Get Out and Experience Wintertime Trails

Get Out and Explore Wintertime Trails

Yes, we all know Saskatchewan’s winters can be chilling and we’d rather stay indoors, but that’s no reason to pack up and hibernate until the next year. Hiking season on the trails is not over as soon as the snow falls. Give winter hiking a try and push yourself beyond the boundaries of the warm couch. Activities on the trail can actually be more fun than their summer counterparts. Here are a few reasons to get outdoors this winter and soak in nature all year round!

This time of year opens up the opportunity for more exciting activities. Ever try to go cross country skiing in the summertime? It’s not a good time. Snow may be the end of many of our favorite summertime activities like cycling, but it also opens up great activities like snowshoeing, tobogganing and cross-country skiing. Not only are there new great winter activities to do on the trails, but the blissfulness of a fresh snowfall on an empty trail is a beautiful moment everyone should experience!

Secondly, we are from Saskatchewan. We should embrace the cold and see it as an opportunity for more adventures on our great lands. The cold hasn’t stopped us before and shouldn’t stop us now. Exploring the trails in the snow doesn’t have to be cold, wearing the proper gear, and layering up can keep you warm and snug. Worried about traction or depth of the snow? That’s what snowshoes and hiking poles are for. Before you knock the idea of a trek through the glorious snow globe of Saskatchewan trails, give it a shot!

Another great reason to get outside and get active on the trails this winter is for all the positive benefits both physically and mentally. Hiking in the snow can be more work, but that also means more muscle building and greater stability. Hiking in the winter actually burns more calories than hiking in the summertime. Aside from the burning of extra calories and building of muscles, the quiet and blissfulness of trails in the winter is a great way to release stress, anxiety, and enjoy nature. Being on the trails in the winter months is just more peaceful, especially with no mosquitoes to worry about!

Qu’Appelle River Run

By Russ Hodgins

Please note that before you venture out on the ice, make sure it is safe!

Many years ago, we did a canoe trip from Craven to Pasqua Lake and learned firsthand how this river brings a whole new meaning to the word “meander”. A mile as the crow flies can translate into an hour of paddling. Canoe season is over and while I have ventured out onto the river ice a few times, it has never been for any distance. A windy Saturday changed that and convinced me to drop down over the bank for a winter “canoe trip”. A bonus was the minimal snow cover, making for better travelling and much easier to spot bad spots in the ice. The current is strongest on the outside of curves, meaning that will be where the ice is thinnest. As we hugged the inside corners, the tracks showed us coyotes also follow this pattern for the most part. In their case, it probably had more to do with it being the shortest route while my inspiration came from the desire to stay dry.

A cloudy day shortly became sunny with a much appreciated rise in temperature, which necessitated placing my jacket and gloves into my pack.  St. Marks church in the distance.

A short time later, our dog gave a few “what the heck is that” barks as she rounded a bend ahead of me. I sped up to find out what unknown creature had her so hesitant, to find a cow moose which had just crossed the river and was climbing up the bank. I was able to get a few photos before it ambled off in no great hurry and was happy that our dog showed such wise restraint with an animal that size.

As the afternoon drew to a close, we were treated to a beautiful Saskatchewan sunset.

To save some time with darkness approaching, I cut up onto the bank and took a few shortcuts, bypassing large loops of the river which almost circled back to the same point. I have to say, the portages are much easier on this winter “canoe trip”.

The trip back had us back up on the road as we went by St. Marks church, now just a dark silhouette as night set in.

The river ice allowed us the chance to see the valley from a different perspective but it is a trip that has to be timed correctly to match the ice conditions. The cold weather and lack of snowfall at the time meant the ice was thicker and at any point when in doubt, we cut up onto the bank and detoured past the spot. It was an afternoon of adventure on the winding Qu’Appelle River.

Tips to Staying Warm on Winter Trails

Hitting the trails throughout winter can be a lot of fun. There are new activities like snowshoeing, it can be more peaceful, and you can even burn more calories while building more muscle. The downside of the trails being covered in snow is obviously the low temperatures. Here are a handful of tips to keep you toasty warm while trekking through the trails this winter.

Layers!

