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  1. #1
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    Default struggling with footwear

    Hey everyone!
    About two months till launch date and I am at a loss when it comes to footwear. About 6 months ago I purchased a pair of Merrell boots, the gortex type. I wore them for about a month and on several day hikes. I was told that these type of boots generally don't need much break in and was frustrated that my feet were still very sore about two miles into the hike.

    I then purchased a pair of Merrell shoes and at first they were a little tight but have now stretched out and are very comfortable on the trail. The only downside is that they don't offer very much ankle support and since I am starting in mid-february I am concerned that they will not be warm enough.

    About 1 month ago I was at my local outfitter and they had a great deal on a pair of Lowa Baltoro's. I tried them on and wore them around the store for awhile. They were a little loose in the heel but I figured with thicker socks and a little room to compensate for my feet swelling they would be a good fit eventually. I have hiked with them several times now and I experience the same type of pain on the side of my foot that I experienced with the Merrell boots. These boots are also very heavy and I find myself stumbling more when I am tired. The positive side to these boots is that I have almost rolled my ankle several times with these boots, they have helped prevent possible sprain and injury because of their support that I am sure the shoes would not have provided but at the same time, I never have stumbled in the shoes or came close to rolling an ankle.

    I guess my question is....should I give the Lowa's more time to break in, should I give the Merrell boots more time to break in? I could go with the shoe's but like I mentioned above, I'm afraid they won't be warm enough and I would hate to roll an ankle the first month on the trail while my body acclimates to the trail.

    I have also heard good things about Keen and may go try a pair of them on.

    Thanks so much!

  2. #2
    Registered User Old Boots's Avatar
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    I picked a pair of Oboz Windrivers and have found them very comfortable and supportive. The heel is tight and the foot is stable but there is plenty of room in the toe box. I am also starting in Feb. See you on the trail.

  3. #3
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    The amount of ankle support boots provide is not nearly enough to prevent injury from ending your hike once you start doing hundreds of miles a month. You might not think you're hurting your ankle when you have close calls, but just because it doesn't hurt doesn't mean it's not hurt. You do that enough, and you will, and you'll be limping to an early end of your hike. Perhaps you should revise your hike to improve your chance of finishing. I bet you're rolling your ankle because of icy or snowy surfaces, and also because you have weak ankles, so you really should consider pushing back your start date so the snow can melt and your ankles can get stronger. Check out some ankle exercises on Youtube, but a simple one that's really helped me is merely balancing on one foot until my ankle gets so tired I can't balance any more.

    As far as your feet being cold, that might indicate that the soles of your boots are too stiff. I've noticed that with softer shoes my feet don't get cold. I believe that the extra movement my feet experiences causes blood flow to increase, which keeps my feet nice and warm.

    You can reduce strain on your ankle by reducing the amount of weight they have to support. If you're overweight, then now is the time to start a diet. Can you also reduce your pack weight? Both of these might allow you to hike more quickly. Strangely enough, I find that the side of my ankles are stressed less when I move faster. I think it's because moving faster moves the force vector more towards the rear of my ankle.

  4. #4
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    Thanks Old Boots, I look forward to maybe seeing you too on the trail! I don't have a trail name yet but my real name is Fred and I am from Iowa.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the suggestion on the ankle exercises Leaftye. I figured I would start early so that I could pace myself and take my time. Unfortunately in Iowa we don't have too many trails that allow for proper training. I sure could stand to lose some more weight before the hike. My pack weight is currently around 33lbs and I'm not looking to go ultra light because I know that the best way to lighten my load is to lose it in the gut! I think I am rolling my ankle because these Lowa boots are extremely heavy compared to the shoes and it's hard to control my feet when I'm tired. Interesting how you mentioned that moving faster seems to stress your ankles less. Do you think a good pair of light shoes with warm socks would be my best bet? Thanks for your help!

  6. #6
    Registered User The Old Boot's Avatar
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    I can't help with boot/shoe choices but are you using hiking poles? If not, seriously consider them, they won't save your feet from getting sore but they will help with your balance and help keep you from rolling your ankles as often. Think of them like outriggers!!

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    Last year I started off with healthy ankles and wearing boots (Asolo 520). I hurt my ankles in those boots, and switched to trail running shoes. Surprisingly the trail runners put less strain on my injured ankle. I believe that's for two reasons. First, the sole was thinner, so it created a shorter lever that put less torque on my ankle. Secondly, being able to feel the ground caused me to put my feet on flat ground instead of stepping on rocks that would put stress on my ankles.

