Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Tale of Two Shoes.

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times, it was the age of hiking, it was the age of mountain biking, it was the epoch of belief in oneself, it was the epoch of incredulity after a long day, it was the season of long hours of daylight, it was the season of long hours of darkness, it was the spring and hope, it was the winter of snow, we had the mountains before us, we had the plains before us, we were going to the summits, we were coming direct back down - in short, the season was so far like the present season, that some insisted on a fair test, to destruction or otherwise, in the utmost degree for comparison only.
The shoes in question are the New Balance Leadville 1210v2, and the Salomon XA Pro 3D.  These two shoes have covered alot of ground in the past year, whether it's been running Bear Peak, taking the dogs for a run around the neighborhood, loooong day hikes/trail runs, or shorter trail runs.  Both have been over every type of terrain I can possibly imagine, and both have been on my feet for third and fourth class scrambles.  In fact, both shoes have been on my feet to cover some fifth class terrain.
For complete clarity, I was able to take advantage of a pro deal to purchase the Salomons, which I got at 40% off.  I was running before work and using a fan to dry them off, and my boss thought they were too smelly and gave me a coupon for a free pair of New Balances, which is where those came from.
Let's take a look at the shoes at they are today.
The tread on both is pretty well gone, but I found both to be fairly sticky.  The only slippage I really had was going from a wet surface (snow or water) to dry rock.  But I've yet to find anything that would stick completely in those conditions.  As I said, both have been on my feet to climb some fifth class stuff, and I never felt like I was in any danger.
Closer up, you can see the tread on the Salomons has perhaps worn less, but has a few chunks missing.  The New Balance have cracked/torn open right under the ball of the foot.  Test to destruction, right?
Some wear on the upper of the Salomons.
I don't know if it is just me and my weird feet, but every pair of shoes or boots I have had recently tends to show wear here first.  The inside of both feet, at the ball of the foot.  This happened to the pair of boots I used to have, eventually ending in a fatal tear across the toe, the boots I currently have, and both pairs of shoes talked about here.
Similar wear on the New Balance.
The New Balance shoes are definitely lighter, and certainly intended for on trail use.  But of course, I've taken them off trail and they haven't fared very well.
More upper damage on the New Balances.
The Salomons were originally designed to be used for adventure racing, and are specifically designated as off trail shoes, and aside from the aforementioned split on the inside of each shoe, show very little damage.  They are definitely a much more burly shoe, but this comes at a price.
The claimed weight for the Salomons is 410 grams per shoe.  I have mine at 448 g for the right and 455 g for the left.  As seems to be the norm, the company probably weighed a smaller size than I wear (10.5).
The New Balances are claimed at 310 grams, and actually weigh 328 g for the right and 330 g for the left.  Significantly lighter, and they feel it.  They feel snappier and I suppose more responsive if something like that could be said of shoes.  The Salomons feel more robust and tank like, but are intended for a different use in the end, and they are very capable in that.
Based on weight, the New Balances have the edge, and would certainly be at home for mostly on trail hikes, with off trail time spent on tundra or rock.  Going off trail?  The Salomons will certainly hold up better for bushwhacking, talus, or any tenuous of trail movement.
And to give some idea, if you were to take 10000 steps in each shoe, by the end of the day you'll have lifted over 2000 pounds less if you were wearing the New Balances.
It's not just about weight though.  What about comfort?
The New Balances feel pretty great, but my problem was a somewhat tight toe box, particularly on the left shoe.  I have a little toe overlap and my pinkie toe would get destroyed over the day.  For most of the summer, I had blister on top of blister.
The Salomons are wider at the end, and I didn't have that problem, but I did get a hot spot several times on the arch of my right foot.  All I can guess is that it came from where the gusseted tongue attaches to the shoe under the insole.  There doesn't seem to be anything else there that would cause this.
I have worn both shoes with microspikes, and found the stiffer and larger toe protector on the Salomons worked better in this situation.  The NB version is more flexible and it allowed the spikes to push in on it, and in on my foot, which was uncomfortable.
I suppose to give the long story short, I have worn both shoes on 12+ hour days, and come away with blisters in various places.  While the Salomons seem to have a more roomy toe box, I'd get a blister on my other foot from some irritation the NB didn't have.
While I like the lighter weight of the NB, the comfort level wasn't quite there.  Perhaps a wider shoe would work to alleviate the toe blister problem, as that was the only problem I had with them.  They don't hold up well off trail, but I would be perfectly happy to replace shoes more frequently if I could wear them all day and end up with no blisters at all.
The comfort on the Salomons wasn't quite there either, with the arch irritation usually starting a few hours in to a hike.  They did hold up quite well for off trail travel, but they are a good bit heavier and feel that way on the feet.
I suppose I'd purchase both again, but searching for a different shoe also seems to be a good idea.  In reality, having a shoe more for on trail days and a shoe for more off trail days might be the way to go.  But if I can find something that doesn't give me any blisters on those long days, I'd likely wear it all the time even if it doesn't hold up as well off trail.
Who knew running and hiking could be so complicated?

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