This one may seem obvious, but you have to wear layers. Layering your clothing helps to trap in warm air and keep you warm. The other benefit of layers is that if you begin to get to warm or overheat, you can easily remove a layer. Wearing a few extra layers will help to keep you warm throughout your hike on the trail and help to ensure a comfortable trip.

Head, Feet, and Hands!

You can lose a lot of heat in the wintertime through your head, feet, and hands. It makes keeping these areas warm that much more important. Wearing proper footwear, gloves and toques can ensure these areas hold in heat rather than releasing it.

Having trouble keeping your hands or feet warm? You can find little heat packs at Walmart or the Dollar Store to give you a little boost of heat on long winter hikes. Make sure to check what material your socks, gloves, and toque are made of.

Know Your Materials!

Some material is significantly better than others at staying dry, repelling water and insulating heat. For instance, wool, polyester, nylon, or synthetic materials will do a much better job of keeping you warm and dry than cotton or denim. So, skip the jeans and cotton t-shirts while layering up for your winter adventure.

Snacks and Hydration!

If you are going on a longer trail, bring plenty of water and healthy protein/carb filled snacks. Good snacks are mixed nuts, granola bars, and protein bars. Maintaining proper hydration and sustenance will ensure you have the required energy your body needs to stay warm and have high energy levels. A thermos of hot chocolate can be a great way to stay warm and have a nice treat throughout your hike.

Weather Check!

As much as hiking on a winter day can be an amazing adventure, not every day makes for a great adventure. As we all know, some Saskatchewan days can be absolutely freezing. Make sure to check the forecast and weather updates so that you don’t end up on the trails in the middle of a blizzard. Choose a day with more sunlight and less wind to help to further keep you warm and cozy on the trails.

Shoe Spikes!                 

Terrain in the winter can be icy and slippery which can lead to falls and wet clothing. An easy solution to the unknown terrain of some trails is slip on/strap on shoe/boot spikes. Shoe spikes can be found at pretty much any outdoors store, Walmart, and even sometimes at the Dollar Store. Shoes spikes allow you to traverse rougher or more slippery terrain with ease and help you to hook to the ground to avoid falls.

Get Moving!

The final tip to staying warm is to get active! Try increasing your pace or attempting some light inclines to get your blood pumping and keep you warm. Increasing your activity level will effectively ensure you stay warm.

Regardless of what it takes to stay warm, some of the most enjoyable and relaxing hikes can come from visiting the trails during the winter. Stay warm and have fun!

Klinger’s Trail

Friends and family of Kleon Swahn (aka Klinger) have rallied together to incorporate a walking trail in his memory.

Kleon was born and raised in Rose Valley and spent a lot of his childhood years at Marean Lake. He married Jamie Schweitzer from Archerwill and had two children, Braden and Kiana. He worked his dream job with SaskPower for 23 years until he was killed in a workplace accident on Dec. 20, 2014. They resided in Saskatoon but spent any time they could at their cabin at Marean Lake. He was a great man and deserves a great legacy.

The trail will be 8 kms in length and join the two communities of Marean Lake and Greenwater Lake. It will meander through dense bush mostly in Greenwater Park and have scenic views of the lake and shoreline.

There are six smaller bridges planned as well as a large 40’ bridge. The trail will consist of base gravel with crusher dust topping. There will be rest areas along the way with sponsor benches provided. This trail is greatly needed in the area as people now walk on the grid roads which are dusty and dangerous.

The local trail group has received permission from all parties involved and hope to begin construction in early 2020. This project is a labour of love and has been two years in the making.

You can donate to this project at https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/saskatchewan-trails-association-inc/.

Fat Biking in Saskatchewan

Fatbikes, also known as Fatties or fat tire bikes, are a fun and exciting activity that allows cyclists more freedom from their traditional bicycle. Although fatbiking is currently growing in popularity, it isn’t new. With all of the possible new adventures that fatbiking can bring, here are the basics that you need to know about fatbiking.

Fatbiking is similar to biking or cycling in that the bicycles are very similar with only a few differences. The main difference is the fat or large tires. The increased tire size and decreased tire pressure makes it easier to stabilize yourself and thus provide an easier ride for all people.

