Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: trail runners

A Friendly Reminder: Boots are not Forever

Traditional heavyweight hiking boots are considered to be very durable. And they are, at least compared to the lightweight trail runners favoured by many, me included. Trail runners seem to last around or under 1000 km while traditional heavy weight leather boots can last for several thousand kilometers.

But even hiking boots are not forever.

2013_09_10_9999_41_600

On my latest guiding stint two of my clients were using traditional high quality leather hiking boots about 10 years old. The boots hadn’t seen much use during the last years but were well maintained and seemed used but fine.

But after the first 12km both pairs started to fall a part: The outer soles started to detach from the heels and sides. Closer inspection revealed a well-known but often forgotten problem: The midsole material had reached the end of its service life.

2013_09_08_9999_83_600

The midsoles of most modern hiking boots are made of polyurethane (PU) foam. The PU foam can take a lot more abuse than the EVA foam used on trail runners but it seems that the type of PU foam used has a limited service life as a part of planned obsolescence (i.e. planned lifetime of the product). General consensus among experienced hikers is that the lifetime is around 10 years, 15 years at max. At the end of the service life the material starts to crumble and just disintegrate. There is really no reasonable way to fix this except changing the whole midsole.

Of course not all hiking boot midsoles are made from the disintegrating PU and there are more durable options out there but the PU with planned lifetime seems to be the norm nowadays. This was also the case with my client’s boots: around 10 years old and reached the end of their planned service life quietly in a closet without much use for a while.

We survived by scavenging some old slashed rubber boots that we lined with neoprene booties and the other client decided to test the barefoot approach in practise by hiking several days with heavy rucksack in thin neoprene diving booties with insoles from the hiking boots and double socks for extra padding. We also fixed the hiking boots with some paracord and duct tape (if you bring any duct tape, bring a lot!) to be used in the descent to the Reisadalen canyon and they worked well enough for that bit.

2013_09_09_9999_600

But to avoid getting into the situation: Check the conditions of the midsoles of your boots! Especially if you haven’t used them for a while, which is probably the case for many of us who have changed from traditional boots to lighter footwear. And if you’re taking your old boots for a big hike after some time, go for a test walk before the big thing.

– – –

Inspired by this I’ve decided it’s better to sell my old heavy-duty boots as they still have many years left in them and I don’t have enough use for them. So, if you’d like a pair of Meindl MFS Vakuum GTX boots in size 48 (good secure fit for size 46 foot with double socks) for reasonable price, please contact me!

2013_09_25_9999_2_600

My Inov-8 390s failed me after few hundred kilometers so here’s my new choise for the shoulder seasons: Merrel Proterra Mid Sport with Gore-Tex.

La Sportiva Wild Cat 2.0 – First Impression

Usually new gear is exciting. But new shoes are not. They are terrifying!

Well, that is not always the case but when you find your tried and true footwear of choise being discontinued or changed you do feel little uncomfortable. At least this was the case when La Sportiva updated my beloved Wild Cat trail runners (see the original long-term report) into Wild Cat 2.0. Would the perfect outdoor adventuring shoe be ruined for good? As I assume I’m not alone with my fears, I thought it would be fair to share my first impressions on the new design. There’s also little extra in the post comparing Wild Cats to La Sportiva Raptors (predecessor of the “Ultra Raptor” model).

2013_06_26_9999_1200

Form left: old Wild Cats, new Wild Cat 2.0s and old Raptors

Wild Cat vs. the 2.0

To put it short: They’re not ruined!

Luckily La Sportiva seems to have done just a bit of cosmetic changes to the fantastic trail runner and the Wild Cat 2.0s are very similar to the original Wild Cats. They are not ruined and actually, there are even minor improvements.

2013_06_26_9999_9_1200

Old Wild Cat and the new Wild Cat 2.0 side by side

The only remarkable differences I noticed between the originals and the updated model are:

– webbing loop near the top of the tongue, to hold up the tongue
– little flap of rubbery fabric on the upper outer edge of the heel, to help putting on the shoes
– different, softer feeling fabric used in the lining

I see all these as minor improvements. I don’t think I really need the first two but I don’t mind having them and maybe they are useful for some. The third point I hope to be an improvement as the lining in my last two pairs of the original Wild Cats worn out quite fast from many places in the heel area. Because of the good heel fit this hasn’t been a big problem but not having things breaking and developing holes is always nice. I hope the change is for better, even though the softer touch might be a sign of less durable fabric…

I was told earlier that the heel would’ve been changed and was afraid the shoes would’ve been ruined but apparently the only change in heel section is the addition of the little piece of fabric. The Wild cat 2.0s still have the deep close-fitting heel cup which is crucial for good fit (at least in my case). The general design and fit are still the same. The sole seems to be exactly the same. In addition to the aforementioned additions the only difference seems to be new colors (and the new orange-grey looks very nice). In my opinion this is great as the Wild Cats are perfect for for me and I’m very happy with them.

2013_06_26_9999_11_1200

The perfect heel cup is still there. (From left: Wild Cat 2.0, Wild Cat)

I would still love to see the changes I mentioned in the original long-term report: little stiffer (mid)sole, more durable and/or aggressive lugs on the sole (both would increase the lifetime a bit) and little stronger mesh on top of the shoe. None of these are included in the Wild Cat 2.0s, but at least they are still great shoes.

2013_06_26_9999_1_1200

Training tool as a shoe stand.

To summarize: The Wild Cat 2.0 offer still the perfect fit and adequate performance just like it’s predecessor. I’m happy.

Raptors and Wild Cats

As many people have been happy with the La Sportiva Raptors (see for example Martin Rye’s review) and I’ve occasionally (scrambling, running in woods, etc.) wanted a more durable outer for my runners I decided to give the Raptors a try.

2013_06_26_9999_5_1200

Nearly identical soles. (From left: Wild Cat, Wild Cat 2.0, Raptor)

The Raptors are very similar to the Wild Cats: Same pattern and sole structure, though Wildcats seem to have lugs made of slightly softer and thus maybe a little stickier  material (yellow material in the photo above) while the whole Raptor outer sole is of the same compound. Both shoes share the superb secure and close-fitting heel cup and the generally wide fit (for an Italian running shoe).

The major difference is that the Raptor has fine mesh fabric on the outer with quite substantial reinforcements on the sides while Wild Cats have fine mesh covered with beefier mesh instead of extra reinforcements. The Raptors have a rand of rubbery material covering the lower part of the shoe (yellow band in the photo below) and  ribs of similar fabric protecting the sides (shiny black stuff on the photo below). This should make the Raptors outer more durable but make the Wild Cats faster draining and more breathable (though the difference might be meager).

2013_06_26_9999_7_1200

Wild Cat 2.0, Raptor, Wild Cat 2.0, Raptor…

The big news is that the reinforcements do seem to affect the fit as well! The mesh on the Wild Cats stretches quite a lot allowing estra width and room in general. The reinforcements on Raptors don’t stretch much if at all and thus the fit in the forefoot is a more snug. Unfortunately this means that size 46 (my normal size) Raptors with my normal running socks caused blister on my toes. I’ll give them a try with thinner liner socks and see if they would stretch a bit in use but if they don’t I might have a very little used pair for sale for reasonable price…

With limited experience my advice would be: If you have Wild Cats and feel that they have good snug fit, size up half a size if buying Raptor or the new Ultra Raptors.

– – –

Disclaimer: I’ve bought all the footwear discussed and pictured in the post with my own money and own them. And I don’t even make any money with the links in the post. But I’d happily take a pair or two of trail shoes for free. If interested in supporting me, please send an e-mail for address and details. ;)