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  1. #1
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    Default Hiking Boots or Shoes?

    So I'm looking for some ideas on footwear for the trail. What do you prefer and why, and how many pairs should I plan to go through.

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Haus8414 View Post
    So I'm looking for some ideas on footwear for the trail. What do you prefer and why, and how many pairs should I plan to go through.
    Section hiked over 2,000 miles of the AT. Fisrt 70 miles in boots, then hiking shoes for the next 200 miles. Trail runners ever since. Plan 500 miles or so for trail runners, but you probably do better in some places. PA rocks, along with NH and ME are probably the roughest on them. So for a thru hike probably plan at least four pairs, but some have done it in only two. Once tried to to get over 600 miles out of pair, but that included PA and I was using Gorilla tape to get me to my next pair (note duct tape is useless on rocks).
    The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
    Richard Ewell, CSA General


  3. #3

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    500 to 600 miles is typical for footware to last. So, 4 pair on aveage.

    I prefer a boot style and waterproof, preferably GTX. The trail is very wet in the spring in GA/NC and from VT north in the fall. For the summer mid-Atlantic states a trail runner type shoe would be okay, but the rocks can be hard on your feet with those.

    It also depends on how much your carrying. With a heavy load, you want a study boot. Most of it is just personal preference and it can take trying different footware to decide which is best for you.
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  4. #4
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    I did trail runners for my entire thru hike last year (Hoka Speedgoats). I hike fairly fast and they were lightweight, easier to put on when frozen (see: Smokies), and I love the zero drop and crazy cushion. I went through 4 pair (the last pair were in absolute shambles, basically falling apart everyday).

    I can't imagine wearing boots, even when we got snow dumped on us in the Smokies. This is just a very personal preference, as Slo said.

  5. #5
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    I do most of my camping in GSMNP where I like to wear water proof boots to deal with the numerous water and mud crossings.
    Of course for AT thru hikers, they won't have any water crossings thru GSMNP since it simply follows the ridge line.
    But shoes should make it easier for someone to put in bigger miles.

  6. #6

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    FWIW - I use both leather boots and trail shoes, depending on the anticipated conditions.

    I will use leather boots in cold weather, where trail ice monorail is likely, where snow on the trail is likely, when going above timberline, and for stability on talus/rocky terrain I prefer the high leather boots. They take a serious beating in these conditions but my feet remain mostly dry (multiple days of rain does get into them even with gators) and unbruised from rocks that ankle bones love to hit as opposed to using trail shoes. I get about 1,200 to 1,500 (documented) mileage from my high leather boots (Asolo 510s). I am not sure I would use these on a thru hike, though I would think about using them for the first few months if I were starting earlier than mid-March.

    I use trail shoes in warmer weather mostly, unless I will be encountering some of the above conditions for any length of time. The shoes are much lighter than leather boots and usually walk dry quickly. I do not use the "waterproof" trail shoes as they will ship water through shallow water or puddles due to their the low profile, and once wet inside from water or sweat, take a long time to dry. They don't have the robust tread of the boots, nor do they have the same gripping power on rocks and other potential slip points, but they are close enough that technique will close that gap. I get about 500 to 600 miles out of hiking shoes (Oboz), less than half that of the boots I use, so replacement costs make them financially similar to cover 1,200 miles.

    I have tried trail runners and found them insufficient for my use and the terrain I am on most commonly. The two pairs I tried only got a few hundred miles on them before duct tape had to come out and I had a problem with foot bruising on tread ways having rocks poking out just above the surface that other footgear could manage well. Experience between hikers varies greatly, suffice to say it's more of a trial and error method to find out what works best for you, and in what conditions.

  7. #7
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    Another element to this decision is; How tough are your feet? If your feet are not "trail-toughened" from lots of hiking, you might find lighter trail-running type shoes to not be protective enough when you encounter rocky sections.

  8. #8
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    I had been using trailrunners and similar sportshoes for everything, including hiking (except when in serious snow conditions) for many decades.
    Got setup because of the limited durability and switched to boots of various weight, which last much longer than trailrunner-type of shoes, plus the boots can be repaired 2-3 times, thus givig them some extra long live.

  9. #9

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    This, as others have said, is going to come down to personal preference and what works for you.

