I'm totally on the boots side.....!
Being the city boy I am, I'm used to walk on almost any shoe except a proper boots, but for hiking purposes I'll recommend a boot over a shoe or sandal anytime!
Just my personal opinion, the ankle support is just great and although it might not feel like you need it, once you step in a ditch you'll be glad you had the ankle support...!
Was 'privileged' to snap my ankle muscles when I was 15 and it hurts more than breaking your arm (then I was 14 ) and takes longer to recover!
Furthermore, the protection from sandals/low ankle hiking shoes are limited.
On our last Olifants Backpack Trial, we had extreme difficulties with little objects coming into our shoes while walking in the longer grass / veld.
So gaiters are a MUST in my opinion, and will simply be less effective with the low profile shoes.
Donovan (trails guide) walks with sandals, because HE CAN, he does it often and is used the terrain, walking conditions etc.
But I remember him also struggling with small stones etc coming into his sandals.
I had a long thorn come RIGHT THROUGH my sole and I wore Wolverine Hiking shoes, which are proper hiking shoes IMO.
In the end, I think whatever suits you will work best, you should test it at home though!!
However blisters cannot be blamed on a shoe.
It's simply telling you that you haven't prepared enough.
Just walking around with your brand new hiking shoes is not enough to prepare for the Backpack trails.
I'd say walk around with them for a while, maybe jog with them a few times, to stretch the shoes.
However, (Donovan the guide told me this) it will be ineffective to just walk around with your shoes doing a backpack. The trick is:
1. You should actually walk around with your new shoes carrying a 15-20kg backpack on your back. This adds much more pressure on your feet, and makes your inner shoe shape quicker, which will prevent blisters.
You don't need blisters when hiking, really.
2. Get proper Valke hiking socks.
These are the best!
They seem thick, but absorb the sweat and protect your feet and if you are not a die-hard trailist are just as important as the shoes!
(3) Optional : rub your feet with spirits 3 days before, every day.
This will cause your skin to get harder and tougher, so then even low profile shoes may do the job better
Can't wait to see Sawubona limping the Mphongolo Backpack Trial in April after the 2nd day.
Poor guy is just like his rugby team: full of courage, but left his brains at home
BTW... I was one a the few guys who did not have a single blister... So guess I must have done something right. Just gotta get those gaiters!!
Will report back upon return
Kruger Mphongolo Backpack Trial 27 - 30 March 2013 Tzendze 30 March 2013Lower-Sabie 31 March 2013
Cannot wait anymore!!