Fatbiking can be a lot of fun and is a new activity for plenty of people. Due to the thickness of the tires, more surface area touches the ground and allows for more traction, stability, and an over all smoother ride.

So what? I know what you are thinking, it’s just a bike with bigger tires. Hold up, these specialized tires allow even the most beginner riders to take on terrains that most bicycles could not.

These fatbikes can travel on gravel, mud, dirt, sand, rocks, asphalt, and well pretty much anything you want to, but with more ease. This makes fatbiking a perfect fit for hitting the trails under almost any condition and even heading off the beaten path to make your own route or trail.

An added bonus, fatbikes can be used on wet terrain as well as snow. So rather than riding a bike on pavement for a few of the warm months in Saskatchewan, you can ride a fatbike, year-round on and terrain, through any condition. The fatbike community is growing in the province as well!

Fatbiking is another amazing activity to partake in year-round to burn those calories off, exercise, and enjoy the outdoors all year round regardless of weather. For those of you looking to learn more or talk to other Fatbikers, you’re in luck, we have just the thing for you!

The FatLanders FatTire Brigade is a group dedicated to the riding of fatbikes in Saskatoon. They are Saskatchewan’s first recognized fatbike specific cycling club and the only one in Canada. Go join them and discover the pure joy and pleasures of riding on snow and sand in and around Saskatoon.

Join the group and learn more here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/447916948562568/! There are also many other fatbike groups, websites, and Facebook pages that can help you to learn everything you need to know, including where to get one!

Churchill River Water Legacy Trail Project

Churchill River Water Legacy Trail Project

We’re raising funds to construct new composting toilets along the Churchill River and in the north with the STA raffle. Don’t miss out on the chance to get your hands on some great prizes and support a great cause! Raffle tickets are 1 for $10 or 3 for $25.

If you purchase your tickets early there is a special early bird prize which includes a family pack of tickets to the Saskatoon showing of the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour on January 13th 2020!

The early bird draw will take place on Monday, December 2nd, 2019 at the Saskatchewan Trails Association office and the raffle draw will take place on Saturday, March 28th, 2020 at the George Bothwell Library in Regina.

Some of the great raffle prizes include:

  • Two Tickets to the Banff Film Festival ($40)
  • Saskatoon Canoeing Club Membership ($55)
  • Classic Outdoors paddle ($95)
  • Hand carved Greenland kayak paddle ($150)
  • Back40 Wilderness First Aid CPR/AED Course and Day Trip Kit ($300)
  • Outter Limits Camping Package ($300)
  • Eb’s Source for Adventures 60L canoe barrel, harness, small barrel cooler, barrel bucket, barrel pocket, external barrel pouch, 2 Eb’s 1L Nalgene water bottles, 2 Backpackers Pantry Ice Cream Sandwiches ($350)
  • Churchill River Outfitters Three-Day Whitewater Course ($600)

Curious about how you can get your ahold of these raffle tickets?

Tickets are available at Eb’s Source for Adventure and Outter Limits in Saskatoon. You can also purchase tickets by emailing info@sasktrails.ca

State of Saskatchewan Trails

STATE OF SASKATCHEWAN TRAILS

During the last few years, the Saskatchewan Trails Association has made considerable efforts to improve the trail network in the province and further the engagement with new and current lovers of the trails. But what we were lacking was the understanding of trail issues within the province and the necessary tools to maintain and enhance this work. This led the STA to initiate a survey project to develop a greater understanding of the current state of trails in the province.

We would like to thank the trail enthusiasts and operators who participated in the survey. The information we have gathered is going towards improving the trails so you can continue to enjoy all the beauty Saskatchewan has to offer.

The survey was distributed 856 individuals representing a variety of users and operators including STA members, First Nations, snowmobilers, ATVers, municipalities, provincial sport and recreation associations, provincial park staff, and resort communities. The survey was distributed during May 13, 2019 and June 13, 2019 and received 72 responses from trail users and 20 responses from trail operators (10.7% response rate).

The responses from trail users included:

Number of Trails

Many people indicated that Saskatchewan does not have an adequate number of trails. This could also be due to lack of knowledge of current trails. Walking and running are leading for use of trails but just barely, snowmobiling, ATVing, skiing, and cycling all follow very close behind.

