Summer Bikepacking Shoes…

30 05 2013
On the move...

On the move…

I’m trying to figure out what shoes best meet my needs for summer bikepacking trips.

  • all day pedalling comfort with MTB platforms
  • reasonable grip biking through technical sections
  • able to hike-a-bike comfortably for 4-5hrs at a time over rough ground
  • excellent traction off the bike
  • breathable
  • fast drying after rain or creek crossings
  • need to accept my semi-custom insoles
5.10 Impact Low...

5.10 Impact Low…

My favourite cycling shoe is this 5.10 Impact Low model. They are super comfortable, very durable, grip the pedals like glue and have great traction off the bike. The only downsides are 1) they take forever to dry if they get wet, 2) they are pretty heavy/overbuilt for touring and 3) they don’t breath all that well. If they dried fast I could live with everything else.

I really hate riding in wet feet so these are not a good choice if I think it might rain and/or I would have to carry my bike through any creeks/rivers.

Montrail trail runners...

Montrail trail runners…

I love these Montrail runners. They are super comfy and work great on/off the bike for touring. Although they dry faster and are more breathable than the 5.10’s they are not great in either category. They are also on their last legs having been shredded on many previous adventures – soles are almost worn away at the heel, cushioning is compressed and uppers are starting to tear. I just repaired the uppers with shoe goo so I could use them on my last tour, but Sharon laughed at me and said it was time to let them go. I probably will have to do that, but not until the end of the year! 😉

La Sportiva trail runners...

La Sportiva trail runners…

I bought these La Sportivas to replace the Montrails above, but never loved them enough to actually part with the old shoes. There is nothing wrong with the La Sportivas. They do everything well enough, but somehow the fit/performance just isn’t as good as I would like. On the plus side they are light and breathe/dry well. I’ve worn them enough that they are starting to fail at weak spots, but some strategic shoe gooing means they be good for another full year.

At the moment these are the best bikepacking shoe I own and when I have to throw the Montrails out they’ll keep me rolling until I find a replacement.

In terms of bikepacking downsides:

  • raised instep not uber grippy on the bike pedals [not awful, but just okay]
  • not as stable during hike-a-bike as my other shoes
  • lightweight construction not super durable [I’m okay with this as a trade off for fast drying]
Merrel Gaulley water shoes...

Merrel Gaulley water shoes…

I bought these Merrells when I broke my foot and needed a soft stretchy shoe to accommodate my swollen foot. They are water shoes which means they breathe and dry very fast, but they are very flexible and don’t offer much support. I have toured in water shoes before with no issues, but those tours did not involved any hike-a-bike over rough ground which my current trips seem to feature. These shoes also have a fairly non-aggressive sole so I don’t know how well they will do walking/pushing on steep loose terrain.

On the plus side is they fit me, they accept my insoles and they are paid for! 😉

I need to try a hike-a-bike tour with them and see if they work okay. They would definitely be my choice for a trip that I knew would involved a lot of wet feet.

Vibram Five Fingers...

Vibram Five Fingers…

So far I haven’t bothered with a second pair of shoes on tour. Wearing trail runners on my bike means they are comfy for wearing around camp and BC has barefoot friendly campsites [no thorns or sharp rocks] so I can just go without shoes if I need to air out my feet. However, I started to think that maybe carrying these Five Fingers wouldn’t be a bad idea. I could wear them during creek crossings to keep my main shoes/socks dry and they’d be fine in camp if I didn’t want to go barefoot. I could even ride or hike in them if I needed to. Plus they are also paid for! 😉

Most bikepackers who carry a second set of footwear seem to favour flip flops. Presumably for their lightweight, easy packing and low cost. That makes sense – except flip flops are pretty useless in a raging rocky creek or for anything more demanding then chilling in camp.

I’ll test the Five Fingers out this summer and see if they are worth hauling along or not.

Montrail Mountain Masochist trail runners...

