Desert Hiking Footwear

skaliwagify

Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2021
Messages
5
Hello everyone, just got back from a great trip in Moab and Escalante. I previously had Salomon XA 3D GTX shoes, which fit me very well, but obviously did not breathe or drain well. I like the non-GTX version, but the mesh is so large it lets in a ton of find sand just through the body of the shoe! I end up with a lump of sand under my foot even with a gaiter! I really want to find a trail runner made of a more dense mesh or fabric that is non-waterproof, and I'd really love if it had the "gasket" tongue of a waterproof shoe to fully seal the foot. The GTX shoe combined with a light gaiter let no sand in, and I'd love the same result from a breathable shoe. I'd love to know what others experiences have been and what seems to work best.
 
I've done some very sandy walks recently in Altra high tops, the non-waterproof kind, without getting sand in.

I'd also appreciate some desert gaiter recommendations. I own some very durable winter gaiters that are obviously too warm for warm-weather use, and a few brands of light gaiters that I've tried (Dirty Girl etc) I've destroyed in a very short amount of bushwacking, like less than a day.
 
Skurka literally just posted about this exact topic, albeit briefly, on Instagram. Basically the results from his most recent groups out there,which is about a big a sample size as you'll get.


Footwear is very personal as others have said, but probably a good place to start.


Sent from my Pixel 6a using Tapatalk
 
Last edited:
I use mid Scarpa kailash GTX hiking everywhere....... Dont like anything mesh, found it doesnt last long. Sticks, rocks tear them up, sand, dirt, scree fills them up. Of course the shoe manufactures like it, they sell more.

Buy the ones that fit you. Get gaiters. A lightweight something just for water crossing.
 
Long pants and lightweight trail runners are pretty much my go to always and everywhere - except deep winter conditions. I've never had much problem w/ sand/debris and mostly attribute it to the longer pants and good socks. (Me and my fragile legs are always impressed by the folks that hike off-trail in shorts and skirts - or kilts, for that matter. ;))

Something like the La Sportiva TX4 seems like a solid option for the areas you mention - I have the TX3s and enjoy them for scrambles in CO (same basic build as the TX4s, but mesh upper). Not as overly narrow as most La Sportivas either.

I never wear waterproof shoes or gaiters outside of winter conditions.

Footwear is a super personal preference subject though - hard to give (or take) advice.
 
Wow thanks you all for the great responses!


I've done some very sandy walks recently in Altra high tops, the non-waterproof kind, without getting sand in.

I'd also appreciate some desert gaiter recommendations. I own some very durable winter gaiters that are obviously too warm for warm-weather use, and a few brands of light gaiters that I've tried (Dirty Girl etc) I've destroyed in a very short amount of bushwacking, like less than a day.

I got something like these from a REI Garage Sale a few years ago. Still small and light, but made from something like a light softshell fabric. They have served me quite well, basically no damage thus far. Definitely more durable from the material Dirty Girl uses, though I have never seen those in person.

Screenshot 2023-05-21 at 7.38.37 PM.jpg

Skurka literally just posted about this exact topic, albeit briefly, on Instagram. Basically the results from his most recent groups out there,which is about a big a sample size as you'll get.


Footwear is very personal as others have said, but probably a good place to start.


Sent from my Pixel 6a using Tapatalk

This is quite literally exactly the information I am looking for. I may grab the Speedcrosses, as they fit and work almost the exact same as the shoes I already love, but since I have a narrow fit I may try to check out those La Sportiva models as well. My only reservation is the really aggressive lugs on the Speedcross. It almost feels like a soccer cleat and I am not sure how comfortable or even grippy it would be on slickrock. If I could get an XA 3D Pro with the upper of a Speedcross, that would be the perfect shoe.

A few people mentioned additional options in the comments I am not familiar with:
-Scarpa Mescalito
-Astral TR1 Mesh
-Salomon S/Lab Cross 2

Two shoes I have found that look interesting, with no data or direct reviews:
-Scarpa Rapid
-Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3

The Mescalito, and TX4 both have leather in their upper, which is definitely a con for canyon trips with water.

Long pants and lightweight trail runners are pretty much my go to always and everywhere - except deep winter conditions. I've never had much problem w/ sand/debris and mostly attribute it to the longer pants and good socks. (Me and my fragile legs are always impressed by the folks that hike off-trail in shorts and skirts - or kilts, for that matter. ;))

Something like the La Sportiva TX4 seems like a solid option for the areas you mention - I have the TX3s and enjoy them for scrambles in CO (same basic build as the TX4s, but mesh upper). Not as overly narrow as most La Sportivas either.

