Made for the “hottest and most arid of environments” on the planet, and developed in association with the British Army Physical Training Corps, UK Gear’s PT-03 Desert Shoes are a unique entry into the genre of outdoors-oriented footwear. With a purportedly sand-proof upper and a midsole designed for high temperatures, the shoes are tested to handle desert heat up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
I know firsthand the perils of trekking long distances in desert sand. In 2006, during an ultra race in Utah, I hiked and trudged more than 50 miles over a day. My trail-running shoes took in sand and grit through fine ventilation panels, creating an environment of friction against my foot that birthed blisters the size of poker chips.
The PT-03 Desert Shoe was built to make moving through the desert more comfortable and effective. It can help keep your feet sand-free. An upper of canvas and synthetic suede absorbs no grit or sand grains, yet they are not overly warm. Detachable gaiters seal your ankles off.
Add a heat-resistant outsole with tread made to grip better on hot surfaces, and you have the makings of an ultimate shoe for desert adventures.
They cost $129 on www.ukgear.com, putting the desert shoes at the upper end of the trail-running category. Add the optional gaiters and the price is about $150 for the pair.
The PT-03 shoes are a bit bulky for long-distance running. My test pair of size 13s weighed about 19 ounces per foot with the gaiters attached. (Many trail-running shoes in the same size weigh around 12 to 14 ounces per foot.)
But despite their weight, I found the PT-03 shoes to be fine for running. They are not overly padded in the midsole, allowing your foot to naturally react with the ground.
The gaiters attach to the shoes with tabs of Velcro and seal closed with a zipper. They are made of a stretchy fabric and do a good job sealing off the opening at the ankle.
I did not trek 50 miles through the desert again to test the PT-03 shoes. But in my hikes and trials running in sand, the shoes performed well. With the gaiters on, grit and sand struggled to find any way inside.
According to UK Gear, the British Army Physical Training Corps helped develop the PT-03 shoes in the “harsh terrains of Afghanistan.” The shoes were a year onsite and in development, the company touts. For your next hike in Death Valley or near Moab, the PT-03 shoes should do the job just fine.
—Stephen Regenold writes a blog on outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.