boots vs shoes

Jujawa

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Jul 18, 2012
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I transitioned into hunting from an ultralight backpacking background, and I am finding it tough to choose footwear for backpacking hunting. I switched from backpacking boots to lightweight trailrunners several years ago for backpacking and it was one of the best gear decisions I ever made. I totally believe that wearing less on your feet makes your ankles and feet stronger. I can hike more miles, more comfortably, in my trailrunners (currently using Inov-8 Roclite 315's) than I ever could in bulky leather boots. I have had zero injuries, even carrying heavy loads, no blisters, and save the weight on camp shoes since they are so light and comfortable.

But with that being said, the vast majority of my backpacking is on trails and the vast majority of my hunting is off trail, many times in thick stuff that does a number on an ultralight shoe. I keep reading over and over about the importance of good quality hunting boots, but I have yet to find any tough boot that doesn't give me heel blisters on extended inclines, or blisters on the ball of my foot during extensive sidehilling.

Anyone else have this same experience? What did you decide? I am thinking I could either just tape the heck out of my foot before I ever start hunting and use boots, or I could use my trail runners and just buy a couple pairs a year since they will get pretty torn up hunting off trail. What do you think?
 
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RosinBag

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I have been wearing the Soloman XA Pro 3D Ultra's for a couple years now and have not had any issues on or off trail, heavy or light loads. When I have heavy loads I am using trekking poles also and that will minimize many of the risks to your ankles or knees.
 

Darin Cooper

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I use both... I get blisters near the ball of my foot when packing a load and hiking a lot of trail miles in my trail runners. I think it's due to the flexibility in the front of the shoe vs. the boot and the fact that I don't do any running anymore due to knee problems. Now I typically do the heavy work with my boots and hunt in the shoes for more nimble stalking. My feet are fine with daypack loads and off-trail hiking 10+ miles per day in the trail shoes. It's also nice to have heavier footwear on wet/cold days or a day after my trail runners get soaked. I do feel a little fresher at the end of the trail shoe days. My ankles are very solid so that hasn't been an issue. I can't see sheep hunting or any real wet environment hunting in trail shoes though. Also it snows a lot up here in Idaho during hunting season so the trail shoes stay home after mid october. I would like to see a purpose built hiking shoe that's built light like a trail runner with a slightly stiffer sole like a beginning level mountain biking shoe. Maybe an approach shoe would be closer to my ideal...
 

Jager

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I'm all for minimalist footwear these days, only time I prefer boots is in really cold weather.
 

slim9300

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I am like you after trying both sides of the spectrum. I eventually found the perfect alternative for me: Salomon Quest 4D GTX "boots." I train by carrying 60-80 lbs. in my tennis shoes all summer. By hunting season my joints are strong and my recovery is very quick. The best thing about these boots is that your feet literally do not move on steep terrain. Obviously they are very light for boots but they are actually waterproof unlike all those shoes I have tried.
 

Nick Muche

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For the folks that are out hiking in trail runners... Do you wear a gaiter with them? If so, which one?

The reason I ask is because last year I did some off trail running with my dog. On one occassion I ran through some yellow grass or it could have been "cheat" (not sure on spelling) grass. When I got home, I spent about an hour picking all the crap out of my shoes, socks and feet. Does the gaiter mitigate this issue or no?

I'd like to do all my shed hunting this coming spring in a pair of trail runners and some gaiters. I think this would be a great option due to the amount of miles I put on each day, the boots tend to slow me down it seems. I just want to be sure I won't have an issue when I am 10 miles from my vehicle...

Thanks!
 

Jager

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Do u have children Nick? If so, pay them to pull the seeds out, lol gaitors will keep your socks relatively clean but not a lot of the shoe.
 

fillthefreezer

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I am like you after trying both sides of the spectrum. I eventually found the perfect alternative for me: Salomon Quest 4D GTX "boots." I train by carrying 60-80 lbs. in my tennis shoes all summer. By hunting season my joints are strong and my recovery is very quick. The best thing about these boots is that your feet literally do not move on steep terrain. Obviously they are very light for boots but they are actually waterproof unlike all those shoes I have tried.
these boots have been waterproof for you slim? have you used them in snow at all?
some leaky reviews on rei's site is why i ask..
 

