Put your best foot forward on the trails


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.



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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Discovering McKell Wascana Conservation Park

By Melissa Burdon


McKell Wascana Conservation Park

Located in the east end of Regina, McKell Wascana Conservation Park is a great place to spend an afternoon or evening. Its interpretive signage and abundance of wildlife makes it a great place for kids, while the beauty and serenity also makes it great for a peaceful sunset walk. To get there, drive south along Prince of Whales to Wascana Gate South. You will then turn east and drive along Wascana Circle Drive and past Wascana Creek Park. Once you see the Shumiatcher Amphitheatre, you know you are at the right place!


View from the other beautiful trail: Wascana Creek Park

After I wandered around the Wascana Creek Park for about an hour contemplating whether or not it was the conservation area, I finally found McKell Wascana Conservation Park. I have to say though, getting confused about which beautiful trail is the specific beautiful trail you are looking for, isn’t a bad problem to have!

As the Ducks Unlimited Canada website boasts, McKell Wascana Conservation Park is a 171-acre park “dedicated to conserving and restoring native prairie and wetland habitat”. It was made possible by partnerships and contributions of the City of Regina, Ducks Unlimited Canada and especially, the McKell family.

As I first approached McKell Wascana Conservation Park, the first thing I noticed was the Shumiatcher Amphitheatre, which is great for educational programming and performances. It has a ramp for accessibility and the back has plaques that are worth taking a look at as they have some additional information about the many people and organizations that collaborated to create the park. I was overwhelmed with the generosity and obvious love for nature that had gone into creating this amazing trail. So, I decided to look into those names on the plaques a little further.

Let’s start with the Shumiatcher Amphitheatre which was funded by the Shumiatcher family. Dr. Morris and Jaqueline Shumiatcher were heavily invested in the arts community in Regina and have helped either financially or with their time, with almost every aspect of the arts in this city.

On the City of Regina website, there is great information on Jaqueline Shumiatcher, who is a powerful and inspirational woman. She immigrated here in 1923 and worked as a teacher. She later went on to create her own businesses and volunteer for several community organizations including Regina Council of Women, Women’s Business and Professional Association, Saskatchewan Centre of the Arts and Dominion Drama Festival. The Shumiatchers also funded the Shumiatcher Sandbox series at the Globe Theatre, the Shumiatcher Sculpture Gallery at the McKenzie Art Gallery and the Shu-Box theatre at the University of Regina. And this is just a short list of their contributions and accomplishments.

The generosity of course does not end at the Shumiatcher Amphitheatre. The McKell Wascana Conservation Park is a conservation easement which was donated by the McKell family: Robert, Barbara, Doug and Shirley McKell. According to the Nature Conservancy website, in a conservation easement land agreement, the owners of the land donate or sell certain property rights specific to conservation efforts such as their rights to subdivide or develop the land.

Even if the land is passed down or sold, the conservation agreement remains legally binding, which ensures the protection and conservation of the land. As one of the plaques states: “By placing this conservation easement on their land, (now the southern portion of the park), the McKell family is preserving this natural area for wildlife and people to enjoy today and leaving a legacy for generations to come.”


The floating dock!

And there is so much to enjoy! The park itself has four kilometers of groomed trails, benches for sight-seeing, interpretive signage for the kids and the life-long learners, and an amphitheatre for educational programming. It also has a large floating dock which is perfect for a picnic!

But a description really does not do justice to how amazing this park is — only by going there can you truly appreciate this park. Within the city limits, it offers a feeling of escaping the city life and nestling into a prairie landscape which seems infinite.

I went there with my dog around sunset (because obviously, I love a good excuse to bask in a Saskatchewan sunset) and we walked for over an hour exploring the different parts of the trail.


This trail allows dogs!

On the one side, the trail is lined with beautiful homes which can make anyone daydream of interior design and landscaping, and on the other, it is wide open prairies for kilometres, only interrupted by Wascana Creek and if you are lucky, a farmer and a combine. I was also blown away with the floating dock, because floating docks are easy to get blown away by. I think any landscape gets more beautiful if you are viewing it from a dock.

The McKell’s donation has ensured that it will be used to educate and inspire. And what a beautiful thing that is. Without even leaving the city, kids can learn about the natural heritage of their province and of the unique wildlife and natural habitats that exist in the prairies. And of course, adults can learn a thing or two as well; I know I did!


The trail to the creek!

So, if I were you, I would make McKell Wascana Conservation Park your next get-away! Whether you are taking kids to learn about the natural habitat of the wetlands or taking a leisurely stroll to take in the sunset, McKell Wascana Conservation Park is a perfect get-away while still remaining inside the city limits.

Have fun exploring!

