Ok, so if you’ve read the title of this post, you’ll know that this isn’t going to be about moths, I hope!
Basically, like most people who spend a lot of time in the outdoors, I’ve always tended to wear hiking boots. I’ve recently come into contact with walking shoes, and, well, I really quite like them! first of all, let’s take a look at the shoes in question.
These are the Merrell Chameleon Slam II shoes I’ve recently purchased. Now, I had to compare them to boots in a few different scenarios, just to see if they felt any better or not.
First of all, the shoes themselves. I’ll point out straight away that they are NOT waterproof. They do have a reasonably flexible sole… but it is more rigid than a trainer would be, yet more flexible than a hiking boot. It seems like quite a good compromise to me. They’re also much lighter than boots.
If you do plan on buying some of these, or any other Merrell shoes, please do try them on before you buy them! I’m normally a size 11, but needed to go for a size 12 for these. Apparently, Merrell shoes do tend to size a little on the small side.
Now, the first test I tried was the Elie Chainwalk
Here’s me making a bit of a fool of myself on one of the chains. I can climb up them with no problems at all, but I hate the descents!
The shoes worked really well here! the amount of grip in the soles was incredible, and because they were so much lighter than boots, movements felt easier (though you wouldn’t be able to tell that by the video!)
If you include the walk from the car park at the golf course and back over the top, that one was about 5 miles. At the end of it, my feet felt a little sore at the balls of the feet, but I put that down to the socks (I was wearing basic, cheap sports socks)
The next challenge was my daily walk. I’m currently trying to get fit, so I’m going for a walk every day of around 3 and a half miles. I have now taken the shoes on that walk several times (I’ve had the shoes 8 days now). As the walk is for a large part on paved roads and paths, there wasn’t really much to challenge the shoes. However, I’ve been trying to improve my speed on the walk over time, so I’ve been adding a bit of running into it, to get over the most boring parts of the walk quickly… the shoes clearly out performed boots here in pretty much every way, but you would expect that, really.
However, back to my previous comment… these shoes are definitely not waterproof. I did have to wade through a couple of puddles, and my feet got soaked. I suspect during the middle of winter, that would be a big issue! This is the one area where boots continue to outperform shoes. Yes, I could have got waterproof shoes, but my thinking was that a waterproof liner holds water in as well as it holds water out… thus if water got over the top of the shoe, I’d be soaked, and the water would be stuck inside the shoe until I could remove it (And let’s face it, water coming over the top of a shoe is significantly more likely than coming over the top of a boot) The shoes also take quite a while to dry out. Yes, they were dry the next day, so I could use them again, but it took at least 8 hours for them to dry out completely. Not very good if you plan on wearing them for long walks.
Which brings me to my final walk. Glen Tilt.
Above is the walk I did on Saturday. A little over 10 miles, over some variable terrain. I wanted to see how the shoes (and my feet) would cope with the increased duration and variable gradients and terrain.
The shoes performed really well, with a few exceptions.
There was a section of the walk where machinery had been recently used (Atholl Estates had been doing some forestry work), and the terrain was very muddy. I found I was slipping and sliding a lot more with these than I would be with boots.
They did get wet, about half way through, but I was reasonably surprised to find that it didn’t adversely affect my feet too much. The biggest issue, however, was about 3/4 of the way through the walk. When faced with a steady downwards gradient on a paved road, my feet moved forwards a little in the shoe, and created a bit of heel rub. I did end up with a small blister at the end of the walk as a result. Again, I suspect, had I been wearing full walking socks (I was wearing Bridgedale X-Hale Multisport socks), this would have prevented it from happening.
If the My Tracks application on my phone is to be believed, I did just under 12 miles in 3 hours 17 minutes. In reality, it was probably a mile or so less than that, once the GPS errors are taken into account. Still, I’m reasonably confident that I wouldn’t have been able to do the walk as quickly had I been wearing boots.
The lightness of the shoes compared to full on boots shouldn’t be underestimated. I didn’t feel tired at all at the time, despite clearly walking the route at a faster than average pace. (I felt it after being home for an hour or two, though!)
Does this mean I’m a convert to shoes? Definitely… with a few modifications. I’ve bought myself a pair of Sealskinz Trekking socks to give me a little extra padding, and waterproofing. I’ve not tried them out properly yet (I’ve only made sure I can still wear the shoes comfortably with the socks on), but I’m hopeful that they’ll make all the difference for the longer distance walks. I’ll stick with the Bridgedale’s for shorter walks, though.
I’m not a complete convert, though. I plan on walking the West Highland Way next year, and I know that these shoes simply would not be able to cope with the long distance walking combined with the weight of a full pack. I’d feel far more secure wearing boots in that scenario. Also, I doubt I’d be using the shoes to climb any munros during the winter months. Definitely a summer use only item, when in the hills! However, I have no problems using them in the glens all year round, when combined with the waterproof socks.
I think, basically, if you plan on walking at pace, with a light load, either in lowland conditions, or in the summer months, a switch to shoes might just be the best thing for you. However, for backpacking and winter hiking, I’ll stick to boots!