Kevin Root

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I use the lightweight boots, Cabela's Active Trail hiker-Md when I have a pack less than 50 pounds but I've done ok on heavier 50 pound like you mention too Jujawa. I use them daily for my lightweight footwear. The lighter boots work well for me too. Maybe I have good ankles or feet but I've been happy with lighter boot myself. I beef up on my boots when snow comes though, Lowa Hunter GTX Extreme.
 

slim9300

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these boots have been waterproof for you slim? have you used them in snow at all?
some leaky reviews on rei's site is why i ask..
I actually walked through the same river twice with them on. The water was all the way up to the top of the gore-tex membrane and they did not leak amazingly. Each crossing took about 30 seconds of the boot being fully submerged in water. My first pair leaked after walking all day in seriously wet, muddy ground on the Olympic Peninsula. I returned them to REI and picked out a new pair. I loved the boots so much I was going to give them a second chance. Salomon actually provides a 2 year warranty on the boots too. Gore-Tex is not a perfect product and really isn't all that waterproof when you apply constant abuse. My second pair of boots have exceed my expectations when it comes to being waterproof.

Also, the overall rating of the reviews (and the total number) on REI's site rival any other boot I have seen. There are bound to be a few bad ones in the bunch.
 

RockChucker30

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I used Roclite 315's with OR Flextech gaiters this year, and they worked great. I actually started out wearing my Lowa Tibets but switched midway through. It did suck the last day when it rained all day, but I wore neoprene socks to keep my feet warm. But my feet were wet for so long that my feet peeled terribly over the next few weeks.

I think a good balance is something like the Inov8 Roclite 390...UL boot with goretex liner. I'll probably try something like that next time.
 

JGO

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May 5, 2012
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Here is a look at my experiences and preferences as this is a topic that is close to my heart.

I run a couple marathons and trail races each year. For those races I wear five fingers or a quasi minimalist/zero drop shoe (current favorite is the Brooks Pure Grit).
When hunting, I am rarely on or near a trail. Everything is a bush whack in the steep and nasty.
My feet don’t blister easily so I have never had a problem with that in any of my shoes or boots.
I subscribe to the theory that one ounce on your feet is equal to one pound on your back. When you look at the number of times you lift your feet everyday in the backcountry, every ounce adds up. That said, I’ve decided that I like the protective feel of a six to eight inch "boot" for keeping my anklebones and Achilles from direct contact with deadfall and rocks.
I have one pair of $400 “hunting” boots. The “stability/support” of this boot is not to my liking so they are never worn.
I have used with great comfort, the combination that others mentioned of waterproof trail runner with a trail running gator.
The most comfortable and versatile set up that I have used was the Danner Jackal. Regardless of load weight and despite the ultra "feel" of the soft sole, those boots were comfy. You can feel everything under your foot and the sole is very quiet. Jackals remained waterproof for two season of hunting Elk and Deer in CO and UT each season.
The last two years I tried the under armour speak freak boots. I thought they were a nice blend of trail runner and boot. They were very comfortable but the first pair was not waterproof (they claim gore tex lining) even in wet grass. My feet were wet every day and the boots were toast after one 10-day hunt in CO. I tried another pair this year because they were comfortable and I hoped the failure was a fluke. Same result year two with the second pair.
This year I’ll either go back to the Jackal or try I’ll try the Lowa Zephyr. My hunting partner pushed a pair a Lowa Zephyr boots through three seasons of backcountry hunting in CO and NV.
Hope this provides some insight.
 

ohhiitznik

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Feb 24, 2012
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I also vote for the saloman quest 4d's I have used them for 2 years in the backcountry and they keep on ticking. These boots cross creeks no problem. I will experience some wet foot if I bushwhack tall wet grass all day, but other than that they work great. Light weight and great support
 

Racethesunset

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Jan 8, 2013
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Arizona
I transitioned into hunting from an ultralight backpacking background, and I am finding it tough to choose footwear for backpacking hunting. I switched from backpacking boots to lightweight trailrunners several years ago for backpacking and it was one of the best gear decisions I ever made.
As a former runner, I started hunting with trail runners and quickly learned that bush whacking across the Rockies in the Arizona latitudes increases the likelihood of cacti in a shoe's toe box, and jagged rocks wearing tearing through the bottoms of even proven trail runners.

For longer jaunts in the high desert, bearing weight or game, and going vertical - I can't recommend Zamberlan's Steep GT's enough. They are super comfy right out of the box, supportive, breathable, and grippy beyond the norm. I have also worn Kenetrek's, Danner's, and a few others, and prefer the Steep GT's for hunting in the rough stuff.
 

Mckinnon

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Mar 26, 2012
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Reno, NV
I have been eyeing a pair of Salewa Alp Trainer Mid GTX's for a pair of lightweight, truly waterproof boots. Anybody used them?
 
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