Experience From - Suzi Cope , Rick Kelley , George Beinhorn , Jay Hodde , Dan Baglione , Ollie Holt, Dennis Halpin , Jeff ? , Mike ? , Ryan Manning , Matt Kavanaugh , Jeff Unknown , Skip , Carson Black , Mr. Bill , John Scott , Doug McKeever , Kevin Sayers

Suzi Cope

Richard wrote:

"I just got a pair of Trail Gaiters (TM) from Jim O'Brien, but there were no instructions included, so I guess it's obvious to all but me. My question is, does the Velcro go on the inside (where they face each other) or the outside (where they face away from each other)? Or maybe it doesn't matter? Any advice given to this newbie trying to find his way would be very much appreciated."
I've run behind many runners, including at Hardrock last week, with their gaiters on wrong. AND, I fully admit I wore mine WRONG when I first got them! There are two things to figure out with the gaiters. First, the Velcro goes on the outside. Second, the toe of your shoes goes through the gator and stirrup loop to put them on. That was the hard part for me to figure out, I kept thinking they should go over my heel from behind ;) Anyway, you should stick your toe through with the strap on the bottom, and the Velcro overlap on the outside should have the top (most exterior) flap coming from the front, making a closure that will resist being torn open from trail objects in front of you.

I have worn out several pairs of these, but find them totally effective in keeping dirt out of my shoes. They even worked when I stepped into an Elk BOG, up to my right knee, at Hardrock.

You can sew new straps on if you are hard on them.

Rick Kelley

I used to have O'Brien's Gaiters and didn't like them....but.....Anyway, I put the Velcro to the outside. if they are inside, I had trouble with pulling the Velcro open with my opposite foot as I was running. Putting them to the outside prevents this but makes it hard to take them on and off especially late into a run when I would cramp trying to turn my leg to deal with them. I started using the Outdoor research (OR) gaiters because the Velcro is in FRONT and is easier to work with. The strap was replaceable too. I use cord with a Spectra core from a climbing shop that I could get 700+ miles wear even on rocky trails. Good luck!

George Beinhorn

Andrea wrote:

"George wrote: This will get you through 50K's, 50M's, and 100K's. All you have to do is be sure and wear Gaiters, take care of your feet, fuel properly, and Are gaiters really that much of a necessity/convenience for any ultra? I know that my ankles are pretty grimy after any trail run, but gaiters always looked very un-breathable and HOT to me."

Gaiters work pretty well, and for mountain trails with lots of granite dust they're essential. However, I wish someone would tell me how to keep dust and grit from sneaking in under the forward part of the tongue of the shoe, where the Gaiters don't cover.

Jay Hodde

Andrea asks:

"Are gaiters really that much of a necessity/convenience for any ultra?"

I don't use gaiters, even though I now have a pair of Jim O'Brien's to try. In the Midwest, I've never needed them. At Vermont last weekend, I didn't have problems, either.

My biggest problem with trail debris is not the small stones, but rather the fine dust that makes its way to the underside of my socks. From my understanding of gaiters, they won't help this problem -- especially if the dust is so fine that it can make its way through the open mesh of the shoe. George B. mentioned this in a post yesterday.

I've pretty much resigned myself to the notion that the best thing I can do to inhibit blister formation from trail debris is to sit down at an aid station every now and then, and as I refuel, take off the shoes and socks and beat them to a pulp. Gets the dirt out, and when you put the socks back on, it feels just like a new pair (unless you're running Hardrock -- those socks will never feel like new again).

Dan Baglione

Been running for 20 years, trails for 18 years. Have never used Gaiters nor felt the need. The last blisters I had came from running on a track in the rain. I wear two pairs of socks, one pair of single layer over a pair of double layer. This is because I have narrow feet and need to fill the space inside my running shoes. This also tends to prevent blisters. My wife and I are resigned to the fact that white running socks don't stay white when running trails.

Ollie Holt

I tried gaiters for the first time at the VT 100. Everyone else seemed to think they were necessary even though I have run many trail races in the Northeast and never needed them. So I bought a pair on Friday before the VT 100. They worked good for the first 20 or so miles then I believe my ankles swelled up some and that cut off the circulation to my feet. I first thought I was getting shin splints because my shins starting acting up going down hill. By 28 miles I could not touch my shins. At 32 miles I noticed the swelling and the indentation the gator was making in my ankle so I removed them and away went the shin splints. Of course the first lesson is don't try anything new, but I wonder given all the other comments about ankle swelling at VT if this was just a fluke or if I truly have gaiters that are too small.