Montrail Mountain Masochist trail runners…

I’ve got troublesome feet so I can’t simply order some shoes out of a catalogue and have much success. I’ve got to try on every pair that interests me and see what feels okay in the store. If I am hopeful I’ll buy a pair and wear them at home for a couple days to see what problems crop up once they are on my feet for several hours at a time. If that seems promising I start wearing them outside and give up any hope of returning them for a refund.

My success rate even with this sensible systematic approach is pretty grim. Shoes my feet really love are few and far between. I have given away quite a few pairs of shoes over the years that I thought were winners until an extended trip where their comfort was lacking. Which is why I’m starting to think of this now even though I can keep my La Sportivas going through to summer 2014. It could easily take that long to find a worthy successor! 😦



24 responses

30 05 2013

Try these ( My all year round cycling wear – only downside is that they maybe could dry a bit faster. Good for walking/pushing – especially as I run clips.

30 05 2013

Thanks Tom. I’ll check out the Keen shoes next time I’m at my local dealer. I don’t want any SPD type shoes because I don’t like the way the insert affects how they walk and I’ll never be clipping in. But, Keen has many models that are not bike specific to choose from.

30 05 2013

As usual, good post!

Have you ever thought of Teva sandles?

I have had a couple pair over the years. Never thought of them for your use, but I think they would work in some areas:

1. light weight
2. Super grippy
3. Dry almost instantly
4. Great arch support.

I think they would grip peddles well, but have not tried it.

I’ve taken them with me on backpacking trips, and have actually used them on some fairly long hikes. Key is adjustting them correctly so that your toes don’t slip out and hit a rock going downhill.

Anyway, just my two cents.


30 05 2013

@TY – Tevas don’t work for my feet. I have tried several pairs. I also need footwear that can accept my semi-custom insoles. Without them my feet aren’t very happy.

30 05 2013

Funny that you posted those merrel water shoes. I own a pair of their now-discontinued predecessors and they’re pretty much always lashed to the outside of one of my bags when I tour. I don’t really love them but just can’t seem to find a better replacement. The biggest problem with them in my experience is that they really act as traps for sand and other grit, which can be horribly difficult to remove, especially if they’re at all wet inside. That being said, they’re pretty darn comfortable and I’ve been wearing them consistently for 6+ years and they just won’t die.

Perhaps it would be worth reaching out to La Sportiva or some other trail runner manufacturer to see which models have the stiffest soles since it seems like the flexibility of these types of shoes is probably their biggest downfall for your application.

30 05 2013

@Dan – I have shoes like that. I don’t love ’em, but they just won’t die.

My feet are really fussy so unless I can try them on locally I just ignore them. I have a local store that stocks a lot of trail runners and watershoes/sandals incl. La Sportiva. So I’ll just check them out in person.

It’s easy to tell which shoes are stiff and which will dry fast when you can hold them. Plus I can tell my the shape of the sole if they are even worth putting on.

30 05 2013

If you have an REI near you, you can always return items for refund, even after wearing, provided you are a co-op member there. They do carry a lot of quality footwear.

30 05 2013

@Vic – no REI near me, but is the Canadian equivalent. Their return policy is one of the reasons I shop for shoes there. The other is wide variety of options.

30 05 2013

Inov8 ?
Super light depending which model. Slipper like. I like them for hiking and all around. Have only used them for commuting…. But do love them.

30 05 2013

@Mike – thanks for the suggestion. I’m pretty much only looking at shoes stocked by Because I can try them on easily and they have a great return policy like REI. They have a wide enough selection I should be able to hunt down something that works.

My feet are too finicky to do mail order and meet with success.

So unlike most gear I don’t research online first. I spend a few hours at the store trying stuff on. Go home and research the top contenders and then go back and take another look. Buy what seems like a good fit and do a long trial indoors at home. Then return what doesn’t seem like such a good idea after several hours on my feet.

30 05 2013

I’ve got two pair of the same Montrails in far, FAR worse condition than yours and I think there may still be a little life left in ’em. (At least that’s what I keep telling my cheap self.) I wish they had a little stiffer sole, but otherwise they’re great (well, other than the fact that Montrail has replaced them in their lineup with something gaudier.)

