Footwear is a Mont Blank Treks hot potato! Trekking trainers, full on boots, light weight boots, trail shoes. You see them all out in the Alps. Your choice will depend on the conditions underfoot, the weather, confidence on uneven ground, injuries, the stability in your ankles and knees, your body and pack weight and of course what works well for you. Its worth saying that most trekking trainers offer minimal ankle support, boots can be a bit heavier but more secure and supportive. Just to say that what follows is personal opinion. I’m not a sponsored trekker and nor am I receiving any endorsements from kit companies.
So, what do I have to choose between? La Sportiva summer mountaineering boot, Salomon SpeedCross in red; new SpeedCross Goretex in black; North Face Ultra Fastpack lightweight boots and Hoka Speedgoat, Mafate trail trainers. Of these my favourites were always the Speedcross for a dry, hot weather TMB. They are grippy on loose dry tracks, light, agile and nimble on rocks and skinny off camber trails. No issues with laces coming undone as they have supportive ‘quicklace’ system with a slider that tucks in to a hidden pocket under the tongue. Just two problems with my favoured red pair; firstly, the soles worn smooth and more critically, the mouse nested in the right shoe had bitten through the fancy lacing system and used the comfy padded heel support as nutrition for its new family. It was time to get out the new pair of Speedcross in black Goretex.
I decided to walk in the new black Speedcross trail shoes on TMB day one from Chamonix to Les Houches. TMB day one has the longest continuous descent between Brevant and Hotel Campanule. By the end of this descent I was certain that the right shoe was both too short and tight. The new, trekking specific ankle socks were short and had filled with gravel. By the time we had reached the Christ Le Roi statue above Hotel Campanule I was seeking redemption but as my mother once said, ‘there is no help!’. I removed my right sock and insole to try and make the shoe fit. Too late, my big toe nail was the casualty, sore for a lot longer than day one of the TMB.
• Do not assume that your feet stop growing and two pairs of the same shoes will be consistent in size;
• Shoes bought in the morning do not always fit the same by the afternoon;
• Goretex can change the feel and fit of your footwear;
• Longer socks keep out gravel, maybe offer a compression effect, beware of too tight socks though;
• The descent of TMB day one goes down, down and then down some more, so footwear and sock choice needs testing!
• Trekking downhill for several hours can be more sapping physically and mentally than climbing;
• Box fresh kit is a bad idea.
‘Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other'