Development of New Trails

The survey showed mixed results to where new trails should be constructed, but there was a consensus that new trails and methods to find new trails should be undertaken. It was suggested that trails “could sponsor family biking days, where local bike shops take groups out for training rides.” This could work if more trail operators ran event days to spread awareness about trails. Diversity in the trails is required, both longer day trails and short trails requested with varying difficulty.

Safety

The majority of survey participants felt safe on the trails. There were a few who suggested culling wild hogs, more shelters in Prince Albert National Park, and drinking and driving checks for snowmobilers and ATVers.

Signage

Many commented they would like more signage, maps, and signs to show Point of Interests (POIs) on their journey.

Most people search for trails using the internet and word of mouth with few using trail guides or apps. There should be more promotion of the STA’s trail directory and resources blog as people will find it easier to access the info they are looking for. The info people want to know about trails is their location, condition reports, maps, snow condition, and trail descriptions.

 ATV Use

There seems to be disagreement between two groups of people in regard to ATV use. One side argues there are not enough ATV trails and info while the others argue that ATVers wreck the trails, are dangerous and don’t respect the land. Drinking and riding laws and enforcement was brought up multiple times.

Leave No Trace

One responded recommended it would be nice to see Saskatchewan adopt the Leave No Trace principles in all their trails.

 

The response from trail operators included:

Construction

Trail construction was noted as being a difficult process with concerns raised about funding, length of time/amount of work to construct a trail, the use of heavy equipment and volunteers, required skills, knowledge and amount of trail grooming.

Funding

Trail operators mainly commented on the lack of money/consistent grants for trail upkeep as well as the difficulty they face with low funding in regard to maintaining current trails. Funding for trail development comes mostly from donations or out-of-pocket with few government grants and corporate sponsorship to assist. The heavy majority of trail operators agreed there is not adequate funding for trail building and maintenance.

Due to this lack of funding, most trails are updated and groomed only once yearly if not less.

This upkeep is targeted to address weather deterioration and signage. Most trail clean-up is done by volunteers and eco-friendly trail users. Trail operators seem to have a strong network with many operators consulting with one another to solve problems and answer questions.

 

For the full report visit: STA report

The Mystery of Fairy Hill Trail!

My obsession with Fairy Hill Trail continues. To understand that, you need to know how it started.  I heard about this trail that is supposed to be down the valley from our place called the Fairy Hill Hiking Trail.  I ran there last summer but somehow missed the start point of the trail. I did find a Fairy Hill sign, I knew I was in the right area so I took off running through the grass in search of a trail.

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A side trip bushwhacking down a fence line resulted in a few cuts, scratches and expletives but no trail.

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I did find the no longer used overgrown highway # 6 and while I didn’t know it at the time, I actually ran past the trail as I travelled down this old road.

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Which brings us to yesterday. I was off on another long run and ended up at Fairy Hill once again. This time, I was determined to find the trail. I checked a different corner of the property and low and behold, over the crest of a hill was this sign:

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Success at last!  Off I went, happily exploring a new trail! About half of it was on deer trails in the bush with little flags marking the correct deer trail:

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Really nice views ……………….

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And then it happened …………………………….

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After climbing the big hill just past number 6 on the map, I was running towards 7 and then there were no trail markers. I kept going on a cattle trail that branched into three cattle trails but still no markers. I went back to the last marker and looked to both sides of the trail but no markers showing the trail had taken an abrupt turn. I went back on the cattle trails for a quarter of a mile, no markings. I circled left and then a circle right, no markings. I was sure if I kept following the cattle trails, I would eventually find the right trail again but here’s the deal. I had just run a long way and still had the same long way left to get back home. I was OK with running farther but I also had to be back in a certain time as we had to go into town. The time factor won out and I retraced my steps back to the trail head and then home.

Sure, Fairy Hill has won the first two rounds, but I will not be defeated!

I shall return, Fairy Hill.

You have not seen the last of me yet!

