The 2014 shoe report

Disclaimer: Several of the shoes discussed below were given to me, free and under the expectation of a published review, by the manufacturer. Others were purchased at an industry discount, while one was bought at full retail.

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Clockwise from upper left: LaSportiva Vertical K, Altra Lone Peak 1.5, LaSportiva Boulder X Mid, LaSportiva Anakonda, Patagonia Rover, Inov8 Trailroc 235.

I expect a lot from my shoes, almost universally more than any of them were designed for and more than any pair can be reasonably expected to give.  Nonetheless I refuse to compromise or soften my demands.  I don’t expect to ever find the perfect shoe, but I see no reason to stop looking.  What follows here is a discussion of all the dirt footwear I’ve used thus far in 2014.

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I gave the Anakonda pretty effusive praise last year, and followed through on that by taking them on the big trip back in March.  They performed very well during a very stern test, though they returned mostly ready for retirement.  In an ideal world I’d like a proper toe rand, but the rubber works so well that for a trip like that one I’m willing to put up with somewhat limited longevity.

The only issue, which prevented me from buying another pair, was the poorly padded upper edge on the heel pocket.  I came back from that Grand Canyon trip with a bit of achilles infammation, which among other things prevented me from going into the Bob Open with as many miles in the legs as I would’ve liked.  Going cold turkey into such a tough trip was one cause, but I’m pretty sure the harsh back edge of the shoes was another.

The tread and rubber on the Anakonda is flawless.  I cannot think of a single way in which it could be improved.  The fit is very good for me, minus the heel issue.  The upper is not bad.  When LaSportiva fixes the heel pocket I’ll be back in these shoes 90% of the time.

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I wrote a lot about the Rover for Toe Salad, and more months in them has only served to reinforce those conclusions.  They’re a great shoe.  I really like the fit.  The upper has held up well.  The tread isn’t so good in mud, but does quite well in the water and thus makes this a good packrafting shoe.  The rand and decently substantial midsole make them surprisingly comfortable with strap-on crampons.  As seen in the first photo, I’ve been running an extra insole to give them a bit more padding, which I appreciate under a heavier pack.

There with a bit more padding and the Anakonda sole would be close to perfect.  As they are, I’ll most likely be wearing the Rover when I go back to the Grand Canyon for another backpack in late October.

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The Trailrocs are a great shoe, but for me they have limited applicability.  As seen above, the upper isn’t durable enough for me to buy another pair, but the more serious factor is that they don’t have quite enough backbone to be my ideal backpacking shoe.  I’ve worn them on longer trips with a 30+ pound pack, but my legs aren’t quite there, and in such circumstances the shoes definitely add to the cumulative fatigue.  Brendan wore these on our Grand Canyon trip, an impressive testament to very strong feet and legs.

The Trailrocs are a comfortable training shoe which I use for dayhikes and light duty generally.  It’s beneficial to have a more flexible, minimal shoe in the stable to train your feet, and for me these are currently it.

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I really wanted to like the Vertical Ks, as the lightness and cushion of the sole are fantastic, but the forefoot is just too narrow.  Even the lacing strategy above didn’t get the job done.  Anyone want a pair of 45s, cheap?  If not I’ll keep them for short trips, or just let them gather dust.

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The Lone Peaks are the latest addition to the stable, and now have about 70 miles on them, mostly off-trail.  I find myself agreeing with Ryan’s review almost to the letter: the fit, cushion, and stiffness are all fantastic, but the upper sucks and the rubber could use some work.  I’ve already sheared off a few lugs, and in spite of aggressive aquasealing wear points emerged on the mesh over this past weekend.  Beyond spec?  Yes, but not overly so.  Hopefully the 2.0 version is better in this respect.

Unless durability is improved I can’t see investing in another pair of these, but there is a lot to like anyway.

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The Boulder X Mid remains a faithful and dependable member of the arsenal, in spite of being quite different than anything else I own.  A waterproof and stiffer shoe is good for spring and early summer snow, though if you find yourself kicking a bunch of steps in harder snow your toes will suffer (bring crampons, duh!).  I bought these in 44.5 rather than my normal 45, and while this makes them climb better the approach of hunting season and the desire for a durable and warm shoe for carrying a heavier pack in nasty terrain (while going slow and not generating as much foot heat) has me wondering if a pair in 45.5 or even 46 might be nice.  Currently I can’t wear thicker socks without running into too little toe room.

The next hunting trip these are almost certainly getting the nod.  A full rand and stiffer sole have a place off trail, especially with a larger pack.

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One thought on “The 2014 shoe report

  1. Better stock up on the Rover’s as Wolverine World Wide dropped Patagonia. Looks likely that Patagonia will be out of the footwear business at least for the near future.

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