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.
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.