A Study in Hiking Shoes

A few weeks ago, my sweet friend, Claire, texted me asking what kind of hiking shoes I would recommend. I held back sending her a full dissertation, but rather sent her links to my two favorite shoes and provided the reasons why I wear each of them. Now, I’m pretty obsessed with both pairs, so I figured I would put together a little hybrid gear review/opinion piece on why I choose to wear the two different shoes for different adventures!

The Boot: La Sportiva FC ECO 3.2 GTX Hiking Boot

I first purchased my La Sportiva FC ECO 3.2 GTX hiking boots (how’s that for a mouthful?) in May 2015, weeks before my 17-day trek on the John Muir Trail. I went on one (1) overnight trip and a handful of day hikes to break them in… In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have purchased new boots so close to such a long trek, but it ended up working out totally fine and the boots were great from day 1! (Although, I did work through some pretty annoying blister problems, but I wholeheartedly attribute that to the socks).

My boots have since traveled to and hiked through California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, and Canada. They supported me over my 221-mile JMT hike, got absolutely caked in mud during a wet backpacking trip in the PNW, and acted as pseudo-snow boots in Denver when we got snowed out of our trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. These babies have supported me on hundreds of trails (and probably close to a thousand miles!), and I’ve honestly never owned a better hiking boot.

That being said, La Sportiva has since stopped making this specific boot (womp womp). They have, however, released a few similar pairs that also get rave reviews! The most similar pair that I could find is the La Sportiva FC 4.1 GTX hiking boots, which is similar in looks, weight, and price tag. These bad boys are on sale at REI though, so I would take that as a hint that they might be discontinued soon as well. If you want to jump on them, jump soon (and for half off? Can’t beat it!!). Other similar La Sportiva hiking boots include the La Sportiva Pyramid GTX hiking boot and the La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX hiking boot (this one looks especially cool!! A hiking boot/trail runner hybrid of sorts).

Now, I’m obsessed with my hiking boots for a number of reasons, but the number one reason is because how comfortable they are. I don’t necessarily have abnorally thin feet, but they definitely aren’t wide, and the thin body of the La Sportiva boots give me support like I’ve never had before in a hiking boot. Most hiking boots feel extremely clunky to me, but these just feel like normal running shoes. They are super lightweight and waterproof, and are surprisingly breathable for a hiking boot! Although you can’t get my specific boot anymore, I’d be extremely surprised if all of the La Sportiva boots weren’t made relatively the same.

Despite being absolutely obsessed with my boots, I don’t wear them on every hike. I primarily wear them on backpacking trips, extremely long dayhikes (think 10+ miles), and hikes where I know my feet might get wet or cold. Even though I just told you all how lightweight they are, they aren’t as lightweight as a trail runner, and on shorter hikes where I’m not carrying a lot of weight on my back, trail runners are much more comfortable. Which brings me to…

The Trail Runner: Salomon X-Mission 3 Trail-Running Shoes

Similar to my hiking boots, I bought my running shoes on a whim, entirely too close to a big event that I was participating in. This time, however, I was participating in the Florida Keys Ragnar Relay, in which I was to run roughly 17 miles, in three legs, over the course of 24 hours. My longest leg topped out just above 10 miles, and during my training, I was experiencing killer knee pain. After speaking to a friend’s grandfather, who had been a high school track coach for 40 years, I realized that my old running shoes had over 700 miles on them, and the support had likely started to dissipate, which might have been causing my knee pain. About three days before I was to fly to Florida for my race, I decided to buy a new pair of running shoes. This proved to be especially difficult, as I was living in Mammoth Lakes during ski season, and the three stores that sold running shoes had a very limited selection (again, it was ski season). I was basically forced to pick the only pair that fit me, and ended up with the Salomon X-Mission 3 Trail-Running Shoes!

Despite choosing to run 17 miles in brand new running shoes, I experienced no problems at all! In fact, much like my hiking boots, these trail runners offered me much more support that I had ever had in a running shoe! I’m not sure if it is because they are technically trail-running shoes, but something about them seemed a bit different than the Nikes that I had always bought before. I ran those shoes into the ground, and when I needed a new pair two years later, I bought the exact same shoe!

These shoes have accompanied me on day hikes, half marathons, and short runs – most recently on the Cherry Blossom 10-mile race in Washington D.C.! They are also extremely lightweight and comfortable, and they dry almost instantaneously if they get wet. They are basically made out of mesh, so my feet never get too hot while hiking or running in them. They also have the quicklace system, so you never have to tie your shoes and can lace up in about .6 seconds (not that I’ve ever needed to lace my shoes in .6 seconds, but it’s a cool feature). The Salomon website really says it all – “The Salomon X-Mission 3 trail-running shoes are ideal for intrepid runners who demand a versatile shoe that can handle everything from pavement to gravel to pine-needle-strewn singletrack.” These babies handle themselves extremely well, no matter if they are on pavement or a trail. When my current pair need replacing, I’ll probably just buy the exact same shoes for a third time.

It is also important to note that some hikers (thru-hikers in particular) decide to wear trail runners on backpacking trips as well. All five most common shoes worn on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018 were trail runners. While this obviously works for a lot of hikers, I haven’t tried out trail runners on a backpacking trip yet. I really like the support that my hiking boots give me, especially in the ankles. That being said, I’m definitely open to the idea of using them on backpacking trips, especially as I slowly transition to ultralite gear!

Have any questions as to why I like my hiking shoes/why I chose to utilize them for different adventures? Leave a comment below or email me at meghikes1@gmail.com! Happy Trails!!

2 comments on “A Study in Hiking Shoes

  1. Pingback: Gear Review: Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest – MEG HIKES

  2. Pingback: My Complete Packing List for the John Muir Trail – MEG HIKES

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