’t have to worry about the shoe laces become untied as they are part of their quicklace system.

19_10_shoes-2

  • ASICS Gel-Sonoma 3 Running Shoes T774N (Amazon affiliate link)
    • size: 8 Medium
    • owned since: 2018-10
    • current status: day hiking shoes
    • acquired: Rakuten.com sale
    • condition when acquired: new
    • paid: $29.99 – $4.50 coupon = $25.49
      • This shoe was very cheap, so we got it for Meg to try out.
      • While the fit seems good, the traction on these shoes are not really trail running quality. She found that she slipped on wet rocks at a much higher rate than other hiking shoes.

21_1_equip-1

  • Vasque Constant Velocity 2 Trail-Running Shoes (Amazon affiliate link)
    • size: 8 Medium
    • owned dates: 2018-7 to 2019-8
    • current status: retired & thrown away, former backpacking shoes
    • acquired: REI sale
    • condition when acquired: new
    • paid: $59.93 + $4.94 (tax)
      • Meg has liked these trailrunners so far after about 40 miles on the Ausangate Circuit. It has very supportive arches that help Meg and it is narrow enough that doesn’t have issues on the downhills. It is not waterproof, so Meg had to get use to that. Overall, these were her backpacking shoes.
      • Since then, she has put on a few hundred more miles on these through Patagonia and the Canadian Rockies and the inner sides of both shoes ripped. While the soles on them are still passable, Meg has decided to retire them and threw them out at the end of the Canadian Rockies trip. She also said they started to smell very bad.
      • These shoes doesn’t change my experience that Vasque are not very sturdy while it does improve my opinion of them being able to make comfortable and adequate shoes.
  • Ahnu Montara II Waterproof Hiking Shoes
    • size: 8 Medium
    • owned since: 2017-10 to 2021-8
    • current status: retired & donated with life still left
    • acquired: REI members only garage sale
    • condition when acquired: used & returned
    • paid: $15.68 total
      • She found these very comfortable that she’s wanted to wear these for everyday. However for backpacking purposes and more long distance hiking, she felt that it was a bit wide regardless how tight she tied it. It lead to her foot sliding a bit and causing her toes to ram into to the front on the downhills.
Catoctin_Loop-26
Meg rocking her Ahnu Montara II in Catoctin Mountain Park.
  • Merrell Carbon
    • size: 8 Medium
    • owned since: 2017-10 to 2020-10
    • current status: retired & thrown away, former day hiking shoes
    • acquired: REI members only garage sale
    • condition when acquired: used & returned
    • paid: $37.89 total
      • Meg has not complained about these shoes. They are very very light.
      • After using them as go to day hiking shoes for a while, a bit crack developed in the bottom of the shoe going side to side. It was falling apart pretty badly so it was time to retire them.
  • Skechers Go Walk Outdoors – Journey
    • size: 8 Medium
    • owned since: 2017-8
    • current status: hiking shoes
    • acquired: gift from Meg’s Mom
    • condition when acquired: new
    • paid: unknown
      • Meg has not complained about it.  She used it for our Lofoten backpacking trip. The shoes didn’t seem the best traction in an especially muddy section.
footwear-2
Skechers Go Walk Outdoors – Journey
  • Teva Surge eVent Trail Shoes Waterproof
    • size: 8 Medium
    • owned since: 2014 to 2017
    • current status: retired & thrown away 2017-3, former backpacking shoes
    • acquired: sierratradingpost.com sale
    • condition when acquired: new
    • paid: $46.15 total
      • Meg swore by this shoe as it has nice ankle stabilizers and didn’t give her any blisters through the O Circuit at Torres Del Paine in Patagonia. However, after 2 years of wear, holes had developed in the front seam where the rubber meets the shoe, making the waterproofing useless.

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sandals

  • Chaco Outcross Evo Mary Jane Water Shoes 
    • size: 7.5 Medium
    • owned since: 2016-8
    • current status: hiking sandels
    • acquired: REI
    • condition when acquired: new
    • paid: $75.17 total
      • Meg generally likes these, she doesn’t like open toed sandals so this is a good compromise. These are more like trailrunners than sandals, without the arch support.
footwear-4
Chaco Outcross Evo Mary Jane Water Shoes

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hiking boots

  • Mammut Kootenay 5 Hiking Boots Leather for Women
    • size: UK 5N
    • owned since: 2013 to 2020
    • current status: retired and thrown away, former heavier backpacking boot
    • acquired: sierratradingpost.com
    • condition when acquired: bought new
    • paid: $85.22 total
      • This was Meg’s first backpacking boot. The fitting took a little to figure out as it was in european sizes. She thought it was comfortable, but after backpacking in it, it rubbed up against the back of her heal giving her bad blisters. Also it is full on leather so it is a little heavier. It is still her boot, but she tends to like the waterproof trailrunners better for backpacking.
      • Since her current trailrunners are more sturdy built, she decided to just get rid of these.
footwear-10
Mammut Kootenay 5 Hiking Boots Leather for Women

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