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The time of shallow snow, snain, and hourly freeze/thaw cycles is upon us. Check your shoes.

Caveat for all of this is that the shoes gotta fit ya.  Check the links to older posts for more extensive discussion.

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The Boulder X Mid continued to impress through our rather short summer snow climbing season.  They’re the perfect answer to the fast hiker and backpacker who wants to be able to do plenty of line-of-least-resistance snow climbing as part of their routes.  They’re the least structured shoes I’d want to put flexible 10 point crampons on for hours on end.  They’re not stiff enough to frontpoint, but they can kick steps in softer snows.  They climb rock well too.  The harder midsole is not the most comfy for long miles, but up to 20 per day I found them just dandy.  Sizing down a half size was a good call for me, though I need to remember to loosen the toe lacing before extended downhill hikes, or the tops of my toes rub.  No concerns about durability with that big rand.  With extensive snoseal in the leather they remained waterproof through all the snow slogging.  I got them drenched several times on stream crossings, and they get boggy but are perfectly tolerable.  They dry about as you’d expect: fairly slowly.

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The Anakondas may be the best rugged hiking shoe ever made.  I maintain that the last is the same as the X Country, but the stark lack of padding throughout the shoe makes them wear very differently.  The first time I wore them was for a fast training hike on a dirt road, and I ended with a pressure blister on my right achilles.  I assumed they’d be unwearable.  Instead the shoe broke in a bit, I learned to lace the upper slots very tightly, and to wear slightly plusher socks.  The heal cup often seems on the edge of being problematic, but I’ve had no more blisters.

What I have had is the unrivaled all-conditions grip of the Crosslite sole, together with a very quick drying upper which thus far has laughed off all the talus and bushwacking I’ve thrown at it.  I don’t think I’ll be able to kill them before it’s ski boot time, but I will try.  Durability until death is the last rubric unevaluated before I give them the crown.

Before I discuss the next shoe, it’s worth noting that as recently as 13 months ago I only took the X Countrys on rugged alpine stuff with some trepidation.  Now the Anakondas are my burly, bulletproof, heavy pack shoe.  What are the limits of foot adaptation?

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To that end, I present the Inov8 Trailrock 235.  9 oz a shoe in 44.5.  I’ll be doing an exhaustive comparison between these last two for Toe Salad late this fall, in the context of minimalist footwear for rugged hiking.  Inov8 sized me down half a size from what I requested, which was a good call.  The anatomic last, seen above, certainly works.  They feel like moccasins cruising down the trail, with an impressive blend of flexibility and a precise fit.  You don’t edge these in steep terrain, but smearing grip on dirt and scree is excellent thanks to the good tread pattern.  The rubber compound is noticeably harder than that on the Anakondas, and wet rock grip is consequently quite a bit worse.  I preemptively aquasealed the toe area, as the red toe patch was pealing a fair bit after minimal use.  They’re a good shoe, but will likely fall into the will the upper outlast the tread trap of most light shoes.

The real value of a shoe like the Trailroc is as a milder terrain trainer to keep your feet tough and ready.  I wore them last weekend, and cruised through all the rocks and the final, 3700′ descent just fine, with only a little unusual shin soreness to let me know I had done some bonus training.  It’s good to have a quiver.