I shouldn’t have said anything really.

I was looking at the sale shoes and there was a fella trying on boots with the shops boot fella. I had to sit next them as the wee seat pod is right there and I’m not sitting on the steps up to the mezzanine floor, I mean that would be rude on several levels. So we got chatting between us, that’s what people do.

The heavily branded promo softshell that I was wearing says many things “I didn’t pay for this”, “I bought this on ebay because I like logos”, “I think I’m clever”, “I want to look like I’m a professional climber”, “Look at my mates website, it’s written all over me” being some of the most likely, and indeed one is true. But I suddenly felt a bit conspicuous in it. Anyway, I was asked about the footwear thing as I was trying on new Salomons and I will not lie “I don’t wear boots in the mountains anymore”. The customer looked back in disbelief and then intrigue, the boot fella’s heart sank.

One hour we were at this, I tried not to, I did. But, “My feet are achey and tired when I come back from the hills in my boots, isn’t it worse in those plimsoles?”, “No” says I, you adapt to it quite quickly. “But what about ankle support, do you not fall over?”, you know what’s coming…”Well, when neanderthal man was chasing a sabre toothed bear across the tundra with his spear in his hand, or walking south to avoid the snows of winter he wasn’t wearing stout three season boots was he? That’s what you have ankles, they move and work with the terrain rather than hold you rigid regardless of whether it’s a pile of bricks or a duvet you’re walking on”.

Pow! The bolt of lightning struck, he went for the trail shoes. “Aye, they’re light…I like these…”. I’d gone too far, I had to get out of there and quickly.


The customer went for the boots originally because that’s what he always used. How do you break that in the minds of every long suffereing overburdened hill goer? The boot fella knows his stuff and was well equipped to help the now confused customer in his diverted footwear quest. So the expertise is there if you ask for it.

However, having escaped that one unscathed and I now curse the day that we didn’t intercept in the case of the poor sod in Tiso who was being sold B2 boots and G12 crampons when he plainly had no need for them, but “Well, winters coming” and “These are the right things for climbing the Ochils”.

Good grief.

22 thoughts on “I shouldn’t have said anything really.”

  1. How long did it take you to get used to wearing pumps instead of boots? Was the transition painful?

    I`ve worn mine for 2 day walks now, no real problems except my ankles rocking sideways occasionally almost twisting them(and I twisted my left ankle the other week running so it`s a bit more prone to it at the moment) I found if I concentrated more on putting my foot down flatter this didn`t happen. Walking across slopes where you can`t do this as easily (contouring?) made it more tricky though.

    No blisters or soreness at all, and I`ve really noticed not having as much weight to lift when going up steep stuff, it`s like having trainers on ;)

  2. I was the opposite, I had a bit of bother with blisters in a couple of pairs of shoes. I’ve got narrow heels and unless the heel cup is just so I’ll get shredded. Ebay helped there a lot.

    I can honestly say I’ve never turned an ankle in any of my lightweight footwear. I have been on my arse many times though.
    It does take time to build strength and confidence and you do have to think about where you’re going with the next step more than you do in stiffer boots. But after a while it all becomes second nature and you just get on with it, processing all that stuff subliminally.
    My feet don’t feel exposed any more. A couple of times at first I felt almost as if I had bare feet, and I was really tentative when walking on rough ground. I think this made me tense and made life more difficult, if you’re relaxed you’re moving better.

    I wonder if cycling helps my ankle strength s well? It must do. Contouiring is an awkward one. You do cope with it better as your ankles get fitter, but it’s never going to be easy if it’s for a long distance. One of the big minus points for me with the Inov8 Mids is that when contouring my ankle was held rigid and I got cramps because of it.

    I did acouple of big days in trail shoes and it was like opening the curtains and discovering a bright, crisp morning with a clear blue sky. I felt so much happier, putting trail shoes on the nesxt morning after a wild camp was a joy, it was so much less depressing than putting on cold, damp, heavy boots.

    It was a kind of full circle though. I used to wear trainers on the hills then I read the books, the magazines, listened to the old school shop assistants, looked at the adverts and I followed on. I’ve always had fun, wearing boots has never been a negative to me, it’s just better these days.

    Post-winter my feet have never been in such good condition, and it’s now over a year since I last wore proper boots on a hill. But, I do have new boots to try. I don’t want to get all blinkered and stuck in my ways :o)

  3. Yes,

    I remember the B2 / G12 day well. It has left an impression on me. All the worst because of “my job” being to sell things I like, none of which are those ridiculous boots and crampons.

    It would have been professional espionage or something if I’d have said “You there! Cease and desist from selling that poor bastard rubbish he doesn’t need!” Though we certainly should have.