By: Russell Hodgins – On the Board for the Saskatchewan Trails Association

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Let us know on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter @SaskTrailsAssociation if you have ever been to the Fairy Hill Trail or have any pictures you would like to share!

 

The “Canoe Trip” Run

image001Guest blog by Russell Hodgins

What better way to fill in a couple of hours then to explore trails in a new place? Life found me in Moose Jaw on March 2nd with my running gear and time to spare so I parked on Valleyview Drive overlooking the Moose Jaw River valley. A short run down on 7th Avenue SW brought me to the trails.

It has been a frigid month with today’s wind chills in the minus 30’s, but the trails were well packed, more proof that it takes more than arctic air to keep the locals indoors. Rumor has it there is no bad weather for running, only bad clothing and I was well dressed including my old favorite balaclava. This winter has provided more than its share of cold weather to perfect the right clothing combinations. Just sayin’.

A right turn right before the bridge crosses the river put me on a trail heading south along the frozen waterway. The trail was mostly in the bush, providing some respite from the strong west winds. Deer tracks were everywhere along the trail as it went past a concrete dam and continued into Connor Park. There is a large picnic structure and other amenities in this park and I assume I would see far more people on a summer day.

The trail climbed up to the top of the valley and circled east, following the river. This led to another bridge and past that, the trail ducked back into the trees. When the path became more of a deer trail, I dropped down onto the river where it was easier going. Snowmobiles had packed the snow and the strong winds completed the job, removing any loose snow leaving a very runnable surface.

One of the things I love about our province is the abundant sunshine and today was no exception. The sun lit up the snow and the views along the river were amazing as I headed out exploring. It was well treed along both banks, the exception being places where the banks were high and too steep to allow vegetation growth.

Being on the river at the base of the tall cliffs provided a new perspective, reminding me of canoeing on other rivers. I suddenly found myself on a “canoe trip” run, eagerly running to the next bend in the river to see what I could find. In places, the river was obviously shallow with a rock garden showing above the ice, some sections were straight while others almost doubled back on itself. At one point, I came to a beaver dam across a narrow section and everywhere, deer tracks crossed back and forth over the snow packed ice. With my free time half gone, I reluctantly turned around to enjoy the view in the other direction. A different season with a canoe would have meant some upstream paddling but no worries today. Canadians walk on water for a reason.

I eventually came up off the river and into the park, finding yet another well packed trail in the trees that ran parallel to 7th Avenue and brought me back to the starting point at the bridge. On the way back, I saw two robins looking very unimpressed in a tree along the trail. I’m not sure if they were recent returns or had braved this long winter but I was happy to see them all the same and I’ll take that as the first sign of spring.

Put your best foot forward on the trails

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What’s the most important piece of hiking gear that you own? Is it your pack, your tent, or your trekking poles? Likely, it’s your footwear. As you travel through the wilderness, keeping your feet healthy, happy and supported is incredibly important. No one wants to suffer through an outdoor adventure with blisters, crushed toes, sore feet or a rolled ankle.

Among the hundreds of shoes and boots out there there is no single “best” choice. Different styles are good for different settings, and each boot will fit your foot a little differently. To get started, there are some key questions you should think about: What will you be doing with your hiking footwear? Day hikes? Weekend trips? Longer expeditions? How much weight will you be carrying, and what kind of weather will you be hiking in? Do you prefer heavier rugged boots with generous ankle support, or are you looking for a shoe that is ultra-lightweight and minimalist? What kind of terrain are you expecting to hike on?

Ruminating upon these basic questions should hopefully lead you toward the type of footwear that is right for you, and ultimately, being, “right for you” means that you aren’t giving your shoes a second thought once during your entire adventure.

STYLES:

TRAIL RUNNERS:

Trail runners are similar to running shoes, but with aggressive tread patterns, increased support, heel brakes, and a stiffer midsole. These shoes are super-lightweight and allow a hiker to move quickly. They are also great for longer distances, as they are less likely to give you blisters or hurt over time. Trail runners are versatile and comfortable shoes that are great for fast-and-light day hikes, ultralight backpacking and thru-hiking, or trail running. The downside of a trail runner is they are usually not as stiff or durable as other shoes and will not protect against the elements as effectively.

