Shoes of the Crosslite family have been my point of reference for rugged backpacking and hiking for a decade now.  The Crosslite, Crossleather, X Country, Anakonda, and Bushido have shared basic tread patterns, excellent rubber, close fit and low stack height, making them the best choice, for my foot, for technical hiking.  Most of these shoes (the X Country being the exception) had/have more than averagely durable uppers, enough that the tread wears out at around the same time.  Good enough.

Sadly the Bushido, which has been fundamentally unaltered for half a decade, is when it comes to fit the worst of the lot.  I’ve on my third pair, and it has only been through going without insoles entirely that they have enough volume.  Insoles would be ideal for protection from grit, but I can manage.  What I’ve struggled with in both the Anakonda and Bushido has been the aggessive heel counter, aka the plastic reinforcement which wraps and provides structure to the heel cup.  The Anakonda always pinched my heel at the top of the cup.  Thicker than avearage socks and a single layer of tape definitively prevented the little blister I’d otherwise get, again, manageable but annoying.  Pair #1 of the Bushidos did not do this, pair #2 did, and pair #3 did it badly enough that for all of last year they sat unused.  I couldn’t hike more than a mile without serious heel damage.



So with nothing to loose this winter I put those shoes under the knife, and cut out of the heal counter entirely.  I’ve had a few shoes, the Altra King MT most prominently, which lacked any reinforcement here, the King MT particularly had me suspecting I’d do just fine without it.  The King MT is, like every Altra I’ve used or seen, something of a floppy piece of shit, but that is due to slipshod misfoot design and crappy upper materials, not the presence or absence of a heel counter.

So, I sliced through the upper material, and layer of inner mesh, down to the plastic counter, pealed the material off the outside of the counter and down the inside (this doesn’t take too much effort), and cut the plastic out with tin snips, flush with the sole structure.  I then glued the whole mess back together with multiple layers of Aquaseal, using good Aquaseal technique (i.e. allowing air cure before pressing things together).

A couple hundred miles since, and all signs are good.  The absence of the plastic reinforcement is obvious when I put the shoes on, but it does not negatively impact on trail or off trail performance.  No blisters, and most significantly no durability issues.  I’m not sure I’d care to repeat the procedure, but if I continue to struggle with finding low stack, low drop shoes that have both good tread and durable uppers, I might have little choice.

7/2020 update:

This experiment taught me a lot but was ultimately a failure.  The shoes got a lot of hard, mostly off trail miles last summer and fall, holding up well.  On a trip a few weeks ago, with lots of trail miles, the inner fabric and mesh between the cut counter and my feet began to decay and rip, and the result, even with tape to keep the interface slick, was significant blister formation on the outside of both heels.  I think this failure could have been delayed with more careful cutting, but I also think that the fabric layers, absent the plastic layer, are not strong enough to hold up.





13 responses to “Counter-less”

  1. “The King MT is, like every Altra I’ve used or seen, something of a floppy piece of shit, but that is due to slipshod midfoot design and crappy upper materials, not the presence or absence of a heel counter.”

    I just love this. Same, same, same.

    1. Most over rated shoe company I can recall.

  2. Any interaction with the Bushido 2?

    1. I don’t own a pair. But trying them on they feel identical to the OG.

      1. Jeff Mitchell Avatar
        Jeff Mitchell

        I returned a pair of original bushido to REI as being too tight/ low volume in the fore foot (with the insole in), but am happy with the fit in the bushido 2. i.e. the new version seems to have a little more volume in it. I can’t comment on any difference in the heel counter. I do get hot spots on my heels with the bushido 2 and will tape for anything over a few hours.

      2. Weird, I could barely wear the OG Bushidos and Anakondas around the house for more than five minutes due to the heel counter and I’m prepared to crown the Bushido IIs the best shoe I’ve ever worn. Feels significantly different on my feet.

        1. Seems I need to give them another shot.

  3. Camber Rebmac Avatar
    Camber Rebmac

    Have you tried on the Lycans? I just went to try on the Bushido II, and it’s still too narrow for my Fred Flintstone feet.

    1. Too much arch support.

      1. Camber Rebmac Avatar
        Camber Rebmac

        Thank you Dave.

  4. […] as a shoe gets.  There is no heal counter (which will allow for further exploration of the extent to which this is necessary), and very little padding.  One can fold the heel flat and use the shoes as slip ons.  […]

  5. I read your Bushido review about the same time I was having problems with my Ultra Raptors. Taking the insoles out gave me enough volume and lowered them to a more comfortable height. They’re the first hiking shoe I’ve re-bought. Thanks for your continued insights on your process.

  6. […] previous day and incarnate it as experience.  My feet were tired, a few blisters forming (due to a shoe experiment finally failing),  but with a mind flexible in the face of adversity and obdurate of the […]

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