Gaiters are funny. The word alone sounds like something only fishermen would understand, and does not seem like the thing runners would need. And yet, for those of us who have ever run in sand, loose dirt, dusty, dry loam, or any surface that might want to creep deeply into one’s socks, gaiters are a necessity.
A couple years ago I tried out my first pair of gaiters before embarking on my first assault of South Sister mountain. It didn’t take long to recognize how important these little items were, and how I had to have a good pair. Since then, I’ve run in sandy, dusty, and volcanic dirt conditions hundreds of times, having tried out a half dozen gaiters, and have come to some conclusions about gaiter must-haves.
Fit encompasses two things, which are ease of use, and overall fit to your shoes. Kahtoola provides a brilliant YouTube video that shows how easy it is to put their gaiters on. A good fitting gaiter must snug the ankle, with some way of tightening at the top. There should also be a way to keep the gaiter secure around the bottom of your shoe. Some gaiters also provide a buckle or clasp that works with shoes that have a corresponding hook at the end of your laces. The Insta-Gaiter Low has all of these features, as well as a way to tighten the gaiter in more than one way.
Form, in this case, simply refers to esthetics. The Kahtoola gaiter looks good, and is available in colors that compliment any shoe on the market today. While gaiters are probably not something you will wear often, it’s nice to have a pair that looks great when you hit the trail.
Function is performance, and in the case of the Insta-Gaiter, Kahtoola has done a solid job of creating a gaiter that does not get sloppy as the conditions worsen. The Insta-Gaiter performed admirably in heavy volcanic dirt/dust (South Sister), moderate sand (Timberline Trail), and heavy sand mixed with dry loam/soft dirt (Gray Butte). I paired these gaiters with two models of Altra trail shoes that feature a lace hook and a gaiter trap at the heel, both of which I employed, making the Kahtoola gaiters a solid product that I will definitely use again.