In common with many outdoor pursuits enthusiasts, I stopped using ‘traditional’ walking boots several years ago in favour of lightweight trail and fell running shoes. Having tried a number of types from various manufacturers, I have found Inov-8 Terrocs and Flyrocs to be the most comfortable for my (relatively) short and wide UK size 9.5 feet and am now on my fourth pair of Terrocs. The change to lightweight running shoes initially went against all my former thought processes on outdoor footwear, having been brought up in the belief that heavy leather or waterproof membrane lined walking boots are absolutely necessary for safety when hill and mountain walking and long distance backpacking. The fact is, that old mindset is outdated and not at all true unless you insist on believing it. The change was liberating on many levels, the key benefits being much lighter footwear which is noticeable over a day’s walking and immeasurably more comfortable and quicker-drying than traditional boots. Once you have rationalised the benefits against any perceived concerns or disadvantages, the decision becomes an easier one to make.
Why do many people believe that boots are necessary and shoes are a bad idea? Well, the obvious opinion is that boots offer more ankle support, after all, a turned ankle is painful and potentially disastrous in wilderness areas. The truth, from my personal experience is that boots do not really offer any more protection against this than lightweight shoes. It may be that I have learnt to be instinctively more careful and aware of my ankles on high and rough ground, or it may be that it doesn’t really make any difference at all. I can only speak for myself, but I have not experienced any increased incidences of painful turned ankles since I started using lightweight shoes in preference to boots. The only time I will wear mountaineering boots now is in full winter conditions when I know I will need to use crampons for safety rather than lightweight shoes and slip-on Microspikes or Kahtoolas. Unlined shoes are by nature not waterproof and many people are concerned that having wet feet will lead to increased blisters and other problems. Again, this has proven to be untrue, I have never had a single blister or hot-spot from shoes even when carrying a heavy pack with full camping gear, food, water and camera equipment. I have pronounced ‘heel spurs’ that have been prone to blistering in the past but only when I have worn boots, it just does not happen with Inov-8’s. Being made of lightweight fabrics and other materials, Inov-8’s dry very rapidly, both on the move and in the pub later. Boots, once filled with water can take days to dry out, especially if they have a ‘waterproof’ membrane. A pair of Terrocs and Smartwool Merino socks dry very quickly and you will be enjoying dry feet whilst everyone else’s are still wet, cold and uncomfortable. I use the Terrocs for general lightweight backpacking and the Flyrocs for when I want something with a slightly stiffer last, the few extra grammes of the Flyrocs are of no concern to me as I am not a fell-runner. If there is a downside to shoes, lightweight fabrics are vulnerable to abrasion from rocks and the sole and footbed composite materials do compress more quickly than heavier footwear, which might mean new replacements are going to be needed more frequently. For me, this is a small price to pay for the significant benefits I have gained by using lightweight running shoes in all but the most serious UK winter conditions.
Terroc on the left, Flyroc on the right.