Back in 2000, I had the wonderful opportunity to have my right hip replaced with a new polymer and titanium joint (my punishment for 30 years of daily racquetball matches). Doing so ended three years of chronic pain. Doing so also ended my involvement in any high-impact athletic endeavor. No racquetball. No volleyball. No running.
Recovery from that operation took a year. It's at that point I took up walking. For the last ten years I have walked every day, typically between two and four miles a day. I'm lucky that I have a wife and dog that also appreciate walking. It's a great way to get some sun, fresh air and get the metabolism cranking first thing every morning.
Just like runners, it's important to have the right footwear for walking. I'm fanatical about my footwear and spend a great deal of time studying and reading about the different technologies. Because I am prone to plantar fasciitis (my punishment for years of wearing flip-flops), I need a walking shoe with a lot of support. To get that support, I buy trail-running shoes instead of plain running shoes.
Trail-running shoes are beefier than regular running shoes. Because they are designed to be used on uneven terrain over widely changing surfaces (e.g., loose rock, mud, etc.), the shoe has a lot more structure and a harder sole. That's not to say less cushioning, it's just that the sole material that comes in contact with the terrain has to be a lot harder than that used in running shoes. So while they are more expensive than running shoes, they tend to last longer.
For years, Montrail was my favorite trail shoe. The Montrail Vitesse, which was my shoe of choice, was an incredible shoe that enjoyed cult-like status amongst trail-runners. Unbelievably, they discontinued the shoe in 2007. I bought several pair when they announced the shoe's demise, but they have long since worn out. In May of 2011, I bought the Montrail Mountain Masochist (shown below) as my summer trail shoe, but they did not hold up very well.
Realizing it was time to move on from Montrail, all of my research led me to Salomon. While I was familiar with the company from my skiing days, I was unaware that they also specialize in trail-running shoes. My research pointed me to the XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 (note to Salomon: you need help naming your products) as the best summer shoe for me. As you can tell from the two photographs, the Salomon is a much more substantial shoe than the Montrail.
The shoe has a breathable mesh upper (a must in a summer shoe) and thermoplastic urethane overlays to secure the instep and lock the heel in place. The entire shoe is polyester lined, which wicks away moisture and keeps your foot dry. One feature I love, which is common in most trail-running shoes, is the gusseted tongue that keeps debris out of your shoes. There is a thermoplastic urethane control plate built into the sole which protects the foot and stabilizes the shoe in all three dimensions (hence the 3D in the name).
My biggest hang-up about the purchase was the Kevlar Quickfit lacing system. Prior to this, all my of my shoes had conventional laces and I was a little nervous about making the leap. But I have found their lacing system to be genius....just one quick tug gives the shoe a perfect fit. Once snug, you just tuck the tightening mechanism into the pouch in the tongue. It's a remarkable system...and never again will I have to pause on my walk because my shoe is untied. See it in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OnV-TftvEg&noredirect=1
These shoes have proven to be a fantastic purchase. They offer great support, they are incredibly comfortable and have a build quality that is second to none. The shoes retail for $130. I bought mine at Zappos (owned by Amazon.com). Because Zappos offers free overnight shipping both ways (for shipping to you and returns), I ordered both a size 9 and 9 1/2 so I could determine which shoe fit me best. I kept the size 9 and sent the other one back. You can check the shoes out here: http://www.zappos.com/salomon-xa-pro-3d-ultra-2-black-black-autobahn