I never wear waterproof shoes or gaiters outside of winter conditions.

Footwear is a super personal preference subject though - hard to give (or take) advice.
I only hike in long pants with light duty gaiters. I am not sure what role good socks play in this problem, obviously we should all use them, but if I end up with grit in my shoe it will do damage to the socks over time and make my foot uncomfortable in the meantime if there is enough accumulation. The problem is that the mesh on some shoes that breathe and drain really well simply let in fine sand in. If you haven't dealt with this problem in a sandy wash I would guess you already have a shoe that is performing in the way my shoe has not. I have found this fine sand on the plateau, as well as sand dunes and beaches in other places. Here is a photo of looking through the mesh of my XA 3D Pros.


IMG_1337.JPG

Regarding the waterproof shoes, I don't hike in them either, but they still have this liner that bridges the tongue and blocks sand really well. Some shoes like the Speedcross also have a bit of material in the same area. I am attaching a photo of this "tongue seal" for anyone who searches and finds this thread and does not understand to what I am referring to. Most trail runners with a gap instead of a fabric seal can also let additional sand in past the edge of where a light duty gaiter reaches.

IMG_1334.JPG


As an interesting aside, the guy who wrote "Fixing Your Feet" did a write up on these rather extreme over the shoe gaiters. They are designed for ultra distance desert running. I don't want to use something like this, but I was considering building something like it before I saw the Skurka post above.


Screenshot 2023-05-21 at 7.41.46 PM.jpg
 
Last edited:
I only hike in long pants with light duty gaiters. I am not sure what role good socks play in this problem, obviously we should all use them, but if I end up with grit in my shoe it will do damage to the socks over time and make my foot uncomfortable in the meantime if there is enough accumulation. The problem is that the mesh on some shoes that breathe and drain really well simply let in fine sand in. If you haven't dealt with this problem in a sandy wash I would guess you already have a shoe that is performing in the way my shoe has not. I have found this fine sand on the plateau, as well as sand dunes and beaches in other places. Here is a photo of looking through the mesh of my XA 3D Pros.
In regards to the socks, I just find good socks keep my feet better when stuff inevitably gets in - thus mitigating, but not preventing, the problem. Of course, as you say, the socks do wear faster though if there's grit in the shoe.

I wouldn't say I haven't dealt with it at all - I just end up back where I started when the tradeoffs are considered. My typical backpacking shoes are Altra Lone Peaks. I also have a habit of removing my shoes (and often socks) at any stop over a couple minutes - it started as a way to deal with wet/soggy conditions in Alaska, but is probably helpful in dry/sandy places, too.

Regarding the waterproof shoes, I don't hike in them either, but they still have this liner that bridges the tongue and blocks sand really well. Some shoes like the Speedcross also have a bit of material in the same area. I am attaching a photo of this "tongue seal" for anyone who searches and finds this thread and does not understand to what I am referring to. Most trail runners with a gap instead of a fabric seal can also let additional sand in past the edge of where a light duty gaiter reaches.
Interesting observation - I can honestly say I've never put much thought into that part of a shoe, but I see your point.
 
Remenber shoes like desert or trail runners are not heavy enough duty as far as support for carrying a weighted pack.... even with inserts.

As far as socks i use exclusively DryMax brand...., Inserts, I have used Superfeet..... forever.
 
Altra Lone Peak trail runners and Dirty Girl gaiters for me. Only time I really get issues with sand in that setup is when doing extended hiking in streams, and I think any mesh shoe is going to get a little sand in it during that kind of hiking.
 
I think there's also something about how you walk in the desert. I get much less sand in my shoes than others even when wearing almost identical footwear, maybe I pick up my feet more? no idea.
 
Altra Lone Peak trail runners and Dirty Girl gaiters for me. Only time I really get issues with sand in that setup is when doing extended hiking in streams, and I think any mesh shoe is going to get a little sand in it during that kind of hiking.
The Lone Peak is recommended by Skurka and others for having a tight enough fabric to keep sand out. The footbox is too sloppy and wide for my foot.
 
The Lone Peak is recommended by Skurka and others for having a tight enough fabric to keep sand out. The footbox is too sloppy and wide for my foot.
I'd definitely suggest taking a look at La Sportiva then - if only because I'm jealous of folks that can wear them. :lol: I love the feature set, but the toe boxes are too constricting for me. Even my TX3s - supposedly the widest of their trail/approach shoes - are too tight in the toes for me to wear comfortably on multi-day trips.
 