    Also, a couple weeks ago I went hiking for the weekend in poor weather. I got icy sleet all day, but my feet stayed warm even when my body was chilled. I wasn't wearing warm socks either. I think it's because of all that extra blood flow to my feet.

    So I do think lighter shoes would be better.

    If it turns out you can't keep your feet warm, then you might have to make another change.

    As far as your pack weight again. Why not diet and reduce pack weight?

    I don't think you really need trails for training. Walking on one side of the street will exercise one side of your ankles because of the crown in the road.

    You also mentioned getting tired and having control issues. That happens to me too. That means it's time to stop for the day. Take a bunch of ibuprofen to reduce swelling (there will be swelling) and enjoy a long sleep.

    Connecting tissue can take up to a year to fully heal, so you really don't want to injure your ankles more. That's also why I suggested pushing back your start date. My injury ended my hike early, and hurt for several more months, and then took several months more before I could hike 20 mile days again. Be careful on your training hikes/walks so your ankles don't get worse.

  8. #8
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    As far as dieting is concerned, I have been struggling with weight for quite some time now. I used to be an auto technician and was on my feet all day. About 5 years ago I got a desk job and really put the pounds on. Part of the reason I am hiking is to get back down to a healthy weight. I have tried the gym memberships and the dieting in the past and the best way for me to stay in shape is to just lead an active lifestyle like I used to.

    As far as pack weight is concerned...I'm not an experienced hiker and because of that I really don't know how to go about reducing my pack weight much further. I think I did a good job with purchasing light weight gear but I think that is something that I will just have to learn as I go. As much as I want to move my start date up to mid march or April, I'm afraid I won't be able to put the necessary miles in at the beginning because I really want to pace myself at the start and enjoy the scenery. I plan on taking many zero days in the first month so as not to injure myself or burn myself out.

  9. #9

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    Marty,

    I think you would be wise to keep looking and find something you will be comfortable with to wear. You are going to have enough to worry about without unnecessary foot / ankle pain. Why not try the Keens? You might find a good outfitter (like and REI) that can really help you and will make it easier to exchange something that does not work out.

    Good luck.

  10. #10
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    foot issues, boot issues, I recommend you walk in a creek for 10 to 15 min. then pour out the water and and walk the boots dry. IF they still do not feel good, can em and get a new pair. I have always liked Merrel, but now I have Keen, great boot, but they are coming unglued. Your boots will be wet over and over that is just the way it will be. some boots are hard to dry while others ok to dry. Soak em in peanut oil it is cheap and works great.

  11. #11

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    You've gotten some good advice already, and I thought I might just add my experience from my thru in 2010. I, too, had no previous backpacking or hiking experience - none. One thing I learned during my hike is that everyone's feet are different, and what fits for one person may very well not work for another. I must say that quite a few of my fellow thru-hikers loved their Keens, tho.

    Personally, I started out in mid-March with New Balance trail runners and wore them thru Pennsylvania where I switched to Vasque Breeze boots to deal with the ROCKS. My feet actually felt better after Pennsylvania than they did before, so I switched out to Vasque Breeze low-top trail runners which were much stiffer than the New Balance.

    I was lucky because those three models fit me. I got zero blisters while others suffered serious blister problems, some of which became infected and ended their hikes.

    Did I roll my ankles? Yes, frequently and sometimes several times daily. However, I used hiking poles which helped me catch myself when I rolled them and minimized the damage. So, my recommendations are:

    1. Hiking poles - I wouldn't leave the house without them. Leki's seemed to be the best quality.
    2. Stiff sole trail runners for lighter weight
    3. Consider REI because of their return policy - if your choice doesn't work, send them back.
    4. Non-gortex footwear. When they get wet inside, they stay wet inside. Mesh shoes dry out much quicker.
    4. Wool socks. I switched to Darn Tough after about a month and swear by them. Get the AT model. Also, they have a lifetime warranty.
    5. Start slowly for the first two or three weeks to acclimate your feet to the pounding they will take.
    6. Ibuprofen. I took three every morning for my entire hike. I also took some in the evening in the beginning to reduce the swelling in my feet and knees.

    Good luck and have a great hike!!

  12. #12
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    IMHO, your boot/shoe choice is the most important decision of your pre-hike planning. I just completed a thru hike of the trail on July 25 this year. I am a certified boot fitter and a former outfitter. Here is what I have learned over the years:

    1. Lighter boots ARE all they are cracked up to be! I am a traditional backpacker and started my hike with heavy leather backpacking boots. By the Smokies, I was looking for a lighter replacement!