    Due to my rather unique and rather pointy(?) tone I’ve been accused on many occasions of zealotry by the poor booted undereducated. It seems, that via this medium and your new found journalistic adventures in Trail, it’s down to you to explain that to go lightweight is not to be a fat back garden tarpist, but to be a comfortable, nimble adventurer.

    GO ON!

  4. Been down this route myself – talked into a pair of Raichle Mt.Guides last year at Tisos. Don’t get me wrong they are great boots but a bit overkill for most non-winter activities and all but the craggiest hills. I’ve seen the light though thanks to Chris Townsend, PTC and the various TGO forum guys talking about going lightweight. Just getting to grips with some Targhee Mid II’s and have a pair of Montrail Continental Divide’s on their way. I’m going to be doing the Caledonian Challenge this year so these will be way more appropriate than the Raichle’s. Funny thing was the rest of my gear was pretty lightweight already, montane terra’s and lite-speed etc. but I was always reticent to make the jump with boots and instead followed the herd…

  5. Now, I’ve asked this before, but I’ll have to ask it again. It’s a genuine curiosity I have, honest.

    I hear what you say about getting light on the feet. All my kit qualifies as ‘ultralight’, at least in summer.

    But I’m really struggling to see how I can really give up on boots when I go over seriously rough country.

    FIrstly, river crossings: it does happen pretty often that you go over a burn or river which is not too deep, just a bit of hopping over stepping stones and the like.

    With my Scarpa boots plus gaiters I have been able to wade at a brisk pace when the water level was well above the ankles without getting a single drop of water in.

    I can’t see that happening with lighter, lower-cut shoes.

    Secondly, seriously boggy ground: time and time again, if you leave the beaten track, you have to walk across very rough ground and with boots on, there’s a lot of protection both from water and from mud.

    Granted: lighter shoes will dry up quickly, but still, the stink of bog water if it gets to your socks is something else…

    Thirdly (and lastly): again, if you trek across rough terrain, away from people and the like, it can happen that the ground gives way, a small peat bog you couldn’t possibly see, and the leg goes down to the knee and it hurts and boy, if you hadn’t had boots on keeping the whole thing together, you could have broken something, miles away from help.

    Now, if any of the above makes sense, it seems to me that your no-boot strategy is a good idea only if you only walk over familiar, well-beaten tracks with little chance of mishap and reasonably ship-shape paths.

    So, I suppose boots still have their uses, haven’t they.

    Or I am missing something here?

  6. shuttleworth, I’ve been told that I would have to be James May. I’m assuming that’s not meant as a compliment.

    soularch, both of those shoes are great. I’ve been wearing my Targhees mids again recently and I’ve had the old version of the Continental Divides (Leona Divides) for years, nice and wide at the toe. A great summer shoe.

    As I always say, there’s adjustment be made, But once youy have it dialled in and toughened up you feet a bit it’s just brilliant :o)

  7. foxie

    I’ll have a look at the map and make a judgement call on what I’ll stick on my feet. The roughness of the terrain doesn’t really matter anymore, I’m used to it. Pathless open hillside, scrambles, scree, the CMD arete, snow filled gullies, the South Glen Sheil Ridge a couple of weeks ago, all done in trail shoes or mids that are flexible enough to bend in half.

    Wetness is another thing. If I’m out for a day, I might just let my feet get wet. Thin socks and mesh shoes don’t stay wet for long. Cold weather days, I might put on a GoreTex or Sealskinz sock. For an overnight I might take a change of socks or wear or carry Goretex socks (Sealskinz dry too slowly in a tent). Or wear waterproof mids and mini gaters. I just got waterproof trail shoes to try, which I’m always suspicious of. We’ll see how that pans out.

    It helps that I’m out in the hills a lot, and I try stuff to see what works. Not just kit, but I like spending time in the mountains, opposed to bagging summits, so I started the summit camping thing.
    If I wasn’t totally confident in the gear I was using I’d be certifiably insane to put myself in that position with it.

    If I think I need a boot, I’ll wear a boot. It just doesn’t happen anymore.

    I don’t want folk ever to come away thinking I’m a foot facist. It’s not lightweight or boots, it’s a little from column A and a little from column B, mixed to your own personal taste.
    Folk might find that they just want their main ingredient from column A all the time like me.

    What pisses me off is the blanket dismissal of plimsoles as a viable alternative for going to the mountain and all the disinformation.
    It shouldn’t be a niche thing, everybody should have the information to make a proper informed choice and find the benefits and joy that I, most folk I know and many others beyond have found.

  8. Right. I do summit camping myself actually, and as you say it’s never much fun putting on the boots in the morning. Cold and damp boots in a vestibule tent are a far cry from the cosy leather warmed up after a car’s journey…

    I hear what you’re saying but I still can’t quite figure out how it works out in practice and unlike you I have no easy access to tryout stuff.

