Footwear became a theme for the second year in the row. Over the winter I developed arthritis in the knuckle of my big toe on my right foot. The knuckle becomes irritated with repeated bending such as what happens when walking. This made hiking quite painful in the fall. My orthopedic surgeon recommended cortisone injections and while they make a difference the injections did not eliminate the pain. My surgeon also recommended going with the stiffest sole possible for my hiking boot. This would eliminate flexing of the foot and reduce the irritation to the knuckle. I tried a climbing approach shoe but it was so stiff that my heel pulled out of the shoe due the lack of flexing in the shoe. I ended up going back to the model of boot I had been using in the 2010’s the Salomon Quest 4. The boots fit great right out of the box. I never had a hot spot. The traction was so good the boots gave me the confidence to run down the trails on Grotto Mt which are very steep. Things were going great until after a lovely hike up to Healy Pass upon arriving home I notice that the rubber was peeling off the front of the boot.
I contacted Salomon and they agreed it was a manufacturing defect and offer me a full credit. Unfortunately they had no Quest 4’s in stock. In search of a another boot I came across the sub section for footwear labeled Forces. The Forces footwear is intended to be more durable than the regular shoes and are all much stiffer. There was a pair of shoes the XA Forces Gore-Tex which where quite a bit lighter than the Quest 4 but had the same stiffness rating according to Salomon. So I took a chance and ordered the XA’s with my credit.
Around the house the the shoes fit great. After a couple of hikes I noticed a bit of rubbing on my left little toe. A piece of blister tape took car of the rubbing. While I loved my Salomon X Ultra 3’s which I had been using for the last couple of years I always struggled with the quick lacing system. The small thin laces seem to cut into my feet and are uncomfortable. The XA’s had the same quick lacing system so I went about placing padding under the laces to relieve some of the pressure.
The padding worked very well but the left foot still was not happy. So I cut up a yogurt container and put the plastic under the laces. The plastic really helped decrease the pressure from the laces so I sewed the plastic inside some cloth and declared the experiment a success. The shoes no longer hurt me at all.
While I was able to complete my hike to Jasper in the XA’s my feet were not entirely happy. I ended up with tape wrapped around 8 of my toes and around both heals. The toe box of the XA’s is not as roomy as the Quest 4’s and resulted in some friction between the toes. The soles of the XA’s are also not a Vibram sole and I noticed the difference in traction when rock hopping across streams and in wet mud. The traction of the XA’s was just not as good as the Quest 4’s. On a subsequent trip to the Egypt Lake area I switched back to the Quest 4’s with some new Shoe Goo sealing the rubber and my feet were so much happier. Granted the longest day on the Egypt Lake trip was 22 km as opposed to over 30 km on the GDT Section E. It is hard to criticize a pair of shoes that take you 11 days over 200 km of trail and thousands of metres of elevation both on and off trail but I think for backpacking trips I will be switching back to the Quest 4’s. The advantages are a roomy toe box plus better grip in mud and on rocks.