South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon

Ask Me: Hiking Grand Canyon Rim to River to Rim

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[Note from Michael Lanza: In Ask Me, I share and respond to a reader question. Got a question about hiking, backpacking, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside? Send it to me at mlanza@thebigoutside.com or tweet it to @MichaelALanza. I will answer the ones I can in a post, using only your first name and city, with your permission.]

Hi Michael,

I have enjoyed reading the stories and information on The Big Outside. I see that you successfully trekked the Grand Canyon r2r2r (rim to rim to rim) hike. I’m impressed. I’ve also been reading through your gear reviews and am hoping that you can make recommendations to me. My husband and I are planning to hike in the Grand Canyon next fall with a group of friends.

The intent is to hike down and back up the South rim in a day, about 17 miles. I am particularly interested in finding the right shoe/boot as unhappy feet make for a long day. For one, I’m wavering between a mid-level hiker and a low hiking shoe. Do you think a low hiking shoe such as the Patagonia Drifter A/C would be suitable? I see in your gear review that you have used the Scarpa Moraine GTX; it didn’t look like you were using them in the photos from the Grand Canyon though. I’ve also been looking at the La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0 GTX WMN’s or the mid cut version of that shoe. Or perhaps the Lowa Renegade II GTX mid-level boot. Any recommendations would be very helpful. I have a low to mid-volume foot and it does get sore, but my ankles are fairly stable for te most part. I would consider myself to be athletic and in fairly good shape.

I think my biggest concern right now is to find footwear that has a good midsole that will hold up well after a full day of hiking. I’ve read online (don’t know if it’s true), that a polyurethane midsole is more durable than an EVA one. My feet are sometimes sore on the bottom (one doctor thinks it’s plantar fascitis, but another one doesn’t) even before hiking/working out so I think I need something durable in the midsole and insole of the shoe. Do you think the Scarpa Moraine would suffice?

I see that Zamberlan makes a 204 OAK GT LOW model with a PU sole. Do you have any experience with this brand/model?  Do you know of any other reputable brands that make a relatively lightweight shoe/boot with a PU midsole?

Also, I looked at your daypack reviews and see that you have found both the Gregory Miwok 22 and Osprey Synchro (older version I believe) to be good choices. I’m planning to visit Midwest Mountaineering to try some of these brands of packs for myself.

Finally, would the Black Diamond Distance trekking pole be an okay choice for such a trip? I see you were happy with the ultra distance version of this pole, but don’t know if these would work well in the Canyon as they are not adjustable.

Thank you for your time and response.

Sincerely,
Laura

 

Hi Laura,

Thanks for writing and your nice words about The Big Outside. Yes, I have hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim.

Your choice of a boot should depend on which brand fits your feet well and which model you just like based on trying them on and walking around a lot in the store in the boots. So with that caveat, I would say the Scarpa Moraine Mid GTX would be a good boot for that hike—assuming you want a relatively supportive lightweight boot. I don’t think you would need a boot any heavier than that. I’m assuming you plan to hike a loop on the South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails, which are the two best-constructed trails in the Grand Canyon, with relatively good footing for the canyon. Unless you get wet weather, the trails should be completely dry. So you don’t really need a waterproof boot, though you may want to buy a waterproof boot for other hikes.

I’ve used the Sportiva FC Eco 2.0 backpacking. It’s a nice boot, a little stiffer and more supportive (for carrying a backpack) than the Moraine Mid. I think it’s more boot than you want for day hiking in the Grand Canyon, and your feet might get hot and sweaty in them, and eventually blistered if they get really sweaty and the fit is less than perfect. Same with the Drifter, which I’ve used: even though it’s a low-cut and has moderate support, it’s a little burlier than the Moraine Mid and, again, more shoe than I’d choose for that hike. I also don’t think it has a smooth rocker (the nimble, easy feel when you’re striding) as other shoes. And while I like a lot of Lowa models, I frankly wasn’t that impressed with the Renegade—kind of wimpy for support and cushioning, in my opinion. You can do better than that.

I’d consider wearing the Five Ten Pursuit on that hike, because a non-waterproof shoe will breathe better, keeping your feet drier, and the Pursuit has a great, sticky outsole and nice cushioning and ankle support.

As for low- vs. mid-cut: I would probably go with a low-cut there because those trails are good, for the most part you don’t need a lot of ankle support and you won’t get a ton of stones and grit in your shoes. BUT mid-cuts like the Masochist and Moraine Mid are barely heavier than lows, but more protective and supportive, so a mid would be more useful to you for other hikes.

See my reviews of lightweight hiking shoes I like.

For big dayhiking, see reviews of my favorite daypacks, such as the GoLite Rush 20 and the Camelbak Highwire 20.

I think you’d like the BD Distance poles fine, despite not being adjustable. However, the poles I use on long day hikes these days are the Helinox Featherlite, which are just as light and strong but are adjustable.

I hope that’s helpful. Good luck with your hike, I’d love to hear how it goes for you.

Best,
Michael Lanza

 

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