View Full Version : Trail Runners vs Normal Runners on PCT

11-18-2007, 18:21
so in Yogi's PCT Handbook she recommends getting normal running shoes over trail runners because they weigh less, and typically offer better ventilation. I have seen some old posts on other forums that suggest this information has caused many people to have foot-problems in the desert section of the trail. Now, I'm sure that most of these foot issues are because people have ill-fitting shoes, just like at the start of the AT. But...people on the PCT are supposedly more experienced than most AT hikers, so maybe the problem is the desert heat? So maybe really well ventilated shoes are a good idea, but is it a good idea to ditch all of the support of trail runners, and this may in turn cause other foot issues? I'd love to be able to buy shoes that aren't $100 like the Montrail Hardrocks i used on this thru-hike. I had initially thought that Yogi may be onto something, especially since you may not need the solid soles which are great on the AT over rocks and roots, which aren't an issue on the PCT. But now, it seems like you'd still want all of that support when doing 25/30 mile days consistently, no matter what the terrain is like. Opinions? I'm certainly worried about how my feet will reach in the desert, which I've never hiked in before, and this issue is plaguing me as much as the bear canister issue.

11-18-2007, 18:39
I beieve it's the desert heat that causes blisters in the south. PCT hikers generally have more experience because they've hiked the AT but most have never hiked in the desert. It's a good idea to take a fair amount of breaks and let your feet air, maybe changing socks.

While trail runners may be fine in the desert, I think you're better off with trail shoes once you reach the Sierra, as the stiffer soles are better for kicking steps in snow.

Be prepared to buy atleast 3 pairs of shoes, which ever kind you choose.

Jim Adams
11-18-2007, 19:10
I used Vasque Breeze very light boots w/o goretex which were made for desert hiking with alot of ventilation and Super Feet. I never had a blister in 1000 miles of the PCT. Most of the hikers that I met on the PCT are past AT thru hikers and most had running shoes or trail runners and blisters. I saw hikers buying new shoes (running and trail runners) as often as EVERY 60-100 miles because of blisters.
You really can't compare the trail surface of the AT with the PCT. It was not at all what I had imagined. Most of it is "baked" so hard it is like walking on concrete. Once you are out of the desert and into the Sierra's it is still thin sand, finely crushed granite, solid granite or evergreen needles and usually a very hard surface. In the south I would have been happy with anything that didn't give me blisters but I was really glad to have the extra support in the mountains. The breezes work very good and in fact I am wearing them right now.
The bear cannister is no big deal, just go with it.

good luck!


11-18-2007, 19:40
Yogi is right. Not that you can't use a trail runner such as the Hardrock in the desert, but frankly you want the meshiest, most breathable shoe you can find. I recommend a running shoe or something like the Merrell Overdrive. I tried both my Velocity's and Hardrocks in the desert this yr and they both tore my feet to shreds.

From Big Bear to Bishop (550 miles) i used NB 754's, including thru the first half of the Sierra. Very breathable shoe, pretty good, wasn;'t in love with them but they worked. Coulda used some more cushioning over the rocks.

Got Brooks Adrenaline in Bishop for super cheap. I love these because they were a 12.5 a hard size to find. Again, coulda used some more support on the rocks but these were REAL comfy and i got 650m out of them. Got another pair for Ashland to Snoqualmie, another 650m and loved em'. Finished with NB 543? and didn't love the fit, however they provided more cushion.

Your foot probably will change size thruout the hike. i wouldn't buy multiple pairs before hand. But, there aren't many outfitters on the PCT. I'd recommend ordering from the trail from zappos or rei, campmor, etc. once you find something you like.

Lastly, true the terrain is nothing like the AT, but I think people tend to overlook the rocks, and terrain a bit. In particular you definately want some cushion going over the lava rocks in Oregon.

11-18-2007, 19:48
I'm not sure I understand the difference between trail runners and normal runners.. The NB trail runners I use have mesh and light.

BTW, I seldom suffer blisters.

11-18-2007, 22:43
The only difference between trail runners and others to me is that the trail runners usually have much more support underfoot. I used to love my Hardrocks because they had so much support underneath, and were so rigid that you could barely bend them. I'm not trying to say that trail runners can't be breathable, but I was hoping that normal (and cheaper), breathable, normal running shoes would be just as good. Now I'm seeing that the desert terrain will still be hard. I think I knew it wasn't sandy dunes and all, it is high desert after all, but really couldn't picture the terrain.

I was able to get nearly a thousand miles out of my Hardrocks, and I'd love to do that again. New Balances I have never had good luck with in terms of durability, and sadly Merrell's don't fit me well (and those Overdrive's look perfect..). Could anyone comment on whether or not the desert sand makes shoes die sooner? I get the feeling that I won't be able to thru-hike the PCT on 2.5 pairs of shoes like I did on the AT.

The Montrail Highlanders look really interesting, lots of mesh, but a really weird tread on the bottom that looks like it would wear out really quickly.

Spirit Walker
11-18-2007, 23:45
One consideration is durability. We bought two different trail runners in Shasta City. One was a Solomon the other a Merrill. Neither lasted a month. Trail runners tend to be fairly durable.

I wore New Balance 803's for the desert stretch of the PCT, then leather boots for the snow then got the trail runners that lasted me only 100 miles or so. I can't remember what I wore the next 1000 miles - but I don't think they were worth remembering.

I tried Merrills on the GET and they started to fall apart within 100 miles and made my feet ache horribly. I hated them and ended up leaving the trail in part because my feet hurt so badly. Another pair of Merrills (different model) worked for the last 200 miles of the GDT and about 200 miles since then. It's a crap shoot.

11-19-2007, 10:15
[quote=vaporjourney;451445]so in Yogi's PCT Handbook she recommends getting normal running shoes over trail runners because they weigh less, and typically offer better ventilation.


That might be good advice for the PCT (that's what I am planning to do) but from my experience a shoe with a rugged outsole - more characteristic of a "trail or all terrain" running shoe is a better bet on the AT. A soft soled shoe is more prone to allowing rocks to bruise the bottoms of your feet.


11-19-2007, 13:27
I started off with trail runners (ones much heavier/less meshy than Hardrocks) and my feet were miserable.

In Big Bear City, I bought some Nike Air Pegasuses. My feet were very happy! They lasted well past VVR. (I forget where I picked up my Campmor Shoe drop to be honest). In fact, I used them in the Sierra with snow fields.

I love my hard rocks though. :)

11-19-2007, 16:03
I loved my hard rocks, but I had bad luck with my last couple of pairs--I then read that Columbia bought out Montrail, and blamed the new ownership for the drop in quality.