I was thinking an alternative would be the old standby, Duct Tape. Seems that you could just wrap DT around the top of your shoes and socks and that would do the trick. It would not cut into the skin given it was not warped to tight and it would create a good seal. I did see another person who used DT sticky side out around his ankle than put the gator over the DT. I am not sure if that would prevent the local cutting into the ankle, of the top of the gator, and disperse the pressure or only make it worse. Given my lesson at VT if you do decide on gaiters, take them for a run and check out the effects on your ankles after 20-30 miles.

Dennis Halpin

Andrea Feucht asks:

"Are gaiters really that much of a necessity/convenience for any ultra? I know that my ankles are pretty grimy after any trail run, but gaiters always looked very un-breathable and HOT to me. I've not had problems with sticks/burrs/rocks in the shoes...yet. And I usually wear wimpy little barely-showing-out-of-the-shoe CoolMax's."

In Texas, I've never had a need for gaiters and have only seen very few other runners here wear them. By The Way, they wouldn't have done me any good at Inks Lake last year...the cactus needles got me in the toes.

Jeff ?

I wear gaiters for all off-road runs. My shoes tend to collect all sorts of debris. I don't tie them too tight, which I suppose may leave the "collar" of the shoe a bit more open than they are designed. Actually, I tie them once (the first time) and wear them as "slip-ons". I own O'Brien (OB) Gaiters and Outdoor Research (OR). The OB are size XL, but are very snug over my size 12 Saucony Grid Jazz. Also, the area where the Velcro joins at the top edge has curled a bit and seems to abrade my skin, which can be a problem over the course of an ultra-length run. On the other hand, The OR do the job nicely. Easy on and off, replaceable straps. I carry a loop or two of boot laces cut to length in my bottle belt just in case a strap wears through.

I've only had one problem with ORs, at Ice Age 96 - I got some type of heat rash around my ankles. It went away in a few days (as someone else reported) and I've had no other problems.

Another plus, when I wear my gaiters, no one knows I'm wearing black sox.

Mike ?

I LOVE my Outdoor Research (OR) gaiters. Durable and lightweight. I solved the strap problem by replacing the strap with a swagged 1/16" stainless steel cable under the foot. That was 5 years ago and they're still going strong.

Ryan Manning

I use the Outdoor Research (OR) gaiters and they work wonderful. They are virtually bullet-proof. I obtained mine from an outdoor catalog named Mountain Gear out of Spokane. The material is tough-tek so they are highly abrasion resistant. The strap that goes under the shoe is TOUGH. I just wore through the original one that came with mine and I'd estimate that there was probably 500 miles on it. Also the attachment points for the "under the shoe strap" on the OR gaiters are reinforced with brass eyelets and now that my original strap has broke I can just replace it with a tough shoe string obtained at WalMart, no need to find a special replacement strap for them.

When I asked the list about gaiters about a year ago the problem that most people had with Jim O'Brien's is this strap breaking prematurely, which obviously would assist in the 'ride up' problem. The OR gaiters were about $25 but I feel well worth the extra dollar. I do know that the O'Brien gaiters work well for a lot of people, maybe some of those people who wear them could give you some tips for keeping them down.

Matt Kavanaugh

I did have a complaint/problem with O'Brien's gaiters [abrasion at the ankle] but solved it by wearing taller socks [duhhhh...! :-]. Also found the gaiters too tight at the top and had to opened up [which exposed the Velcro which lead to the abrasion, etc.], but taller socks could be rolled down over the top of the gaiter and it kept them up and without abrasion.

I haven't had a problem yet with the foot strap wearing out. After perhaps 150 miles they are barely showing any wear; I imagine it depends on foot strike and running motion as to the amount of wear... in any event, how about using picture hanging wire to replace the foot strap when it finally wears out? I can envision putting in grommets where the strap attaches to the gaiter on the inside and outside of each foot and then looping picture hanging wire through and twisting it off and cutting it short. Would be durable and easy to replace... I bet the uppers of the gaiters never wear out, at least from trail running.

By the way, the taller socks approach solved my other gaiter dilemma: heat rash on the feet. The sock sticking out above the gaiter must conduct the moisture out of the shoe where it was trapped when I was wearing short mini-crew type socks with the gaiters previously.