If you are interested, there is more information about the McKell Wascana Conservation Park and those who contributed to its excellence:


Hiking trail etiquette

Hiking trail etiquette 


The rules to the trail are largely unwritten, and trail users are expected to know them going in. Failing to understand them ahead of time can result in ‘faux-pas’ on your part that may range from embarrassing to outright dangerous or even fatal. It’s best for everyone to be aware of the rules of the road before hand so that everyone can meet oncoming people and challenges with tact, grace, predictability, and safety. Let’s run through them, and it might be advisable to print out this list and take it with you, or even to review it before hitting the trail.

  1. Yield when appropriate

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you should never play chicken with a semi truck. By that same logic, you may wish to protect yourself on the trail and keep in mind the fact that running groups, bikers, ATVs, dogs, and horses can mow you down no matter how much signage is put up.


The rule of the trail is that the more agile object yields. Bikes yield to people, and everything yields to horses. Bikes can stop and go quickly and are understood to be highly predictable and controllable.


EVERYTHING yields to horses. It’s not just because horses are bigger (some ATVs can get to be a good size), but because some horses are panicky around motors and bikes. And even people. The default mentality of horses (carried over from millennia of evolution) is that everything is trying to eat them. Their immediate response is to run away. On the trail, anything that you can do to keep from posing a threat to them is highly appreciated to their riders.


  1. Sharing is caring

Try to maintain a safe distance between you and other hikers, especially on hills. Nobody wants to break your fall if you trip and come tumbling down, and you don’t want to offer that service to anyone else either, for your own safety! Comfort, privacy, personal space, and connection with nature are all concerns as well that encourage distance between hiking groups. Stay to the right of trails and move off the trail (if there’s room) when resting. Make sure that you choose a durable rest area like a rock or patch of dirt or snow instead of a nice fluffy grass or flower patch. That patch might look tempting, but it won’t survive your intrusion.


Another unwritten rule of the trail is that hikers going uphill have the right of way. They’re working harder and are likely to want to keep their stride and momentum. They’ll let you know if they prefer to rest and let you pass; if this happens, they should be allowed to make the call.


  1. Signal

Letting other hikers know that you’re there can be critical. The danger of spooking them can be a small fright (if they’re hiking) or severe injury (if they’re riding a horse or bike). If you’re a shy type, a simple “Howdy!” or “Hi!” should suffice. You may notice that seasoned hikers are awkwardly chatty, but they’re talkative for good reason! If you’re able to muster more conversation, it’s often a good idea to strike up a chat with an oncoming hiker or a slower person that you overtake. That individual might just be the last person who has seen you, knows your whereabouts, and can direct search parties to you if you get lost or hurt yourself on the trail. Making sure that you’re memorable isn’t just friendly; it’s smart!


When you’re overtaking other hikers, signalling that you’re passing is commonly done by calling out “left!” Not only does this term (much like the golfer’s “FORE!”) let people know that you’re there, but you’re avoiding trail crowding by telling them the direction that you’re taking to approach. If you’re riding a bike, a quick ring of your bell (or honk of your horn) serves the same purpose and will let people know that you’re coming.


  1. Minimizing impact

Contrary to the above advice, we’ll next suggest that you be quiet while you hike! It is tempting to hear the hills come alive with the sound of your echoes, but unless you’re seriously concerned about bear encounters then it is wise to keep the noise pollution to a minimum. Keep conversations short and voices down. Also, ringers off please! You’ll be glad that you unplugged for a few hours.


Unnecessary markers are also a form of visual pollution that can clog up trails. Notches on trees or (shudder!) initials carved in trees may seem romantic but are damaging. Piles of rocks (cairns) are unneeded for navigation and come to serve no purpose other than an egotistical “I was here!” when the forest becomes littered with them. Any type of marker focuses traffic in an undesirable way, as high traffic areas are more prone to trail scars.


Almost as bad as cairn builders are cairn topplers. Some hikers feel that they are doing the woods a service by clearing them of human-made objects. However, it is very likely that the (disrespectful) person who built the cairn will build another if that one is toppled. Additionally, cairns are sometimes employed in burial practices of small animals and family pets – as much as they should not be built, they should equally not be destroyed.


Remember that slack line, hammock, tent, tarp, and horse tying ropes all damage trees. It is important to stake wires to the ground, or to use appropriate padding on all ropes.


  1. Stay on the trail

It may be quite tempting to investigate every glade and beautiful rock outcropping that nature has to offer. However, human shoes and handprints leave their mark on nature, crushing it. The rules aren’t in place just for you, but are put there with everyone in mind; what would happen if everyone wandered off the path and though the woods, stomping all over the forest? Some ecosystems bounce right back from a small amount of traffic, but some are very sensitive (like the Taiga) to even a single off-path trek. Other regions (even though they might bounce back from a few wanderers) would be devastated if a high number of people ignored this rule.  Not only do footprints crush vegetation in some areas, but they also contribute to erosion.


