Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Shoes - May

It’s time for the monthly shoe time-lapse.  It also looks like it’s time for a shoe shine!  

In Madagascar, I’ve been wearing my Ecco’s almost exclusively.  They’ve seen a lot of mud, stream crossings, bushwhacking, rock climbing, and more than their fair share of zebu poo.  I know two dogs who are going to sniff these for a solid half hour when we get back home.  This has been a tough month on them, and they’ve held up magnificently—better than we have, I think.  I continue to be impressed with these shoes.  It’s really nice to be able to walk through a shallow stream and still have dry socks on the far side.
I’ve only had one evening in Madagascar where the Tom’s seemed like a good idea.  They’ll be useful again soon, but right now they’re in stasis, along with my remaining footwear.
We have a pretty packed schedule in Madagascar, which is great, but there’s been no extra time for a run.  My running shoes have stayed in my bag, stuffed full of infrequently used and spare items.
I used my flip-flops on some beach excursions and snorkeling early on, in the north islands, but since then, they really have not been a good option, as we’ve picked small leeches off our socks and pants on several hikes, and walked through a lot of deep mud and plentiful zebu poo.
Speaking of hiking, leeches and mud, here’s a one-time special guest on this month’s episode of Shoes:
These are trail running gaiters; they are one of my favorite pieces of gear, in terms of weight-to-functionality ratio.  They are designed for running in areas where branches, pebbles and burrs will work their way between your sock and shoe.  They fold down to the size of a cotton handkerchief (which is also really useful for travelers, but that’s a different post!), and are very light.  They attach around the bottom lace of your shoe with hook-and-loop tape; you can see where the rectangular strip is sewn into the material on the right gaiter, and the left gaiter is turned inside out, and unzipped, so you can see it there too.  There is a second hook-and-loop fastener at the back, and they come with several matching 3M adhesive strips you can apply to the back of your shoe, to keep the back of the gaiter in place—but I’ve found they stay down on their own when just walking. 
I can see how they would be great for trail running, but they are also perfect for a traveler who hikes regularly.  It’s easy to tuck pant cuffs into them, which stops all manner of unpleasant things from reaching your skin, whether that’s just spear grass, blood-thirsty leeches, or malaria/dengue fever infected mosquitos.  They also shed water very well, so even in heavy rain, water doesn’t seep into your shoes through your socks and shoelaces.  When unzipped, they can be pulled on right over a shoe, so you can put them on mid-hike, if the conditions change suddenly, without having to take your shoes off.