Friday, 13 November 2009

DANCING SHOES: Second Impressions

Gear Testing! That's me, then - A Gear Tester!

I bet you didn't expect to see me doing too much of that then. Oh no: You would need to go to a proper blog to see gear reports; blogs that talk a lot about anoraks and tents and stoves and tarps and socks and knickers and titanium pots and sporks and headtorches and sleeping bags and trousers and rucksacks and mattresses.....

....and trail shoes.

Yes. Trail Shoes. Namely my free pair of TNF Hedgehogs GTX XCR. (Phew, that was a keyboard full of letters to describe a pair of dancing shoes!) You will remember that very kindly sent me a free pair of these to test and keep.

Well, for quite a few years our congregation might remember that I have not looked entirely favourably on nipping up hills in trainers. Then I went out and bought a lighter weight pair of boots and didn't turn into a gurl! That got me thinking anew about trainers - and then, LO! The offer from Adam at fitness came at just the right moment.

So - I can now report on how they cope with a very wet and boggy walk in the Yorkshire Dales. Be very afraid - There follows some very DIRTY PICTURES...

IMG_1809 Pretty shoes (mind that sheep poo though - very dirty!)

As you can see, my feet were very relaxed in their Merino socks and Dancing Shoes, and, this being most of the way up onto Fremington Edge too!

I had been quite concerned that they weren't going to be very supportive laterally - I was worried that my feet were going to 'slide' over the sides of the soles as has happened to me in running shoes some years ago. But not these babies. No - in fact I felt very secure in them; even on tumbley, rocky loose paths. I did have to lace them up nice and tight but they were always comfortable. I can see why they are called 'Hedgehogs' as the sole unit is wonderfully grippy with lots of very pointy stuff that grips like crazy on wet grass far more than it ought to decently.

IMG_1813 Very dirty sloppy stuff...

As I bundled along the top of Fremington Edge I actually sought out the wet and sloppy stuff - and - I survived! Okay, the above picture was 'staged' but standing there in the cold black stuff was perfectly okay. (I'm brave, me!)

The true test came later on when we were on our way back in the bottom of Arkengarthdale following along the banks of the river. Ooh! The word 'bog' just didn't do this place justice! It was liquid ooze for great chunks of the footpath (we had gone off the bridleway just to hunt out the sloppy stuff (but don't tell Lynnie as she just thought it was rotten luck we found it very boggy...)

I had to splatter my way across great stretches of oozing brown mud in the gloaming and drizzly rain. The dancing shoes got well and truly immersed in the sludge as you can see below:

IMG_1827 Now - that IS a dirty picture!

The quite amazing thing is that they coped very well indeed in fact I would go further to say that as they are flexible and very light I think I probably stayed upright because I was more nimble - I might have gone sprawling into the mud in the less flexible boots I used to wear. Not even a hint of any hotspots on my feet - the fit was excellent - and that is vital.

So - Time for "A Verdict": I think these are incredibly well constructed. They are very supportive and very grippy. They are comfortable. They look pretty good too. BUT:

Yes, there is a reservation. I am not sure how I would have felt if the sloppy wet mud had topped the low point in the uppers around my ankles. The thought of that sloppy wet mud splattering into my socks and having soaking wet dirty feet does make me shudder a bit.

I would be more than happy to wear these in pretty horrid conditions like I encountered on this particular walk - even if they did get 'over-topped' - but I would not want to have to wear them the next day with mud and grot inside them on a multi day walk. I would revert to my Salomon boots for that with greater 'freeboard.' Obviously this is a very personal preference - others may well feel I am being a total wimp here, but there you have it!

For day walks, whatever the weather though, these really are excellent shoes. And - more importantly, FITNESS FOOTWEAR is a really good company to deal with: The shoes arrived the very next day in excellent packaging after I agreed to test them. In all my dealings with them, they were polite, friendly and efficient.

So - thank you Adam. So there you are, everyone! A Gear Report!

I thank you!


  1. I prefer my Fastpacker boots for the same reason over shoes, so you're not alone in your reasoning.

  2. I have a pair of "Jessiehiker Boots" as my good blogging mate Scott of Splendid Isolation calls them. Cheapy Berghaus.

    On my first few days wearing them I discovered what they were NOT good for - sand and grain! After that I avoided beaches and farmers fields!

    Wear them for doggy walks but not on the real stuff - too much grot can get in them as the tongue isn't connected to the sides. I assume this is not the case with the more up-market varieties.

    Might be good in May on the 'Gorms though - nice dry trails.

    All these reviews Alan - most impressed. A wee challenge - can you guess what my next line was going to be? I was kind and didn't put it in (lol)

  3. It's one of those perennial dilemmas for me too. When I wear trail shoes I find myself walking more nimbly and even sure-footedly ... but I've twisted both ankles when wearing them this year. Yes, some would say that is a result of wearing boot - you get weak ankles. However, the specific cause of me having (one) weak ankle is torn ligaments from many years ago.

    Now, that aside, we come to the second problem - "over-topping" as you have termed it. I suffered this earlier in the summer while trying to photograph dragonflies in boggy ground and can testify that goretex is wonderful at keeping water in ... but it doesn't stop there. I had a full pair of shoes from some very heavy summer rain, proper turn-em-upside-down-and-pour-the-water-out stuff. So while I like goretex for "ordinary" water, anything worse than that and I think shoes that drain combined with goretex socks might be a better solution. Anyway, there are many sides to the debate!

  4. Hi Al! I basically agree with Wandering Photographer about GTX lined trail shoes and mid boots. I had great success on the Challenge this year with Innov-8 Roclite 370 boots (sadly, Innov-8 are discontinuing them!). No waterproof lining, so the water did get in, but it could also get out and they are very quick to dry when the weather improves. Sealskinz or GTX socks can keep you tootsies dry even when the footwear is wet.

  5. Hedgehogs are great (I'm on my 2nd pair)

    Agree with the grippy comments - but weirdly the only slip I have ever had was on wet decking at the local coffeshop. A real WhOOSH moment. No inkling the grip was going.

    But as for rough ground/rocks/trails - never a worry

  6. Robin: I reckon shoes would be absoluteley fine in warmer climes, but it's the cold wet mud that puts me off them for longer trips in Scotland or the Pennines .

    Ken: "Jessiehiker Boots" - I'm staying out of this one! - Any comments can be addressed to Ken!

    WP - I have never found a pair of gore-tex socks that fit my girly feet - or for that matter and sealskinz either - they are all baggy monsters!

    Dave, His Holiness the Incredibly Irreverend!: If you follow my links to FitnessFootwear in previous posts you will find all manner of Innov-8 boots for sale - best get a pair while you still can!

    John: I did have a minor skip coming in to my kitchen on the quarry tile floor whne it was wet after being mopped! Wonder why?...

  7. "I did have a minor skip ..." ah what with the girly feet as well - should have read "slip"

  8. Call those pictures dirty!

    I don't think they've been through a Scottish bog yet.

    Even when backpacking they will still dry out quickly but then each to their own !!!

  9. I am having problems with Blogger - not letting readers publish their comments - but this one came through from Andy:

    Andy says:
    Call those pictures dirty!

    I don't think they've been through a Scottish bog yet


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