    So, what would you advise as a first experiment in lightweight footwear for camping trips over rough terrain? Summer ones, for the time being…

    I’m genuinely interested, because as I said above all my other stuff is minimalist, and the only thing which I’ve not touched so far is the boots…

  9. It is really difficult, I’d love to say try all the stuff that I use. But fit is much more important in lightweight shoes as there’s less scope for making big changes in fit via footbeds and the like. I tried a set of Superfeet in a pair of Inov8s and the height of the insole’s heel pushed my foot so high that my heel popped out of the shoe with with every step.

    It’s not even about whether it’s a trail shoe or not, it’s whatever is flexible enough to give you dexterity and natural movement while giving your heel a secure base to work from. That might be a light, low cut boot like the Keen Targhee Mids.

    But, since I’ve been using the Salomon XAs again, I’ve come to really like them. The foot shape is spot on, very natural, great heel cup. I think it might be an easy transition to them from boots. The only issue might be the thinner sole, you will feel those stones at first.
    Inov8 have a million models with different lasts, soles and siffness.

    Montrail Highlanders are like fell racing body armour. The fit would be a shock at first, but the grip and function is amazing, again a superb heel cup.

    It’s difficult getting it right first time, but as I always say the moment you get it right is a jumping up and down and clapping your hands moment :o)

  10. OK. I’ll have a look around and if I do any jumping up and down I’ll let you know…

    I had a bad experience with Salomon, or rather my wife did, ten years ago. A pair of light boots that were killing her feet (something sticking out in the soles). Maybe it was an isolated lemon, but we’ve always steered away from Salomon stuff ever since.

    Perhaps it’s time to give them a chance again…

    Thanks for taking the time!

  11. It’s true that one bad experience can turn you off a brand altogether. I remember when Salomon brought out the Super9 Mountain Guide (I think, blue and orange anyway) years back. They had the blood running out of my feet. It must have been seven or eight years before I went near Salomon again.

    I suppose it’s always down to which designer is working at which brand that season and which factory is contracted to make the shoes. A bit of a lottery maybe.

    Good luck with whatever you decide on!

  12. The Montrail CD’s are here and they look the business. One tough looking running shoe, but so light as well. I expect great things…

  13. Alright!

    Let us know how you get on with them. My old Leona Divides are coming apart and it would be nice to know if the Continentals are as good.

  14. Hi all, first comment woo hoo!

    Ive just got my mucky paws on a pair of TNF Hedgehogs and will be trying them on the hill after the Outdoorshow. It’ll be my first venture without my big heavy boots so here’s hoping.

  15. Hello there!

    Let us know how you get on with them. I don’t know the TNF footwear well at all, but it looks good.

    We were going to go to the Outdoorshow, but I just can’t fit it in. Too much on this month now :o(

    There’ll be bargains to be had I’m sure…

  16. I will, I think Im looking at getting out to play on the either the 22nd or the 23rd. I’m planning a wild camp in the hill around Arrochar. Was considering the route from Ardlui up Ben Vorlich (on Outdoorsmagic, I think its Dave Mycrofts), I know its easily done in one day but I figured that as I’m trying out a few items of kit for the first time I want an easy escape if needed.

    I had a pair of TNF mid something or others that lasted me well in OZ and the hedgehogs fit well. I’m not to worried about the GTX liner as I’m well used to it in my boots.

  17. Ben Vorlich is a cracking hill. We climbed it from the South a few weeks back, it’s on here somewhere.
    Lots of good camp spots higher up, but not a lot of water. That’s the only thing about camping high, having to carry extra water.

    There’s a nice wee cafe in the carpark at the Inveruglas power station as well when you come back down :o)

  18. Montrail CD’s have now been improved (for me) by addition of the the Monrtail Enduro Insoles. I had a lot fun cooking them in the oven for a couple minutes last night, but they do seem a really good fit now for my unsupportive feet. Only done 4-5 miles at a time in them thus far, but they are very comfy, nice and cool, and soooo gripy.

  19. I use those insoles a lot. They help around the toes by spreading the load and you don’t get much forward movement on steep descents as the oven-baked insole contouring keeps your foot put inside the shoe.

    Glad it’s working out :o)

  20. Just read your piece in this months trail about footwear and it reminded me of this.

    I ended up not getting out to play around arrochar on 22nd or 23rd due to a “family crisis”. But I have just had a great 2 days on the hills around Moffat with a VERY wild camp at gameshope loch on mon,tues (TN laser comp took a pasting and came out on top).

    The TNF Hedgehogs were superb teamed with a pair of Integral Designs Event shortie gaiter. feet were bone dry after both days of walking. I really noticed that my feet werent even slightly sore on day 2. using trekking pole for the first time and with he light footwear I practically hopped, skipped and jumped up the hills ;-)

  21. That’s magic. It’s great when everything just clicks.

    I’m using a lot of unfamiliar kit this weekend, I hope I have the same luck!

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