Luke: "It’s taken me a long time to be able to put 'pen to paper' about shoes. I took Salomon XA Pro GTX Mids as my boots for the trip. Are they good boots? Undoubtedly, yes. Were they the right boots for the trip? Probably not.
First, the 'good boots' question. Did they fit me well? Yup - Salomon uses a last that fits my feet perfectly. Did the GoreTex keep my feet dry in small puddles? Yup. Were they pretty light but still a little supportive? Yes again. Basically, as a light hiking boot they are great. I mean, they are a mid version of a trail running shoe. What more could you need?
But they are not the right shoes to bring on an expedition across unforgiving terrain with massive amounts of food and gear. They also weren’t all that great for some of the unique features of Alaskan backcountry travel.
First, the support issue. These boots were they heaviest I’d used in maybe 15 years - the last time I used full leather, traditional boots was sometime in middle school. I travel pretty light when I’m outside and usually trail runners are all that I need. But, even though these boots were the biggest I own, they weren’t enough for some of the punishing tussocks, scrambles, and traverses we did. I submit the following (semi-scientific) observations to the jury:
Luke: Salomon XA Pro GTX Mids (essentially tall trail runners) -> injured and had to end trip (severe tendinosis in the left Achilles, minor in the right)
Paxson: A slightly heavier Salomon boot, built on a boot last instead of trail runners but similar upper to the GTX Mids-> injured and had to spend a few days off his feet at the resupply
Everyone else: Traditional, full leather boots -> no problems
Second are some of the other issues:
I guess the basic takeaway is don’t underestimate the Alaskan terrain. This was my second trip to the state and I still didn’t quite understand what I needed. My Achilles still aches with the memory of the trip when I write about it..."