Footwear made with mesh is lightweight and many trail shoes use it liberally. Your shoes may be lighter and cooler, but the mesh allows junk to get inside the shoe. It then can increase friction.
Whether or not you wear gaiters, if you are running trails a lot, try to use shoes that don’t have too much mesh. The mesh allows trail dust, grit, sand and other debris to get inside your shoes where it gets under your insoles, into your socks, and onto your feet. This “trail junk,” along with the movement of your feet inside the shoes, can tear up the shoes’ inner material, causing even more irritations to your feet.
To a certain extent, gaiters can help control what gets in your shoes. Typically, gaiters cover the top of the shoes and a bit up the leg. While this helps control debris and grit from entering at the top of the shoes, they often don’t help in controlling it from entering in other areas. When you have a lot of mesh over the toes and instep, you’ll find these mesh areas allow fine grit inside your shoes.
I know some runners who will apply duct tape over the mesh. Others will make gaiters that attach to the soles of your shoes. One pair of gaiters made for this are the 4 Desert Gaiters from Racing the Planet are made from nylon and spandex and are ankle high. Their uniqueness is the design, which attaches to the shoe’s sole to provide sand protection. They suggest having a cobbler sew the Velcro onto the sole for strength. Make sure the stitching can’t be felt inside the shoe – www.racingtheplanet.com.
If you use lubricant on your feet, make sure you clean your feet when changing socks and reapply another coating of lube.
You may like lightweight mesh running shoes. I do too. But it helps to recognize one of the potential problems with mesh and deal with it. Next weekend I will be at Western States 100, patching feet at Michigan Bluff. I know I will see lots of runners without gaiters – and many will suffer because of skipping this simple choice.
Disclosure: I have no financial interest in Racing the Planet. It is just a good product.