Footwear for Lightweight Backpacking

Over the years manufactures and suppliers have been telling us that we need to use our hard-earned cash on heavy, expensive hiking boots. Advertising from large companies dictate what the main stream buy. Instead, I challenge you to listen to the advice from people using and testing gear like bloggers, YouTubers and discussions on forums by the same people just to name a few.

My intension for this article is to explain my progression over the years from shoe to shoe. It is not intended as a strict review but rather an account of my experiences and opinions using the selection of footwear that I have tried and tested.

I did actually start out hiking in “traditional hiking boots” only to suffer with sweaty feet and blisters, especially toe blisters. I remember that when I was a young teenager (some 40 years ago) I used to go down to the local army surplus store and buy ex-army boots for hiking in. They were heavy, stiff, used and hot to hike in.

For three season usage I do not hike in heavy “hiking boots” but rather, I prefer to wear trail shoes which are both cooler to wear and lighter to hike in, and they dry out faster. Through the winter I still wear trail shoes which you can read about further down in this article.

With a lightweight pack, I have found that it is not necessary to wear a heavy pair of hiking boots. My footwear system with toe socks and trail shoes has proven over time to be a winner. I never experience blisters when I wear these two items in combination. You can read my article about the Injinji trail mid weight mini crew toe socks here. I have used this combination on week-long treks in the mountains. Here I’m referring to both my above the Arctic Circle treks in 2018 and 2019 in Northern Sweden.

inov-8 Roclite 295 Trail Shoes

inov-8 Roclite 295 Trail Shoes 580 g

These were my first pair of trail shoes. I use other items made by this manufacturer. They also make great rain gear too. These shoes are incredibly light at only 580 grams in size 44 EU. They have a fantastic grip. I really love these shoes. They have however one downfall. The heel cushioning is too minimal! There is not enough protection and I suffered with sores on my heels because of this.

I ended up having to modify the Roclite 295’s with some neoprene glued on to the heel area. I tried to ask first at one of those small shoe repair shops, but they wouldn’t help me. After the modification they have been fine, and they are still going strong. They just look a little worn. I use these shoes mainly for strolls around home now but I have thought about using them again on some shorter hikes.

inov-8 ROCLITE 295 Trail Shoes
I had to modify the Roclites with some neoprene glued on to the heel area because they were too thin and I always got sores on my heels

inov-8 Roclite 282 GTX Gore-Tex Trail Shoe

inov-8 Roclite 282 GTX Gore-Tex Trail Shoes 702 g

After using the inov-8 Roclite 295 trail shoes I decided to try the Roclite 282 GTX Gore-Tex trail shoes. My pair is in size 44 EU and weigh 702 grams for the pair. These shoes are more like a boot and offer some water protection. When I say “some water protection” I mean that after prolonged exposure in pouring rain or deep snow they will eventually “wet out”. I like to call these shoes my four season footwear. They still feel like a shoe and wear like a shoe, but they offer a little more warmth and protection. I tried to wear them in the summer on the Gendarme Trail, a 74 km trail along the Danish-German border, back in August 2016 but I found them too hot for that time of the year. These shoes are my go-to “winter shoes” for lightweight backpacking.

Bedrock Syncline Sandals: Allround-Minimal

Fjällräven Classic Denmark 2017
Bedrock Syncline Sandals: Allround-Minimal 270 g

The Syncline model doesn’t seem to be on Bedrock’s website now. I purchased mine back in May 2017. However, they have a model called the Classic Sandals and these are identical to my model called Syncline. Bedrock write that these minimalist sandals find strap design inspiration from the huarache running sandals of the Copper Canyon’s Tarahumara Tribe. My pair weigh in at 270 grams and the size is 10/11 US. They were packed as camp shoes on my Fjällräven Classic Denmark 2017 hike, and they were a pleasure to wear. As camp shoes they are not particularly lightweight though. I own some cheap reef sandals that are significantly lighter than the Syncline sandals are. They haven’t been used for hiking in yet. I would like to try them out with one of my nice light loads on a two-day hike in the summer period some time though.

Fjällräven Classic Denmark 2017
Fjällräven Classic Denmark 2017

Merrell All Out Terra Trail Shoes 627g

Merrell All Out Terra Trail Shoes
Merrell All Out Terra Trail Shoes 627g

The Merrell All Out Terra trails shoes are very lightweight. They have a built-in sock liner and with the 6 mm diamond pattern lug depth on the soles they offer some nice grip in rugged terrain.

