I’m back! I kind of lost interest in the blog over the winter and made the (mistake?) of purchasing Red Dead Redemption 2. That game is a HUGE time suck but amazing and I don’t regret it.
I also got hooked on some new YouTube channels* over the winter and it’s rekindled my desire to be outdoor more often. I already enjoy cycling and kayaking but haven’t really been camping/backpacking/hiking since I was in Scouts.
After a long winter of watching these channels I could not help but be ready for better weather and a chance to get outside again. Several of the YouTubers are through hikers and have either hiked the Appalachian trail or are in the process. While I think that would be an amazing accomplishment It’s not something I see myself doing in the near future. I’m just fine with shorter adventures.
A piece of gear that’s critical when hiking is footwear. I’ve always worn traditional hiking boots. They provide great ankle stability but they’re heavy and, if waterproof, make your feet hot and sweaty. They also really suck if you happen to get water IN them.
A new category of footwear called the “Trail Runner” was introduced to me over the winter. These are a hybrid between a boot and a running shoe. The most popular appear to be from a company called Altra and the model mentioned more than anything else was the Lone Peak 4.
After a few hikes around Indy in my traditional hikers and a pair of low rise boots I realized my feet were going to be an issue. I already have a pair of custom orthotics that I wear in some of my shoes but they’re not very comfortable to walk in for miles at a time.
A review in Outside Magazine help me decide to purchase these shoes and then it happened… REI had one of their big sales & I was able to pick up a pair of Lone Peak 4’s for 30% off! I wasn’t the only one taking advantage of the sale. REI was selling these things like deep fried Oreos at the State Fair.
In the store the Lone Peak’s felt a little weird at first because the front (toe box) of the shoe is very wide and they have what’s called a “Zero Drop” which puts your foot level with the ground vs raised in the back. They also fit different and I ended up going 1.5 sizes larger than I typically wear. I was a little concerned this was going to be an issue and worried about blisters which I got a lot in Scouts with traditional hiking boots.
Following the advice in the Outside review I ordered a couple of pairs of Merino Wool Socks for breathability and the ability to keep your feet warm and dry. I’ll detail it more in an upcoming trip report but let’s just say the combo worked better than anything I have ever tried.
I decided to try the Altra’s out on a 6-mile rugged loop at Turkey Run State Park (I’m planning on a trip report soon). As soon as I started walking I could feel an immediate difference. The Merino Socks were a little slippery and the shoes were “Squishy” (technical term).
After the 2nd mile on the trail I was a fan. My feet felt amazing and the rock guard build into the sole kept the bottoms of my feet protected and comfortable. I usually have issues with rocks (gravel especially) bothering the balls of my feet when trail walking.
Then came the ultimate test. Time to get my feet wet as the trail went up, through, and along a stream (several in fact). The Outdoor review was totally right. As soon as you leave the water the shoes pump the water out and the wool socks help you feet dry out and stay warm. I’ve NEVER had so much FUN getting my feet wet! Normally this is something you want to avoid when hiking but I was stomping through the water like a little kid and enjoying every minute of it.
Traction was excellent and after finishing the loop my only complaint was some knee pain which I later found was a result of descending the numerous hills, and something I can help with some more conditioning and maybe some better insoles.
I’m pretty much sold on the Trail Runner concept and I look forward to putting a few more miles on these shoes this weekend. If you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional hiking boots you should give these a try. They make different versions for different situations but I’ve found the Loan Peak 4’s to be a great all around shoe for my needs.