I don’t think you have ever encountered, while hiking in the mountains, someone wearing moccasins.
One summer, on the trails in Alto Adige, I happened to cross paths with the writer Erri De Luca who, wearing simple sandals, was descending a wall at a brisk pace, while we were trying to climb it well equipped and sticking to every twig or blade of grass.
In any case, despite his unquestionable skills, he was wearing rubber sandals and not moccasins.
The moccasin is unsuitable for high-altitude walking not because it is too stylish for the context, but because it lacks some basic features: ankle support, protection against rocks and water… above all, it lacks grip.
If it has the traditional leather sole (although today’s trends present it with high rubber bottoms), you know that of traction it demonstrates little even in the city.
Subway grates, church marbles, rain-soaked sidewalks become treacherous.
For that reason, even immediately after buying a nice pair of new shoes, often just outside the store, you look for some gravel to rub your soles on to make them less treacherous and avoid falling off at the first corner.
What is grip and how do you get it
What grip means is well known, Formula 1 tires have been teaching us for years. The different degree of grip of one surface to another determines the level of grip.
The concept applies not only to car and motorcycle tracks, but also to the soles of our shoes. The more they are able to keep us glued to the ground in different situations (slippery, wet, muddy terrain…) the more grip they have.
Grip is achieved by acting in different ways on the tread of the soles of a shoe.
The MATERIAL of which a sole is composed is the first crucial aspect.
Certain types of rubber possess a lot of grip; treated leather has much less. Synthetic compounds are distinguished precisely by the level of grip they provide.
GEOMETRY also matters for good grip. Who would have thought! The shape and arrangement (and, of course, the material) of the blocks that design the tread is just as crucial.
Designers study very carefully the arrangement and shape of a shoe’s tread blocks even though to most they may only appear to be nice style details.
It is very clear on mountain footwear where the tread blocks facilitate the grip of the shoe differently in case you are going uphill or downhill, running or walking. But even a simple city shoe with a lug bottom wants to protect you from slipping and not just give you an aggressive look.
And then there are the SUPER-POWERS. If we didn’t do philosophy before, we don’t do comic books now. A tire tread, if it needs to, can achieve impressive levels of grip when the compound of the tread blocks includes the addition of materials designed precisely for the different surfaces it is intended to tackle.
Fiberglass, for example, combined with specific compounds allows you to walk with relative peace of mind on completely icy terrain at 45-degree angles. You will feel like super-heroes.
Halti’s GripmaxX Spikes are the perfect exemplification of a shoe that aims for grip beyond imagination.
But grip also matters in the city, as we said. If you live in a city located in the northern hemisphere, where cold weather often sets in and rain abounds, you might want to wear a Vibram XS CITY soled shoe.
If as a commuter you often use a bicycle, the Five Ten Impact Pro MTB Shoes is designed not to slip on the pedals.
In the past, Camper has offered its customers the very special Ground line perfect for everyday use, which, thanks to its collaboration with Michelin, was equipped with attractive soles in both design and grip capabilities.
Finally, if you want to imitate the ibex writer I was telling about at the beginning of the article, you can go for Columbia’s Techsun™ Vent sandals, equipped with an Omni-Grip™ sole that will accompany you safely even on the treacherous and wet summer beaches.
Yes, even at the beach the grip could save you from a ruinous fall.
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