What size shoes to buy?
I'm trying to buy a backup pair of trailrunners before I head out, expecting my current pair to die along the way. I've heard things about people's feet increasing in size during a thru-hike, so should I get a pair of shoes that fits pretty well right now, or a pair that is a size larger?
(there's a sale going on at the local shoe store, so I'm hoping to take care of this question soon).
GA-VA 2005, VA-CT 2007, CT-ME ??
I'd start with whatever size you regularly use comfortably for hiking, and not worry about the backups too much.
In the first stretch of trail, you'll have fairly easy replacement opportunities at the 30, 130, 270, and 450 mile markers, if the shoes you start with start to cause trouble or approach their natural death.
Buy as you go
I would also suggest buying new shoes as you go. Not only do some peoples feet change size, you might find that the shoes you have don't work out that well & give you lots of blisters (or other problems). Most other hikers I knew on the trail made at least one change to the type of shoe they wore. Besides buying shoes ont he trail is easy, either at the various outfitters aloing the way, or, if you know exactly what you want, through on-line stores such as backcountrygear.com just get them shipped to the next town.
I did buy backup shoes before I left for my thru-hike, but I already knew that my shoes (Merrell Mesa Ventilators) were comfortable over long distances & that my feet don't change size.
definitely don't buy a pair of shoes that are a size bigger than you normally wear, that's an invitation for many, many blisters (learned through painful experience).
oftentimes peoples' feet get bigger because they don't have good or correct inserts in their shoes, and it's actually the arch of the foot that starts to fall, thereby increasing foot size. Just be sure to find a pair of inserts that are right for you.
because of the flexibility of trailrunners, there's not nearly the need to break the shoes in ahead of time compared to boots or just a stiffer shoe, so you'll likely be ok breaking new ones in on the Trail. but then if you can get a few pair really cheap, then maybe mailing the new ones over would save you some money.
A size larger not always appropriATE
I believe the old advice to buy a size larger in footwear for hiking was appropriate for a time when all wore the heavier, limmer style leather boots that took forever to stretch and break in your foot to their stiffer confines. But I dont see that it is any longer as appropriate with the newer, trail runner style footwear, which has tremendous stretch in all directions for any of its sizes.
Here, were one to purchase a size larger where the heel cup failed to grip the heel to stop the foot from sliding forward with each step, even on level ground,, the toes would immediately begin to press down, unconsciously, to dig in to stop the forward motion. And thusly begins common afflictions like "black toe", toe blisters, and the like.
Buy the size that is comfortable for you. Unless you go with the old limmers, of course. But it is necessary to break in every shoe, even the softer trail runners, if you are going to immediately start using them with much speed or distance, or blisters will result. With low miles and/or little speed, I doubt it matters much
I think you've received some very good advice.
I'd agree that you should NOT buy all your shoes ahead of time. Everyone's different.....some people's feet grow just a little. Some grow a good bit. Some folks get half a size or even a full size bigger. And some folks' feet don't grow at all.
Also, I wouldn't buy two or three pairs of the same shoe, becuase you might discover after a few hundred miles, that you don't really care for your shoes, and that you may want to try something else for your second pair.
In any case, it doesn't take long to break in a new pair of lightweight shoes like Trail runners, and most people do so on the Trail without having any problems.
But if you pre-buy and pre-brake in all your footwear ahead of time, I think you're going to end up with shoes that you either don't like, or don't fit, and in most cases, are unreturnable. Wait til your first pair starts to go, and then shop for some new ones.
The argument for buying a size larger is that I've seen a lot of people who lose toenails from their toes hitting the front of the shoe over and over again on steep downhills and that is going to happen a lot if you buy the right size. And there are a lot of steep downhills. Try this on the tile in your kitchen... hold your foot above the floor and note how much your foot expands forward and sideways on the floor when you put your full weight on it. Shoes with better lateral support will hold the foot together better and limit that "squish factor". This becomes important in keeping your foot from moving forward in the shoe as well as sideways when you are walking along a hillside. If you happen to come across a shoe you think you want to use, test them on going downhill, do it a number of times in a row and a few days in a row. If you find your toes are hitting the front then go up 1/2 a size at a time. If you are sliding up a LOT in them consider a shoe with more support. I do buy and stock my shoes ahead of a hike but that is after a few thousand miles of trial and error, I would not recommend it unless you have found your dream shoe.
My shoe size increased by one after a while (1000 miles?) and has stabilized there. However, with some manufacturers such as New Balance, it's best to order/buy 1/2 size larger. Since I'd rather pay $50 or less, rather than $90 or more, I have 5 pairs sitting here....
Your foot expansion May Vary
I found that it is important to have a lot of width in the toe box area.. I ended up with a half size bigger after about 400 miles..plus one foot is slightly bigger than the other..
It is also fairly easy to use a computer/phone in town to order shoes along the way and have them shipped ahead. This is especially useful if you are not sure about your shoes in advancee and you have special needs (large or small sizes, wide or narrow, etc.).
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