Best shoes for the Drakensberg Grand Traverse

10 Mar 2014 12:10 #59811 by Dylan
Hi

I am planning on doing the GT in September 2014 over a period of around 12 days and am trying to decide what shoes to use; boots vs trail running shoes? I understand boots are good for ankle support but if I am using hiking poles would this not compensate for the lack of support given by trail shoes? I am currently leaning towards the use of Salomon trail shoes (goretex variety for waterproofing).

Would really appreciate some guidance on this!

Cheers

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10 Mar 2014 13:15 #59813 by ghaznavid
Personally I haven't tried hiking in the Berg in anything other than hiking boots - but with the 30 ridges you have to walk over between the Chain Ladders and Isicutula Pass - you are taking a real chance to not go in full boots.

Don't forget that some of the ridges are actually very steep and most have no path. When you tackle the funny angled ridges (e.g. North Saddle ridge, Yodelers/Champagne ridge, Sanqebethu ridge, Redi/Litsteketseke ridge etc) you invariably end up walking at a sharp angle to the slope - without ankle support you are really taking a chance.

Also remember that wet boots are a big issue when doing a GT. I had wet boots from walking in the snow on day 4, they were dry before the end of the day thanks to Salomon's wonderful use of Gor-Tek (those shoes didn't last very long, but were light and great while they lasted - also the waterproofing only failed once before they started getting holes in them).

If you have something that is partly waterproof - odds are that if you get water in them on day 3, they will still be wet at the end. I guess on the other hand - your trail shoes probably will dry faster than hiking boots.

In summary - be very careful and choose wisely! But not a chance I would do a GT in trail runners.

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins
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10 Mar 2014 14:03 #59815 by elandman
I personally don't hike/walk without full height boots. Berg or elsewhere.
I've made the mistake thinking "oh it will be fine in trail runners". Ankle support is more important that you realise. You realise it when you go without it over anything rougher than a flat "highway" path :( Carrying weight or not.

I wouldn't imagine it a good idea doing anything sandstone level and above in anything less than a high end full leather boot with Gortex/similar lining and/or Gaiters. Unless you ironman levels of toughness/madness XD
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10 Mar 2014 14:28 #59818 by tiska
Out of about 100 Berg hiking and climbing trips, I have only had blisters once. That was the time I wore boots. Every other time has been with running shoes or trail shoes. Most people I have seen with blisters have been wearing boots.
Crossing the escarpment is not that rough in my view. Going up and down passes without paths (Pins, Fangs, Mbundini etc) is rough in trail shoes but it is still my preference. Long days across the top, trail shoes are v.definitely my preference.
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10 Mar 2014 17:19 #59819 by Christine
I would never think of doing a multiple hike in the Berg without wearing hiking boots, as the terrain is unforgiving and therefore I feel the ankle support is necessary. I have recently purchased the Salomon Cosmic 4D and can honestly say that I’ve never had a more comfortable pair of boots. Having only done three hikes in them thus far; two to the escarpment and one in the lower Berg, and not having worn them in a heavy rain storm, I’m unable to attest as to how waterproof they may or may not be – only time will tell. This is however the first boot that hasn’t given me a blister. My only negative comment on them would be that the sole doesn’t grip quite as well as a Vibram sole. Conditions coming down The Camel yesterday were very wet and slippery. They may be worth looking at?
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10 Mar 2014 22:13 #59823 by Stijn
Dylan, sorry about the slow reply to your email. As you may have guessed, I'm in the trail-runners camp with Mt Tiska. The terrain on the escarpment is fairly gentle, but the poles are probably a wise idea if you're carrying a heavy pack.

The only time I have not enjoyed wearing trail-runners in the Berg was going up Pins Pass. My feet were rolling around in my shoes on the steep bushy slopes, but you shouldn't encounter any of that on the escarpment.
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11 Mar 2014 08:20 #59824 by HFc
Firmly in the 'Trial Runners' camp with Stijn and Mnt Tiska. Have had the same experience as Mnt Tiska in terms of blisters, only when wearing boots, something I stopped years ago.

My trial runners also climb better in general compared to boots. I base this on my own somewhat limited experience with boots, as well as my bro-in-law who has recently also fully converted to trail runners, complaining about a 'lack of feel' when scrambling up tricky areas in the boots. (To clarify, by climbing I mean rock scrambles or ascending diagonal areas, not sustained vertical rock climbing)

Even on steep side hilling, an endeavour one experiences on most tough passes and/or peak ascents when traversing between rock bands etc, is an uncomfortable thing to do, no matter what type of shoes one wears. No matter how much the shoestrings are tighened, it always seems 'not enough' when side hilling. Even here I prefer the ability for my feet in trail runners to adapt to the terrain, where in boots it always felt like a slip was coming because my ankle movement was inhibited (thus balance reduction)

Do consider your physical attributes around legs and ankles well before making a choice. I have no history of ankle sprains, despite twisting and turning these a lot in my life. Thus, I do not need the ankle support. If you have a history of easily spraining an ankle, get the full height boots. What you may sacrifice in comfort and maneuverability, you will gain in pain free hiking by limiting your exposure to ankle injuries.
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11 Mar 2014 10:37 #59825 by relevitt
Questions for people advocating trail runners:

- Is rucksack weight a consideration?

- Can you (and do you) use double socks with trail runners?

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11 Mar 2014 11:19 - 11 Mar 2014 11:20 #59826 by elandman
relevit, you can add to that.....

- summer vs winter? I don't see trail runners being the best thing when there is snow/ice around.


Interesting thing the majority here suggest trail shoes. I didn't realise they were that popular as you don't often see people wearing them out in the mountains.
Guess it depends on fitness, perhaps stature/build type too. Being 100+kgs personally maybe has bearing on that.

I've worn boots all my life, only 1 pair gave blisters and they went straight to a begger on the street that very monday after the weekend trek!
Done 2 hikes in trail shoes (newbalance trail) so far as someone suggested I try, and both times I could barely walk by the time I got to destination/car from ankle fatigue. Bare in mind both walks was 60% no path at all, with a heavy pack, but with poles.

Guess each to thier own.

Best one use what they themselves have tried and used to. If you've done very little hiking/trekking and now doing a GT... either choice is going to be a learning curve :)
Last edit: 11 Mar 2014 11:20 by elandman.
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11 Mar 2014 11:23 #59827 by ghaznavid
I also haven't really had issues with blisters in boots - I had a minor blister on Lammegier Pass earlier this year, but nothing serious.

Adding on what Elandman said, you should probably try both. You will need to do plenty of training hikes pre-GT, so do a mini-traverse in trail shoes and do one in hiking boots. Believe me - there is nothing worse than realising you have made a mistake when you are on day 4 of a 12 day GT. At roughly that point I was really wishing that I hadn't relied on almonds as a major food item!

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins
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