Another vote for Altra Lone Peak, and I also use Topo Pursuits which I think I may like even more than the Lone Peaks now. The mesh on the Lone Peaks seems to be a tighter weave and a bit more robust than a lot of other shoes have, so that may help a bit. I find them to be plenty breathable still though.
 
Sportivas always fit me.... Have had some wildcats for a lot of years... But don't do sand hiing in them
 
Another vote for Altra Lone Peak, and I also use Topo Pursuits which I think I may like even more than the Lone Peaks now. The mesh on the Lone Peaks seems to be a tighter weave and a bit more robust than a lot of other shoes have, so that may help a bit. I find them to be plenty breathable still though.
I think Altras have come a long way on the durability front in the last few versions. I still go through a couple pairs a year, but they're in marginally better shape when I retire them and the failure points are less critical. I get ~400 miles per pair, but I think I'm pretty rough on my shoes.

Here's a picture of last year's final pair (AKA this year's yard work pair) - this is pretty much the spot where they always fail for me. (At least since Altra fixed the issue with the sole separating at the toe a few years ago.)
20230522_140657.jpg

I've heard good things about the Topos, but I've always had better luck finding Altras on sale so I haven't tried them yet.

EDIT: Here's a picture of the upper mesh - it's light but pretty fine, so I can see why it would keep out more sand than others w/ a wider mesh.
20230522_141211.jpg
 
I think Altras have come a long way on the durability front in the last few versions. I still go through a couple pairs a year, but they're in marginally better shape when I retire them and the failure points are less critical. I get ~400 miles per pair, but I think I'm pretty rough on my shoes.

Here's a picture of last year's final pair (AKA this year's yard work pair) - this is pretty much the spot where they always fail for me. (At least since Altra fixed the issue with the sole separating at the toe a few years ago.)
View attachment 121214

I've heard good things about the Topos, but I've always had better luck finding Altras on sale so I haven't tried them yet.

EDIT: Here's a picture of the upper mesh - it's light but pretty fine, so I can see why it would keep out more sand than others w/ a wider mesh.
View attachment 121215
Dang. I haven't had that happen to mine before (yet?). Looks like they got some solid use though!

And yeah, it's rare to see the Topos go on sale much. You may get like 10-15% off by giving them your email, but it's not like larger shoe companies like Altra where you can always scoop up the last year's model at a good discount. The cushion in the Pursuit is just too good though.
 
I'd throw a vote to the Hoka Speedgoat (current version is 5). I trail run, do ultramarathons, and backpack, mostly in the Southwest (live in Phoenix). I have used various versions of Altras (Lone Peak and Superiors) and liked them, but was never in love with the zero drop platform and didn't have enough cushion for my tastes. Have also used the Topo Terraventure and felt the same as Altra, liked them but not in love. Have always just stuck with Speedgoats (have owned probably 30+ pairs). I also pair them with Kahtoola Instagaiter mostly because they don't require a velcro attachment to the shoe. I recently used the Speedgoats/Kahtoola on a 50 mile ultra in Moab that included a water crossing up to thigh height. I had zero issues with water drainage or sand/rock issues in the shoe. Anyway, just some other options. Good luck finding something that works for you!
 
Dang. I haven't had that happen to mine before (yet?). Looks like they got some solid use though!

And yeah, it's rare to see the Topos go on sale much. You may get like 10-15% off by giving them your email, but it's not like larger shoe companies like Altra where you can always scoop up the last year's model at a good discount. The cushion in the Pursuit is just too good though.
Here's last year's first pair - same exact failure (on both). :lol:
20230522_152544.jpg
I'd throw a vote to the Hoka Speedgoat (current version is 5). I trail run, do ultramarathons, and backpack, mostly in the Southwest (live in Phoenix). I have used various versions of Altras (Lone Peak and Superiors) and liked them, but was never in love with the zero drop platform and didn't have enough cushion for my tastes. Have also used the Topo Terraventure and felt the same as Altra, liked them but not in love. Have always just stuck with Speedgoats (have owned probably 30+ pairs). I also pair them with Kahtoola Instagaiter mostly because they don't require a velcro attachment to the shoe. I recently used the Speedgoats/Kahtoola on a 50 mile ultra in Moab that included a water crossing up to thigh height. I had zero issues with water drainage or sand/rock issues in the shoe. Anyway, just some other options. Good luck finding something that works for you!
That tracks - good buddy of mine that runs ultras has the same love for Speedgoats.
 
