Many discussions on long distance hiking I’ve come across over the last few years centre on the question of “boots or trail shoes?” I have used different types of boots for many years on hiking trips of various lengths and to different locations and I would still consider them my best option for walks on scree-dominated terrain, not so much for the ankle support but to protect the feet especially in sharp-edged lava rocks and the like.
But over the last year–and during planning this trip–I became more and more appealed by the idea of walking in trail shoes for a couple of reasons. Wearing lighter shoes and thus reducing exhaustion from lifting sturdy boots all day long sounded fascinating and I decided to give it a try. I started using them on day walks carrying only a small pack and then used them on a shorter multi-day trip in the Teutoburg Forest with a slightly larger pack. These walks covered mixed terrain, from small and rough paths to tarmac and I found trail shoes much more comfortable particularly in warm weather as my feet–naturally–didn’t get as sweaty in these shoes as in boots (even light-weight ones), no real surprise as Goretex linings don’t work well with decreasing differences between outside and inside temperatures.
As these first trips had all been in quite dry conditions I still felt unsure about the question how I would cope with wet feet. So I looked out for small brooks and stepped in them deliberately which proved to be quite pleasant in warm summer weather. But even on my multi-day trip mainly in the southern Pennines in early autumn I felt comfortable despite the fact that I only had completely dry feet for one day overall. This finally settled the question of boots or shoes in favour of the shoes. And I’m even more convinced of this decision after another day walk undertaken recently and in boots because after a snowy Saturday I was unsure of the path conditions–I ended up with an aching right knee (it still likes to grumble and groan about strains after an ACL rupture four years ago) for three days! I attribute this to the restricted possibility to roll the foot properly and the resulting effect on muscles, tendons and ligaments. In no way I can imagine walking a full LEJOG in boots under these circumstances.
I spare you the details of all combinations of shoes/socks/insoles I’ve tried to find the one working best for me. The outcome of all this testing while walking is that I will use Inov-8’s Race Ultra (although I don’t exactly intend to *race* to JOG 😉 ) with the runpro insoles from currex and Icebreaker merino socks. In case the shoes are still damp when I make camp and I only have to get into them again for a pub stroll I will use SealSkinz then to keep the feet dry during the evening. This setup worked very good and blister-free so far. Keep your fingers crossed it’ll stay that way!