Jeff Unknown

Andy wrote:

"I bought a pair of Outdoor Research gaiters in preparation for Arkansas Traveler By the 17.5 mile aid station the strap on one was gone and the second one went a few miles later.

Certainly the flat spot on the shoe was the reason. I use OR's too, but generally run in Saucony with the lugged tread. I buy kevlar boot laces and cut them to length to use for straps, and get about 100 miles each. I loop a spare or two on my bottle belt just in case. Maybe if you notch the bottom of your shoes? That would also make them lighter.


I have a pair of the OR gaiters, which thoughtfully come with grommets so the sole straps can easily be repaired/replaced.

Tried a couple of different materials without lots of success, until I wandered into a West Coast Marine store and looked over their collection of lines, etc. What they had was small diameter braided-cover Kevlar cord at something like $.20/ft, so I bought a handful. It is a b*tch to tie, very stiff, but lasts for quite a while over rocky trails before fraying, and then is easily replaced. Needle nose pliers are best for the knots. I don't remember what I cut it with, probably wire cutters.

Kevlar is not to be trifled with -- in addition to sails and lines, it's used for bullet-proof vests. I wouldn't say this solution was bullet-proof, but better than others I have tried.

Carson Black

I have had good luck replacing the worn out straps on Jim O'Brian's gaiters by melting a hole thru the cut off tag ends of the strap with a hot nail. This makes a "nylon grommet" of sorts that is pretty durable. Then I use whatever strong chord I have around to put under the foot.

Mr. Bill

I have had my wife sew on new straps with the same type of strapping that we buy at the fabric store. price is real cheap and makes the original gaiters last a long time

John Scott

I have used Gaiters that I bought at Fleet Feet here in Sacramento with great success , they have a nylon strap across the bottom which I protect with duct tape , they are still like new after 8 fifty milers and 5 fifty k's . Just take off the worn duct tape and replace with a few new wraps every so often . Have been running Western States trails which can be rocky in spots .

Doug McKeever

Between the Outdoor Research (OR) Rocky Mountain Low and the Flextex gaiter, the main difference is in durability and cost. Although lower in price, the Rocky Mountain low is not nearly as tough or as flexible on the ankle, and in my opinion not as comfortable. The Flextex material is quite close to indestructible when used as intended.

Any gaiter to work well for keeping snow, mud, sticks, and pebbles out of your shoes, must fit snugly around both the top and the bottom. Try them on before buying if possible. They should have elastic around at least the top if not the bottom too, and if the zipper irritates the bare shin, there's another use for duct tape or the equivalent.

My favorite "heavy duty running" gaiters are the ones made by Patagonia out of the same material OR uses for their Flextex gaiter. The Bl.Di. model does not have a zipper, but they fit extremely well and are lighter than OR, I would wager.

Jim O'Brien's very light and nicely fitting gaiters work well for anything where "wet" isn't the big concern.

For any gaiter, the recommended procedure is to "slap and strap" In other words, fasten the top snugly around the ankle and shoe, then fasten the instep strap or cord.

Kevin Sayers

350 miles into my Grand Slam summer (1998) it dawned on me that I was doing something wrong. At almost every aid station at Wasatch I found it necessary to spend large amounts of time cleaning out my shoes and fixing my moleskin.

This became very frustrating as the race progressed. Dirt, grit, dust, pebbles were wrecking havoc with my feet and mole skin. I was not a big advocate of gaiters due to my initial impression of the O'Brian gaiters that I bought and used very briefly. I dismissed gaiters as not necessary and frivolous. While running with Stan Jensen I expressed my foot problem dilemma and he told me about the Outdoor Research (OR) gaiters that he was wearing.

At mile 50 I was desperate to try anything and Stan was in a position to let me use his gaiters. I jumped at the chance put the gaiters on and, well it was the difference between night and day. Perhaps the most important thing I learned this summer was if I had been wearing gaiters then 3/4 of my foot problems and subsequent repair time would have been eliminated. From mile 50-100 I did not find it necessary to change socks or repair the mole skin. All the factors that were causing the mole skin to loosen and move were removed. In addition my socks stayed extremely clean thus eliminating additional blister problems.

It's amazing that something so simple and obvious could fix a problem that I'd thought was just a fact of life in trail ultra running. I have since bought my own pair and will ALWAYS wear them when running a trail race. It's a constant challenge of live and learn. My next big quest is to find a shoe that gives me the fore foot protection that I need so the balls of my feet don't get so tender that running becomes a painful experience.