LIGHT HIKERS:

For more protection, support and durability than a trail runner, choose a light hiker. This style of hiking shoe offers excellent traction, a stiff sole, and stability in a lightweight, low-profile package that is more burly and stable than a trail runner on technical terrain. These shoes are great for those who want more traction and durability without the bulk and heft of a traditional hiking or backpacking boot. With an aggressive tread and multi-directional lugs, you can get great traction on variable terrain. Light hikers are also often available with a waterproof membrane, which adds a level of inclement weather versatility that most trail runners lack.

APPROACH SHOES:

While approach shoes are specifically designed for hiking to rock walls for climbing, areas that are often tricky or steep to get to, this style of shoe can also make a great  choice for all-around hiking footwear. Many approach shoes feature a stiff midsole, a responsive and sticky rubber outsole, as well as a lacing system that extends to the toe for an extremely secure fit. Approach shoes are very similar to other light hikers, but excel on technical hiking and scrambling up rocks. Approach shoes generally are not waterproof, but are very durable. The downside to an approach shoe is that in very muddy or wet conditions, the outsole will not grip as well as a deeper lugged light hiker, and the lack of waterproofing and the short cuff height will potentially allow water to get into the tops of your shoes.

MID-WEIGHT HIKING BOOTS:

Mid to high-cuffed boots take the benefits of a low hiking shoe and add additional ankle support. Great traction, durable construction, a supportive and secure fit, as well as that higher ankle cuff and an often stiffer midsole provide the security and performance that you need for a variety of adventures. Having one or two lace hooks above the ankle allows you to lock in your heel and secure your ankle in place. The additional material used will add a small amount of weight, but a midweight hiker will still be lighter and more comfortable when compared to a full backpacking or mountaineering boot. A midweight boot is great for the same kinds of trip that you would use a low hiker on, but with the added peace of mind and support of a mid or high-cuffed boot.

HEAVY BACKPACKING BOOTS:

The bigger, beefier brother of the hiking boot, backpacking boots have stiff soles designed for carrying additional weight, a high cut that offers great ankle stability, and heavy outsoles to handle rugged terrain. These boots are designed to protect your foot while you carry heavy loads of weight into the wilderness. The stiff soles give your feet a stable platform, reducing foot fatigue as you traverse over thick roots and rocks. The thick, stiff body of the boot creates a comfortable, supportive home for your foot that is both very durable and helps keep your ankles aligned as you travel over uneven terrain with a heavy pack. The downside to a backpacking boot is that they are very heavy and less nimble than other options. Heavy backpacking boots are not ideal for thru-hikers, ultralight backpackers, and day hikers, who often use light hikers, approach shoes or trail runners. Choose a heavy boot of this type if you are carrying a heavy load in your pack, if you are doing wilderness or trail work, or for non-technical winter hiking.

MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS:

Heavy and very stiff, these boots offer support for heavy loads and are designed to accept crampons for glacial travel or ice climbing. Mountaineering boots are often insulated. Depending on the amount of insulation a boot has, it can be used for anything from winter hiking in the northeast, to ice climbing or to high altitude ascents. Although they add a significant amount of weight to your feet, you will be glad to have the extra protection of the stiff sole while making your way through a field of rockfall, across a glacier, or while post-holing through deep snow on Mt. Washington. Welts on the heel and toe provide crampon compatibility with step-in style crampons. Mountaineering boots are very specialized and expensive, so they are often overkill if you are not primarily using them for mountaineering or ice climbing.

CONSTRUCTION:

OUTSOLE:

The outsole is the bottom of the shoe that makes direct contact with the ground. Primarily made from rubber, the outsole can be made in different densities to accommodate different needs. Softer rubber such as that found in most approach shoes will grip onto surfaces better than harder rubber, but will also wear down more quickly. Hiking outsoles feature cleats or lugs – the protrusions that grip into soft earth providing you with “bomber” traction. A cleat-less area under the arch makes room for heel breaks, designed to give superior stopping power when going downhill. Some outsoles also feature a flat “climbing zone” on the toe which offers much more precision for technical climbing on rock.