The Lone Peak is recommended by Skurka and others for having a tight enough fabric to keep sand out. The footbox is too sloppy and wide for my foot.
Would be nice to have a wider selection of shoes that fit me... apparently my feet are shaped like canoe paddles or something.
 
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
Titans 3 week Arizona road trip: Tucson Desert Rain & Hiking SAGUARO NP Hiking & Camping 1
Perry West Utah Desert Hiking Opportunities? Trip Planning 7
Perry New to Desert Hiking... Any Advice? General Discussion 8
RyanP Tips for hot-weather desert trips (and Paria in particular)? Trip Planning 8
balzaccom Spring trip to the Desert Hiking & Camping 0
regehr desert plants that indicate former inhabitation General Discussion 15
Ugly Winter Desert Wanderings 2021-2022 Backpacking 12
SteveR Delaying Winter-A November Desert Trip. Hiking & Camping 6
J Pahranagat, Desert NWR, and Arrow Canyon Range to start Nov. 2021 Desert time Hiking & Camping 6
WasatchWill A Trip to the Desert to Escape the Summer Heat Backpacking 9
J More fine and aesthetic desert summits scrambles Dec. 1-3, 2020 Hiking & Camping 2
J Footlose and unfocused in the Mojave and Sonoran Desert Dec. 8-10, 2020 Hiking & Camping 2
J On to towers of the Sonoran Desert with friends; Nov 21-30, 2020 Hiking & Camping 6
J N. Mojave Desert Rambles and Scrambles (start of 40 desert days) Nov. 14-20, 2020 Hiking & Camping 4
stretch Idaho Centennial Trail to Oregon Desert Trail Backpacking 23
Stephanie B Our Intro to the Red Desert, September 14 - 16, 2020 Hiking & Camping 4
andyjaggy Bikepacking West Desert Trip Planning 16
SteveR Desert Roadtrip 2019 Hiking & Camping 4
TrektheWorld Salt Creek - Needles or other options in the Utah desert Trip Planning 4
Jackson Walking Along a Nice Creek in the Desert Backpacking 28
stevecochranephotography Desert Winter Run Off - Big Dominguez Canyon Hiking & Camping 2
regehr touring bike for the desert? Gear 9
canadug Spring Break in the Mojave Desert Hiking & Camping 4
J Desert mylar General Discussion 14
JDWalters Access to Escalante River/Lake Powell near Cathedral in the Desert Trip Planning 7
Mikjik86 Desert Canyon/Water Shoes? Gear 9
DrNed Ideas For 1 Night Backpacking In Utah Desert? Trip Planning 10
blueeyes West Desert Bikepacking Everything Else 13
IntrepidXJ Desert or Mountains? General Discussion 43
westy Anywhere, Mojave Desert Hiking & Camping 3
Wanderlust073 Winter in the desert Gear 16
TrektheWorld Meetup in the desert Thanksgiving week? Meet Up (Members Only) 1
SteveR Desert Roadtrip 2017 Hiking & Camping 13
SteveR Canucks in the desert-an October Utah trip Hiking & Camping 8
BryanG Anza-Borrego Desert Part - 2 Hiking & Camping 0
BryanG Anza-Borrego Desert Part - 1 Hiking & Camping 4
Scott Chandler A Return to Desert: Little Wild Horse Hiking & Camping 7
Vegan.Hiker Desert noobs visit Zion and the North Rim Hiking & Camping 28
Nick Desert Magazine 1963: Lake Powell General Discussion 10
Hurakan Dogs In The Desert. General Discussion 11
Bob Cathedral of the Desert Canyoneering 1
Kullaberg63 Clark Mountain - a remote California desert peak. Hiking & Camping 6
Bob Cathedral of the Desert, Clear Creek - Top Access Resource Discussions 5
hatchcanyon Cathedral in the Desert On The Water 17
Christian A Desert that's as sculptured as the Colorado Plateau General Discussion 2
Nick Cathedral in the Desert On The Water 18
Dave Anza Borrego Desert, October 2013 Off Road 10
Nick Invite New Years Eve in the desert Meet Up (Members Only) 40
gloo The Desert Rat General Discussion 0
Dave Lower South Desert, Capitol Reef Trip Planning 0

Similar threads

Back
Top