    Get out and do some hiking with your pack on and shoes on your feet. I used to wear heavy boots and then lighter ones but both gave me knee issues. After a period of not hiking but more running I ended up with foot issues. Went to a full custom built athletic insole in a "well cushioned" sneaker for every day use and 1 brand of running sneakers for running only. After a few months I couldn't stand to be in my sneaks with my custom insoles. Started taking them out half way through the day. Then eventually I would end up ditching the sneakers all together. I was a personal trainer managing my department at the time so no one bothered me working around the gym in my socks. But I had to wear sneakers for running. Then I discovered VFFs and spent 5+ years in them EXCLUSIVELY minus about 3 days. I got tired of people asking me about my feet/shoes and finally found the New Balance Minimus about 4.5 years ago. That's all I wear now when I have anything on my feet other than flip flops/sandals (10% of the time) whether I am walking, running or backpacking. But this is what works for me.
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  10. #10

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    Nice to see all of these open minded responses. Not a one of you told the poster what to do, just what makes you happy and why.
    “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready...”~Henry David Thoreau

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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by LoneStranger View Post
    Nice to see all of these open minded responses. Not a one of you told the poster what to do, just what makes you happy and why.
    I guess you didn't read my post. #7

  12. #12
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    I thrued in 2001 when trail runner type shoes were just becoming popular. I decided to use my well broken in Montrail boots. My boots lasted me for my whole hike. Had to have them resolved after about 1500 miles on them. I did this to prevent having to break in a new pair. I was glad I took this route, after seeing many hikers having to replace running type shoes along the way only to discover that they were not available in outfitters near the trail.
    Grampie-N->2001

  13. #13

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    One issue with most trail runners are the insoles that come with them are pretty cheap. I throw them away out of the box and I put in Montrail (now Columbia) heat moldable inserts in my trail runners. They have a solid arch support that acts as a small rock plate under the arch which is handy when boulder hopping in the whites. The inserts lasts far longer than the actual trail runners. I have one pair or inserts that's are about 6 years old and another about 3 years old. If someone is planning to thruhike with trailrunners, they should buy a backup pair and have them sent to them when needed and not depend on stores along the trail.

    BTW I live in the Whites and that's where I do most of my hiking these days. I use trail runners. When I make my frequent trips up to Baxter State Park to climb up or around Katahdin I wear trail runners.

  14. #14

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    Inserts, good point. Since I switched to trail runners, I started using Superfeet. Make sure you understand what type of foot you have so you can buy the best "color" for you.
    The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
    Richard Ewell, CSA General


  15. #15
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    I prefer low hiking shoes, but not the really lightweight trail runners as they don't have enough "meat" in the undersole/shank nor tread nor enough side/heel support. I've tried Oboz brand and found the soles more slippery on rocks than other brands. Unless they could convince me that they changed their sole compound I'll never own another pair. I really like the Salomon X Ultra 3's I currently have. Others I've liked are Merrill Moab 2's and LL Beans "Trail Model ?" line. All had good traction on wet rocks. I also have a pair of mid height Asolo GTX's that mostly only get worn in winter. Good boots, good protection on rocks, but heavy for 3 season. For a thru-hike starting after the threat of deep snow I think I'd go with low hiking shoes and expect to go through maybe three pair.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seatbelt View Post
    I guess you didn't read my post. #7
    You posted a valid and useful point of consideration as far as I was concerned. Not a "Do as I say!" commandment type post at all. Sorry if I misconstrued what you were saying
    “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready...”~Henry David Thoreau

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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by LoneStranger View Post
    You posted a valid and useful point of consideration as far as I was concerned. Not a "Do as I say!" commandment type post at all. Sorry if I misconstrued what you were saying
    I think I misconstrued what you were saying, sorry! It's all good!

  18. #18
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    It's a simple decision that has been answered by the hikers over the years: Trail Runners

    Yes, you'll find a few that argue for boots, but the vast majority don't buy into boots. I went into trail runners many years before my 2011 AT thru-hike (not that I had ever been into boots as my exclusive type of foot wear as I wore tennis shoes on many occasions while hiking). During my 2011 thru-hike many people (around 10 or so) injured their ankles and it just happened that they were wearing boots. Just saying, but facts are facts. I'd recommend trying the trail runners and seeing for yourself. You've done boots, so you'll have the experience of both to compare.

  19. #19

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    Full leather boots all the way for me. And goretex. And something light with a good lug sole to grab the mud so I don't slide and fall.

    I like keeping my smartwool socks dry 90% of the time and goretex does this well in shallow creek crossings, wet snow and dew covered fields.

    My current fave? Zamberlan Evo Lites---

    Trip 203 (4)-XL.jpg

  20. #20
    Registered User Christoph's Avatar
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    With over 3300 miles on the AT, I've only used trail runners. My brother prefers a good boot so it's all personal preference. I went through 3 pairs of shoes. Believe it or not, I started out with a $16 pair of Walmart Avis trail runner type shoes. I didn't expect them to last very long, but they got me to Damascus before falling apart. Now I mainly hike in Merrill trail runners.
    - Trail name: Thumper

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