Is it really necessary to have big hiking boots with really sturdy ankle support? I've always used trail runners on multi-day trips without a problem.
Submitted by - Ralph, Clayton, NY
No way, it's not necessary at all. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Consider yourself lucky that you have strong ankles and can get away with lighter weight and less expensive hikers. Personally, I used to favor all-leather, fairly burly boots that I could clomp around in without worrying about stubbing my toe or twisting my ankle. But as I've learned to lighten my pack weight over the years, I've also discovered that my feet are much happier in lighter weight footwear, which translates to fewer blisters, less sweat, and less fatigue. And many of today's "trail runners" have enough midsole support to handle loads up to 25 pounds, or a moderate weekend load. A couple of our
favorites: Montrail's Hardrock 09 and Lafuma's X Light Mid OT.
Terrain is another factor in determining how light you can comfortably go with your footwear. If you stick to mellow trails, a soft, flexy, running shoe will most likely work fine. But if your hiking turf is rocky and uneven, you'll need more underfoot protection to prevent sole bruising, which is a drag. Once, a few years back, I hiked a notoriously rocky section of the AT in Pennsylvania. While my partner had a giant load and appropriately burly boots, I was very smug with my 20-pound pack and trail runners, practically dancing across the rocky trail. Until the next 13-mile day, when the soles of my feet were so sore it was like walking barefoot on golf balls. Lesson learned, the hard way: Match your footwear not only to your load and personal tolerances, but also to the terrain.