Sunday, February 24, 2013

Rethinking My Pack - "Camp Shoes"

Been 'round and 'round on the idea of camp shoes. For my northbound AT section from Springer to Franklin, I carried a pair of VivoBarefoot Ultras. At 8 ozs, they were quite a bit lighter than the ubiquitous crocs. You can read my thoughts on them here. They're bulky, but I could strap them on the side of my pack such that they didn't flop around.

When I went home, I got more serious about reducing weight, and I left them at home for my sobo section from Katahdin. With all those river fords in Maine, they would have been useful. But I went without, taking my socks off and pulling the insoles out at each ford. The shoes dried out eventually. In camp I tied them loosely for comfort, and so that I could slip them on easily for a midnight call of nature.

What I wasn't prepared for was comunal showers in some of the less than pristine hostels ... My feet survived it, but I wished I had some flip-flops... More after the break

I ran across XeroShoes (previously Invisible Shoes). Inspired by huaraches worn by the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, who were featured in the barefoot runner's bible, Born To Run. The big difference is that the Tarahumaras used tread from old tires, and these were co-developed with the former lead designers from Nike and Reebok. Dennis Driscoll, who co-founded Avia Athletic Footwear, and who was the head of product design at Crocs, is now Chief Development Officer at Xero Shoes.

At an advertised 6.8 ozs for a pair of men's size 9, I figured they'd give me a little weight savings. They'd be considerably less bulky to pack. As they're built for runners, and sport a 5000 mile guarantee, I was sure they'd be more than tough enough for what I'd put them through. Lots of positive reviews...

They offer no toe protection. But I have few if any serious fords left on the AT, and I don't really plan to hike in them.

One can send in a foot tracing, and have them custom made. Or one can order a kit for a bit of a discount, and put them together oneself. I opted for the latter. They offer two different thicknesses of soles, several different sole colors as well as lace colors.  They even offer sandal bling ... The kit comes with a hole punch, and a sophisticated lacing tool (a hair pin).

Following the directions on sizing, I ordered the thinner, 4mm thick sole sized up to 10.5". I got the soles in black with forest green laces because I'm basically a boring old fuddy-duddy... The total with shipping was $29.94 - Considerably cheaper than the VivoBarefeet.

They arrived 3 days later via USPS, and I tore into them. Their web site has copious information and lots of videos on how to trim the soles if necessary, and myriad ways to lace them. They appeared as tho they might need trimming, but I wasn't sure. So I proceded to mark toe holes, punch them out with the provided punch, and lace them with their Xero Loop slip-on lacing pattern. I wore them around a bit, adjusted the tightness a few times, wore them some more, then grabbed a sharpie. Following their directions, I marked and trimmed them to fit - Erring on leaving too much.

I slapped them on the scale, and they came in at 7.25 ozs. That's only 3/4 ounce less than the VivoBarefeet. Which frankly is a testament to the full-foot Vivo design. In keeping with the theme of this series, that's a fairly steep $40/oz savings ... I could probably shave another ounce by choosing one of their minimalist lacings and maybe get that down to $17/oz. One could also argue that I increased the weight of my pack by 7.25 ozs ...

As they are, they'll be considerably easier to pack, probably real nice to wear on hot summer nights in camp, and will help protect me from the heebie jeebies on the floors of communal showers.  I'll write more after I've logged some time in them.

I may even hike in them ...


  1. Kind of expensive and heavy for a glorified insole. These are meant to be used more than as camp shoes. For camp shoes, just use your existing insoles and add some string when you get into camp. This solution is nearly free and adds only the weight of the string as you're already wearing the insoles.

    1. I hiked thru Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont with no camp shoes. Didn't miss them in camp, only in scuzzy community showers ;)

  2. My friend Faceplant created a pair of these, but it was painful watching her walk around in them. It looked so awkward and didnt work too well when the ground was wet.

    1. There's a lot of ways to lace these, and lots of folks run in them. Tell me Loopy, did Faceplant get his trail name whilst wearing these?

  3. I weighed my crocs the other day at 13 oz whereas the thongs are 7oz and I could shave some weight off them, they are dirt cheap as well.


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