MIDSOLE:

Midsoles of most active footwear are made from one of two materials: ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), or polyurethane (PU). A classic example of EVA is the now ubiquitous foam Crocs, however this light-weight, cushioning option is common in most running, casual and light hiking footwear. EVA tends to feel very soft and cushioned and usually requires little to no break-in time. The less dense the EVA, the softer and more comfortable your ride but the faster the foam will break down. More dense EVA foam will offer more support and break down less quickly.

Polyurethane is a longer lasting, very supportive midsole material mostly found in backpacking and mountaineering boots. PU is dense and weighty and usually requires a break in period before it becomes more pliable and comfortable. Like EVA, polyurethane comes in different densities, and depending on the density, size of the shoes and your weight, break-in periods can vary. Polyurethane midsoles will last longer than their EVA counterparts and provide better support for heavy loads, however they will also usually be heavier, have less cushion, and be more expensive.

INSOLE:

Factory insoles are typically made from molded EVA foam and give the interior of the shoe a clean finish and another layer of cushion. These insoles usually don’t offer substantial arch support, so many people enhance the comfort and performance of their shoes by purchasing after-market insoles. Supportive insoles like Superfeet® may turn a shoe that fits well into a shoe that fits like it was crafted by gnomes. Foot-loving gnomes, that is.

UPPER:

A full grain leather boot.

Full Grain Leather: Full grain leather is a thick, abrasion- resistant leather that you are likely to find on backpacking boots designed for extended trips where terrain will be variable. Naturally water resistant, full grain leather will not breathe as well as other materials but they will keep your feet dry. All leather boots will function better and last longer if you treat them regularly. Products like Limmer Boot Grease or Nikwax leather treatment keep the leather from drying out and help it shed water – they are well worth the small investment of time and money.

Suede/Nubuck: Split leather from the inside (suede) or outside (nubuck) of the hide. It’s thinner and softer than full grain leather and is usually used on mixed fabric/leather boots. Although both suede and nubuck can be treated with leather waxes the treatment will change the texture and look significantly it is not as necessary as for a full grain leather boot.

Synthetic Materials: Synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester, and synthetic leather, are found on many boots. They usually cost less and are lighter than leather. They will also break in more quickly and dry faster than leather. However, because there are more pieces used to construct the upper, synthetic boots will often age faster than leather boots.

WATERPROOFING:

Waterproof Membranes such as GORE-TEX® or eVent® are commonly found in hiking boots. These membranes “breathe” by way of microscopic holes that are large enough to allow water vapor to escape but small enough to keep liquid water out. Often they are the inner-most layer of the upper to protect the membrane. Although shoes with waterproof membranes will let sweat out, they will be noticeably warmer and less breathable than a similar boot lacking a membrane, so if you won’t need to wear them through puddles or in the rain a non-waterproof boot may be a better option. Proper cleaning of this footwear is also essential to keep the membrane from clogging with dirt, oil, and other grimes which will inhibit the breathability.

FITTING RECOMMENDATIONS:

Shoes are built around a “last” or model of a foot. If you were buying custom footwear that model would match your foot exactly, but if (like most of us) you can’t afford that luxury your best bet is to try on as many boots or shoes as possible to find the one that best fits your feet. Every company has their own lasts, and even within brands lasts may vary shoe-to-shoe.

While trying on shoes consider the following suggestions:

Fit the shoes or boots with socks that you are likely to wear while hiking. This will help ensure that the fit you have in the store is the same you will have out on the trails.

Remember that your foot changes volume during hikes and over the course of the day. Try on shoes in the afternoon, when your feet are larger, and make sure you leave some room in the toe for them to expand during a long hike.

Arch support, like Superfeet®, can also make a shoe or boot fit better. If you are in the store there are demos available to try with your footwear. If you wear custom orthotics definitely try on new boots or shoes with your orthotics in to make sure the fit is correct.

As you try on your footwear be aware of any movement of your foot in the shoe. If your foot is sliding forward or the heel is noticeably lifting check your laces to make sure they’re tight enough. If that doesn’t fix the problem then try another boot.

Finally, listen to your feet. You know them much better than we ever will, and whether they’re telling you that something fits great or something’s wrong, take their advice.