    2. Gore-Tex = Wet Feet. On short day and weekend trips, Gore-Tex boots are great! Hiking day after day in boots that never get quite dry is very uncomfortable. Water that can't get in also can't get out. Gore-Tex only transmits water vapor through the membrane, liquid water will just stay inside your boot forever!

    3. I still need ankle support. I found that "Trail Runners" and other light footwear just did not give me the support I felt comfortable with. I ended up buying the Patagonia P-26 Mid half way through the Smokies, and had phenomenal success for the rest of the hike! The real kicker is that Patagonia has a lifetime guarantee and they replaced my boots for free 1,600 miles into the hike!

    4. Use an insole: I have been using and recommending Super Feet insoles for 10 plus years now. The vast majority of the people I hiked with either started with super feet or started using them on the trail. None of the hikers using super feet changed shoe sizes on their hike. If you support your arch, your arch should not fall, and your foot will not spread to a larger size.

    5. While you are prepping for your trip, hike with a full pack. You will quickly learn that slack packing is exponentially easier than walking with your regular pack weight. Train with what you will be really carrying. If your boots feel right after 10 miles of true hiking, they will work on the AT.

    Bottom line is comfort is everything. If your are happy with your footwear, you have a much better chance of being a happy hiker!

  13. #13
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    Can't give great advise on footwear but you also made comment about not having any place to train - if you have a ball stadium nearby try donning a full pack and climbing the stadium bleachers. It may even help you with footwear selection. Also, I go barefoot which helps my feet maintain temperature....

  14. #14
    Registered User Papa D's Avatar
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    I really like LaSportiva footwear. I hike mostly in these -- they are gore tex but your they dry out really quick -- I've put 1000 miles on one pair.

    http://www.sportiva.com/products/foo...fc-eco-2.0-gtx

  15. #15

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    Lighter footwear is better and comfort is most important. Trail runners work for me but might not for you. I definately agree no goretex. During the cold seasons I always bring a vapor barrior or stormshield type sock for the occasions of extreme cold/wet, they will keep my feet warm in any footwear in most any conditions. Footwear is definately something that is worth putting time and money into getting right. You can make do with many pieces of imperfect gear but uncomfortable shoes will ruin a hike very quickly.

  16. #16
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    I also roll my ankles, always kind of shocking when it happens.

    Forgetting foot wear for a moment, do LOTS of calf raises and walk on the SIDES OF YOUR FEET, around your house or what I prefer is hiking on the SIDES OF HILLS LATERALLY, like 40 - 50% degree hills, works the sides of my ankles really well, zero issues on my last hike in NH.

  17. #17
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    Thanks for all the good suggestions and advice everybody. I think I am going to look at a mid boot non gore-tex. I see that the Patagonia P26 non gore-tex might be a good option. I tried on a Keen (mid height) tonight at Scheel's but they do not offer them in a non gore-tex version. Too bad...because they seemed really comfortable and light.

  18. #18

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    Non-gortex because of wet boots! Yikes...I love my leather Zamberlan's...they're comfortable and support my feet well, but I'm planning my AT hike for this spring and now I'm concerned. I always wear Smartwool and I plan on airing my feet at lunch when possible. If wet feet/boots are due to rain, will wearing gaitors help? I hate to change now!

  19. #19

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    If you watch people walk on trail in boots and walk on trail in shoes you'll notice that the boot-wearers are clumsy, crash into rocks, roll their ankles all the time. The shoe-wearers are lighter on their feet, place their feet more deliberately and look less clumsy. All that ankle rolling in the boots serves to reinforce in your mind that you need them when it's possible you have no need.

    I now backpack and hike in Chacos or running shoes. I feel way more nimble and my feet feel a lot better than they ever did in heavy boots. As for cold, I've hiked in the snow in the Chacos and had to wade in creeks in the rain in 40 degree temps. Wool socks kept my feet warm in the sandals, and sandals are roomy enough to wear extra thick socks if necessary.

    As for the shoes/boots you've already tried, have you tried using different kinds of insoles? Not to set you off on a path toward spending a lot of wasted money, but I have found that putting in cushioned insoles helps me sometimes. Other people find that supportive insoles are helpful.
    Some knew me as Piper, others as just Diane.
    I hiked the PCT: Mexico to Mt. Shasta, 2008. Santa Barbara to Canada, 2009.

  20. #20
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    I've been very satisfied with my Keen Targhee II's. I recently switched to Inov8 Roclite 295's and really like these trail runners. Either way I use Superfeet Green inserts. The Inov8 Roclite 288 GTX might appeal to you.

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