Features

 • Mesh and TPU upper 
• Reflective details for increased visibility in low light 
• Synthetic leather lacing system 
• Removable footbed 
• TrailProtect ™ pad offers under foot protection 
• 6 mm drop / 16 mm heel cushion / 24 mm heel stack height 
• 6 mm lug depth 
• Vegan friendly footwear 
• Weight: 627 grams (1 pair) in size 44 EU

I’ve actually hiked in these pair of shoes only once on my Skåneleden SL2 stage 3 & 6 hike back in April 2018. Don’t get me wrong, I think that they are great shoes that are very comfortable and grip well. However, I did experience overheated toes in the foot box. The night temperatures were under freezing while the day temps rose to 17℃. I wasn’t wearing my Injinji toe socks but I wore some Darn Tough full cushion boot socks. If I was wearing my Injinji socks, then perhaps I wouldn’t have got toe blisters and my toes wouldn’t of been so warm. I’m willing to give these shoes another shot some day. They might be great to take on a Northern Sweden trek the next time I’m up that way. I also love the built-in sock liner which is something that the next pair of shoes that I will write about below would be nice if they came with that feature as well.

Altra Lone Peak 3.5

Altra Lone Peak 3.5 (632 g)

The Altra Lone Peak 3.5’s have been my go-to hiking shoe since April 2018. Mine weigh in at 632 grams in size 44 EU for the pair.

Features

  • Flexible StoneGuard rock plates built into the soles add protection underfoot 
  • Natural Ride system encourages a natural gait and effective transition as it supports every step (zero drop)
  • Reinforced mesh upper for increased durability and protection 
  • GaiterTrap hook-and-loop tabs allow strapless gaiter attachment to block debris

These same pair of shoes have been used on most of my hikes for about 1½ years now. I have been mostly impressed with the comfort, lightness and fast drying features of these shoes. I wouldn’t say that the grip is that great and I have slipped a few times in them, but mainly in cold conditions with snow and ice. One could say that it is my own fault for falling as I probably should have used some crampons.

Skåneleden SL5 Sections 9, 12, 13 & 14
On my Skåneleden SL5 Sections 9, 12, 13 & 14 hike March 2019

I have really put these shoes to the test this year 2019, I’m not sure how many kilometers I’ve done in them but I probably should replace them soon. The shoes only show signs of wear on the treads which is good. When I watch some YouTube reviews about these shoes I can see how many of the Altras have developed holes in the side walls.

They were used on my 2018 Kungsleden Trek which included one mountain pass and my Riksgränsen to Abisko via Vistas 2019 trip where I climbed at least four mountain passes. I carried backpacks with low weights around 10 – 11 kg (without water). Feeling that I can hardly notice that I have a backpack on sometimes, I don’t feel a need for any more support than what these shoes can offer me. As far a stability and walking on loose rocks go, they cope well without any issues. I never go anywhere without my trekking poles and I think that they are a big contributor to me not feeling unstable. Rocky trails are certainly difficult to walk on but underfoot the Altras seem to work for me.

After using these shoes for 1½ years you would think that I would be used to the zero drop by now but I’ve been thinking about this lately. On my 2018 Kungsleden Trek I had some lower knee issues on descents although in 2019 my knees have been fine. However, I developed a shin splint pain on my right leg on the 4th day of my Riksgränsen to Abisko via Vistas 2019 trip. I am more likely to put it down to “too much too soon” and that I hadn’t trained enough for the rock jumping and climbing. But I do wonder if the Altra’s zero drop feature had anything to do with the shin splint issue. Two weeks after my return, the pain had disappeared.

Some years ago when I used to run a lot I used a shoe that offered support for pronation control. I discussed this with @xposedpaths on YouTube. He suggested that perhaps I should consider some insoles. He uses Superfeet insoles which give more support for arches without having to change to a different shoe brand.

In the mountains the Altra Lone Peak trail shoes dry out fast. I just walk straight through streams with them on and my socks and shoes dry out in due course. I’ll hang my socks to dry overnight and usually by morning they are reasonably dry along with the shoes. The strong Arctic winds help to air dry as well. I rub some foot balm into my feet at night when I go to bed if conditions are rather moist. When I had completed my longer treks my feet looked great; no blisters or sores and ready for another 120 kilometers.

The Altra Lone Peak 3.5 trail shoes are a great all-round hiking shoe if you are not carrying a huge heavy traditional backpack and don’t require additional ankle support. These shoes are my go-to hiking shoes.

Salomon Techamphibian 3 Sandal/Shoe

Salomon Techamphibian 3 Sandal/shoe 642g
Salomon Techamphibian 3 sandal/shoe 642 g

I love to try out new and exciting gear. The above pair of Salomon Techamphibian 3 sandal/shoe and the below Terra Fi Lite Sandals are recent purchases that I haven’t used for hiking in yet. Both are great for wet conditions, I’ll be planning to use them sometime next year. Once I get some use out of them I’ll update and edit this post with my findings.

Terra Fi Lite Sandal

Terra Fi Lite Sandal 600 g
Terra Fi Lite Sandal 600 g

Disclosure:
Product(s) discussed in this article were either purchased by Brian Outdoors from a retailer or otherwise provided by the manufacturer at a discount/donation with no obligation to provide media coverage or a product review to the manufacturer(s). I do not accept compensation or donated product in exchange for guaranteed media placement or product review coverage without clearly denoting such coverage as an “ADVERTISEMENT” or “SPONSORED CONTENT.”

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