30 05 2013

Thanks for the tips. I’m preparing to go on my first bikepacking trip at the end of the year (our Southern Hemisphere summer) and wasn’t sure what to do about my shoes – whether to wear cycle shoes or joggers. Now I’m pretty sure I’ll be wearing joggers and carrying my FiveFingers as backup.

30 05 2013

I also have hard to fit feet, and it has only gotten worse over the years. I wear fivefingers most of the time, I bought the fancy leather ones for casual use and the KSOs for running. My problem is wide toes and ultra high arches. The fivefingers are really not the best for biking though.
I bought some Steger Mukluks for winter, now I want the equivalent for summer. I will probably be wearing keen hiking shoes or possibly keen sandals for bikepacking with you, I don’t like walking in the keens, they aren’t flat enough for me, but they are pretty comfy on the bike.

31 05 2013
Steve Jones

Too bad they don’t make the Impacts in Goretex.
Haven’t found anything else to touch them for all day hiking comfort and ability plus riding.If Five ten would waterproof them I’d buy five pairs!

31 05 2013

Keen H2s or Skecher Journeymans are sandals that might accomodate your insoles, have a hard sole, and dry out fast. I wear them for all my bike camping, and if it’s cold, I just geek out with a pair of thick wool socks under them.

31 05 2013

@Doc – I can’t wear the Keen open back sandals. My heels splay outwards and they want to ride up on the edge of the heel cup which is very painful.

I’ve tried 2 pairs of Keen sandals for a significant amount of time and had to give them away.

I need something with a closed back.

That’s why I’m using water shoes.

31 05 2013

I use a pair of Crocs (well, copies actually) for fording and as camp/evening footwear. They are very light, offer reasonable protection from sharp rocks and other nastiness in the streams and they dry almost instantly. The downside is they are butt ugly and a bit bulky.

31 05 2013

@Sarvi – I love my Crocs, but they are too bulky for me to carry on a light bike tour and they are not secure enough on my feet so I wouldn’t be stoked about using them in fast moving water. They might work, but I’d rather have something that is 100% for that mission.

1 06 2013
Greg Weber (@onespeedgreg)

I’ve got pretty beat up feet from years in the Army. As well as high arches and hammer toe and all. I have always had good luck with anything Montrail makes, as far as durability goes. They have a nice roomy toe box as well, and except for one pair fit my orthotics very well, without oversizing . Too bad you cant wear Teva’s because the Gnarkosi is awesome. SUUPER sticky on wet rocks and drains like a beast. Light and cool as well

1 06 2013

@Greg – if I was just after another pair of trail runners I’d get some Montrails and be done with it. I may end up doing just that and give up one the “perfect” bikepacking shoe that’s good for river crossings, riding and hike-a-bike.

1 06 2013

I use Timberland Radlers for steam crossings and around camp. I leave out my othotics for stream crossings and there is enough room for my orthotics and thin cycling socks around camp. On the bike… maybe the Spec. Tahoe Sport?It will fit orthotics.

2 06 2013
Greg Weber (@onespeedgreg)

I feel your pain, My feet are so hard to fit (wide forefoot, high arch, narrow heel) That I seem to go back after my favorite shoes over and over again. I usually order my running shoes in doubles. You should see the mods I do to my cycling shoes..

2 06 2013

@Greg – I hear you I bought 3 pairs of 5.10 bike shoes because I am paranoid they’ll change them. If I ever got wind they were being discontinued I’d buy 5 more pairs I keep using them for a couple more decades!

When I find a comfy trail runner I’ll buy 2 or 3 pairs so I don’t get screwed again!

2 06 2013

Check out the NB Minimus line — the 80 looks like it might be some of what you are looking for. I used to need orthotics (plantar faciitis) and started running with the original “10” — now I am orthotic free. I’ve been using my Minimus MT10s on the platforms — the only downside is that they are super flexible compared to my “MTB” shoes. They work well with and without socks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: