Sunday, August 15, 2010

Shoes For Hiking In Rainforest

Trekking Shoes / Hiking Shoes For Tropical Rainforest

Rainforest have diverse terrain and trail surface, and that could differ based on geography area and altitude, so choosing a suitable shoe for hiking / trekking activities in rainforest trail could be tricky.  Most of Hiking / trekking Boot in the Malaysia market was brought over from oversea and designed not meant for use inTropical Rainforest.  What in mind of most people about image of Hiking Shoe would be something like the one in the photo, but bear in mind that this kind of hiking shoe such as this Adidas Trekking FM GTX hiking boot are specifically designed for High Alpine Mountains not for muddy humid of Tropical Rainforest!. Nevertheless some aspect of this Hiking Boot such as High Cut, Breathable Waterproof, and Hard Sole can be a guide in choosing the right shoes for hiking in rainforest. Whatever brand of hiking / trekking shoe you choose, these characteristics presented below is must have in choosing Shoes for Hiking in Tropical Rainforest;
o    Safety
o    Breathable / Quick Dry / Draining System
o    Light
o    Sole - Cushioning, Hard Middle Sole & Soft Outer Rubber Sole, Pattern & Design

Safety Issues Of Hiking Shoes
Adidas terrex
One of main aspect of choosing a hiking shoe is safety and protection offered. The most ideal design of hiking shoes collar should be just over ankle for ankle support. Furthermore,  the support  will be more essential when you have weight on your back. Mid Cut boot is sufficient to provide enough ankle support, no need for High Cut. This is important as most injury sustained by hiker is ankle injury, Suffering ankle injury during expedition in the mountainous rainforest will not only hurt yourself but your team member as well, while you are no longer able to carry your own weight, your friend have to help carry your backpack. Hopefully no one throw it away :).  Risk of bite from poisonous creature, knock on rock and root could rip open your foot nail were another real safety issues…
But Safety is not only thing in choosing trekking shoes.. there will be a lot more things to consider. You could have the safest shoes on earth and you would just look like Mount Everest Climber or shoes of Astronaut on moon landing attempt.

Breathable / Quick Dry / Draining System
In tropical rainforest you need to have your feet dry most of the time.  You will get wet some of the time. If you are on lost and survive mode like Bear Grylls finding way out of rainforest you will be wet most of the time at least that was presented by his show - to survive you need to be near with water point. Wet and damp shoes could lead to foot fungal infection. Damp and humidity in rainforest  allow bacteria and fungus grow faster. If your trekking will going to get your trekking shoes wet through stream, river crossing or muddy path, choose light trekking shoes that can easily be drained. Trekking Boot clumber some to unlace, good to have waterproof system but no need for Gore-Tex, bear   in mind that and once it inside get wet it will be very uncomfortable, with more day to complete the rainforest trail ahead, wet shoes is the last thing you would want. That is why having shoes that could dry up quickly and easily drained is very important. You won’t want to stop every time after crossing stream as that would disturb your team rhythm, been able to continue trekking even after saving your self from mud pit is luxury. That why  I  myself would prefer for a low cut light trekking shoes from high cut heavy trekking boot, even that would mean safety aspect is compromise a little. Some Trekking shoes have drainage system like North Face Crusade, but this function comes with quite expensive price. If cost is your determinant factor then rubber shoes is just perfect choose. No bother to get it wet hundred time just dab with tissue or cloth then it will be dry again. Rubber shoes was used widely as shoes for hiking in rainforest by villagger and natives, one clear reason is that this shoes is cheap and it perform well relative to its low price.

Shoes for trekking in rainforest should be light. Trekking boots for Alpines Mountains are built sturdy, hard and thick sole and mostly heavy! That kind of boot was built in such away because of hard surface of   trail in High Alpine Mountain. Light is luxury in rainforest, as people pursue for lightness in F1 racing so do hikers in rainforest trail. Heavy boot through muddy trail of rainforest is like swimming with your wedding dinner suit, can't you imagine how hard it is?. Lightness of trekking shoes also depend in its material, choose for quick dry mesh like new Adidas Kanadia Trail2 Hiking Shoes and Adidas Adizero XT. Unsuitable material would soak water like your car washer sponge that would make heavier, worst it will take long to dry and remain wet for the rest of expedition.
Want extra light? What about this rubber shoes? Add some shoes pad for extra cushion. One advantage of rubber shoes that no other trekking shoes / hiking shoes could match is its sole would never broke off , it is because it was made simply by mould in one piece. I have seen many hiking shoes martyrdom on rainforest trail, it was sad to see hiking shoes with detached outsole thrown away along rainforest trail. Something to remember: rainforest trail is a nature worldly heaven for us to wonder not a graveyard for your broken hiking shoes / trekking shoes. If you got problem with your trekking shoes make sure to bring it home, if your trekking shoes is old and was not used for quiet considerable time, then look for sign of it may be broken off; buy a new one, or fix it or just buy a pair of rubber shoes for standby.   

Sole - Cushioning, Hard Middle Sole, Soft Outer Rubber Sole, Pattern & Design
Rubber shoes is light and easy to dry, but it sole can quite be on soft side that you could almost feel root and rock you steep on to just like foot reflexology path , Tropical Rainforest floor full with maze of root that steeping on it with rubber shoes almost like steeping on reflexology stone barefoot. Foot massage is good, but having to walk on foot reflexology for 6-7 hours is arduous. Having moderate hard middle sole is good to protect your foot, too hard would reduce flexibility and making climbing difficult. Soft outer sole of trekking shoes is important for grip especially like on flat granite surface at Mount Kinabalu. Soft and flexible sole would help to climb slippery boulder.  I’ve see many of hiker with knee pain and problem; they share a common habit – running while descending a mountain trail. They maybe fan of downhill racing. If you want a fast downhill take a mountain bike not by running with 10kg++ heavy backpack which will ruin your knee. If you can’t live with adrenalin rush of downhill running then  invest for a pair of good cushioning trekking shoes, you will appreciate it next time you have chat with old timer hiker with knee pain. To venture into rainforest choose sole pattern / design for mud and slippery earth trail not your shopping sneaker and futsal shoes.

Good Outsole With Mud Release System

Know Your Trail To Choose Your Shoes

Knowing in advance condition and kind of trail that you going to trek is very much helpful in deciding which kind of hiking shoes to wear. What kind of question to ask? These key points would give you some idea of  what to expect when hiking through rainforest trail

1-Is the trail rarely used or traffic jam used to occur there (not really)? or you will gonna open  totally new trail - wow
2-Do you have to cross stream and wet your shoes? or you going to follow along the stream, Mountain stream normally bank with a lot of round big slippery rock that could give you hell of crawling torture. Is the trek muddy or dry?.. bear in  mind that some trek is mostly muddy all year round like Trek to Mount Irau Cameron Highland... and some trek would be just wet and slippery (not muddy) even after torrent of monsoon like Gunung Tebu in Terengganu.
3-Type of the trail - Is it hard granite, rocky porous limestone or sharp small rock like you can find on Ulu Klang Quartz Ridge, or red / yellow earth that could be very slippery when wet.

Based on information from the questions you could more or less decide which shoes for hiking is suitable for your trekking activities. I will go into detail into which kind of hiking shoes suitable for kind of trail in the questions, or more accurate say is kind of hiking shoes of my choice in case you got different views - reserve it to the comment section pleasee ..

Question 1 - Shoes For Hiking In Rainforest For Rarely Used Trail   & Safety Issues
If the trail is rarely used, it will be quickly cover by dry leaves and close down by new thorny rattan leaves or small tree branch.  Cover up your feet, wearing sandal is definitely NO.. You would never sure what you stepping on to, it could scorpion/ or centipede sleeping under those dry leaves. Disturbing dangerous creature sleeping could be painful, believe me. Worst, you could stepping on to viper snake.. if that happen in deep jungle far from modern medication that could be very serious. Even if not poisonous as cobra, untreated bite could be infectious and fatal. Viper live on forest floor, mostly small around 50-60cm and camouflage well with surrounding. These creature is hard to see, thus precaution by not wearing sandal might save your big toe not only from brown viper but also from scratch and cut of thorn rattan and root.. . A popular trail normally properly maintained with steps and stair such as Mount Kinabalu Trail if that is the situation I won't question for you wearing sandal :) ..make sure it is a nice one like this one

Question 2 - Shoes For Hiking In Rainforest For Wet Condition
It’s raining all night and You know it gonna be wet and slippery, then opt for your mud fighting sole shoes like Adidas Adizero XT and Adidas Kanadia Trail.  If you opt for your gore-tex boot, ensure you won’t wet it inside. If you love your boot or your new adidas kanadia trail2 so much then just wear your rubber shoes, it will serve you fine.

Question 3-Type of the trail - Is it hard granite, rocky porous limestone or sharp small rock like you can found on Ulu Klang Quartz Ridge, or red / yellow earth that could be very slippery when wet.
My Shoes Sole Badly Damage on Bukit Tabur Trail
High cut boot trekking designed not only to support your ankle, it also to protect from cut and abrasion from hard jagged granite. Choose for hard outer sole, I once wear my Columbia boot to Bukit Tabor, which the longest quartz ridge in the world. It serve me good, I could trek comfortably almost feel like trekking on normal trail, it soft sole give me good grip but my boot’s outer sole end up beaten, some of it soft pattern sole broken off as result of sharp jagged stone up there. Yellow clay or compose trail on rainforest mountain ridge would have more soft surface, at some part mountain ridge up to level of montane forest you could feel it almost bouncy – because you are actually walking on soft root of  bonsai tree.

This Hi Tech Magnum may look big but it is exceptionally light. Used by a lot of  Armed Units. My friend have one and satisfied with it to use on trail and urban. Myself would prefer a lower cut
Related Read
Survival Skill - Looking for Water Source in Rainforest
Mount Tahan Trail -The Oldest Rainforest
Magnificient Mount Kinabalu The Highest Peak of South East Asia
The Lost World of Maliau Basin
Adidas Adizero Tempo Running Shoe Review
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