The trail may wind past or through territory belonging to private owners. It is important to respect the privacy of people who might be living along the trails, as well as the wellbeing of the land itself on or adjacent to the trail. Permissions for other people to hike through farmland can be (and sometimes are!) withdrawn, and if complaints are made about trail users by private citizens, it is possible that trails use will be restricted.


  1. Perceived danger

It’s not unrealistic that you could encounter a person or situation that makes you feel unsafe. If so, it’s a good time to bring out that cellphone that you remembered to bring along. It’s also advisable to pretend that you’re with a larger, hiking group, and many groups will be glad to have you hike with them for the trail or the day if you feel unsafe (no commitment required!). It’s always a good idea to ask for help if you get lost or if you need any supplies – other hikers are likely happy to share their water, sunscreen, first aid supplies, etc. if you run into trouble. Even the best-prepared are still caught unaware, and seasoned hikers are often not judgemental of trail hazards.


  1. Leave no trace

It should go without saying that littering is terrible anywhere, and arguably especially so on the trail where it spoils views of untouched nature. Also, there are no street sweepers to clean up dropped cans and wrappers in the wild, and the shiny objects may be taken up by animals to locations where they may continue to pollute for eons before they completely decompose. The rule to follow is: if you pack it in, pack it out.


Remember not to make fires or fire circles in the wild. Please use picnic areas and grills if provided. Fire scars remain for years and may become very numerous if allowed to be created unchecked.


Use only provided toilet facilities, if possible. If not possible, the “bush” procedure is to dig a hole 6 inches deep, at least 200 ft away from any open water.


Pets are best left at home since they are likely to disturb wildlife with their scents and noises. If you do end up bringing them, remember to keep them on a leash so that they do not disturb other hikers or animals. You should always clean up after your pets, and they should never be allowed to void near water sources that they might contaminate.  This same rule goes for horses! They should never be tied within 20 feet of open water.


A good final note is to remember not to take anything with you from the trail. Many wonders await you: fossils, flowers, rocks, seed pods, neat bugs, and many more! Take a picture and leave the amazing scenery for the next person to enjoy.



The STA is also holding a photo contest for the month of June! For more details, visit http://sasktrails.ca/give-us-your-best-shot!/ and use #sasktrailsphotocontest to enter. You can find our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/sasktrails/ .

A trip to Roche Percee

Recently, we ventured to La Roche Percee Provincial Historic Site and snapped some great pictures. The site is located in the Souris River Valley, approximately 20 kilometres southeast of the City of Estevan.

Here’s some background on the area:

The site consists of a large sandstone outcrop that has been sculpted into unusual shapes by the forces of erosion and inscribed with carvings that date from precontact to present times.

The heritage value of La Roche Percee lies in its status as an important landmark and record of the region’s changing historical landscape. The rock was once nearly covered with precontact carvings of animal, human and geometric forms thought to have been created by Siouan speakers. Historical accounts state that the Nakota (Assiniboin) regarded the site as sacred, never passing the rock without leaving offerings. Erosion and later carvings have taken a toll, leaving only a few carved pits and some red ochre staining as evidence for First Nations use of the site.

As you can see from the pictures, there are some great paths that allow you to explore the area fully for as long as you’d like. Be sure to add Roche Percee to your bucket list!

If you’re interested in exploring the area by horseback, you can take part in the annual historic three-day Roche Percee Trail Ride, featuring. Read more about the ride in this Grainews article.

Check out this old blog post from Roche Percee further describing the area.

Hiking Elbow Trails

Last week I spent the afternoon hiking the trails in Elbow, Saskatchewan. These trails recently celebrated their grand opening this spring.  This gorgeous spot offers a great variety of changing scenery and makes for a great way to spend the afternoon.

The trail head, which connects to the Trans Canada Trail can be found from the golf course. Here, the trail starts with a easy walk through prairie land, where it then begins to descend and wrap around the harbour.  Here you get a great view of Diefenbaker Lake, as well as the boats lined up in Elbow marina. The trail then takes you back to the golf course where you are welcomed by chairs and a phenomenal view.  You can continue the trail along the harbour where the trail then turns in the bush.

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The remainder of the trail is approximately 6km is covered by trees. This portion of the hike is a bit more difficult and involves a steady incline.  Along the way there are several markers with historical background of Elbow Saskatchewan. There are also several picnic tables and benches along the way.


This trail makes for a moderate hike or a more challenging bike. The trail offers a wide variety of trees and plant life. I would recommend you complete this trail a few times in order to take all of what it has to offer.


After our hike, we stopped at the Harbor Golf Club House for lunch.  I couldn’t have asked for a better day to complete the hike.  Elbow trails will be up on our trail directory shortly to help plan your next adventure in Elbow Saskatchewan.