Ultimate Direction FK Gaiter Review
By Andrew Hagen
While they’re an essential part of hiking kit, until very recently I’d kept things simple and not bothered with gaiters for trail running. After having tested out the Ultimate Direction FK Gaiter lately, I realised I’ve been missing out. Simply, these gaiters keep everything out of your shoes that doesn’t belong in your shoes, while being so light, comfy and secure that you forget they are even there.
The FK Gaiter has a fairly minimalist design, and consequently, they only weight about 30g per foot. The construction is very simple; stretchy and breathable Cordura R fabric, secured by an adjustable strap under the foot and a single hook at the bottom of the laces. They close around your ankle with a wide band of Velcro and a press-stud on the outer side, so that you can put them on or take them off in ten seconds flat. The top of the gaiter sits a little higher than an ordinary pair of socks, so these gaiters aren’t there to protect your shins the way some hiking gaiters do. Their purpose is
to keep stuff out of your shoes.
I’ve been using mine on hot summer days, hiking and running in the Boland where our trails are often narrow and overgrown, and these gaiters have passed the test with flying colours. Even when falling knee-deep into dried out slangbos (a stringy and prickly local bush), or trudging through sand, nothing got into my shoes. This is thanks in part to the elasticated fabrics that cling securely to your ankle or sock, but also the generous overlap of the gaiter down all sides of the shoe.
The under-foot strap, being exposed to the trail, is made from something called
Hypalon. If that doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps you know it by its other name, chlorosulfonated polyethylene synthetic rubber (CSM), which is commonly used for inflatable boats, folding kayaks and weatherproof radar domes (thanks Google, I learned so much today). In other words, it’s thin but hard-wearing and UV resistant, but if it turns out that your runs are Too Hardcore For Hypalon (THFH) then apparently you can get a new strap when it wears out.
My impression is that it will probably last as long as the upper, but that is clearly somewhat dependent on trail conditions. The strap offers six levels of adjustment (which you set by hooking it into different slots), so you should be able to find the perfect fit with shoes of different stack heights. Keep in mind that the gaiters are sold in SM, MD and LG sizes for both women and men. I find that MD is a nice fit for my UK 10 shoes.
My main question before testing the FK Gaiter was about comfort – would my feet get hot and clammy? Not much. After passing through your socks and shoes, by the time moisture reaches the thin black fabric of the gaiter, it seems to evaporate off, so I didn’t open the gaiters to find a soggy shoe upper, or any significant moisture on the gaiter itself.
They were also quite effective in keeping fine dust at bay, which was a pleasant surprise. All in all, the benefit of keeping sticks and grit out of your shoes vastly outweighs the minor effect on thermal comfort.
The FK Gaiter is a small piece of gear that makes a big difference, and I can highly recommend it to anyone who runs off the beaten track.