Saturday, February 14, 2009

Footwear for the PCT

As an ultralight backpacker, I've come to prefer lightweight trail runners for just about any kind of hiking. I never get blisters anymore, and a quickly drying shoe is very important for lengthy treks with a high chance of rain or marshy ground. Even trail runners can become putrid, too, though, if they're continually wet for days on end. 

My favorite brand these days is Inov-8, which I will focus on in my next post. The price of those shoes - and brands like New Balance, The North Face, Salomon, etc. - can really add up over a multi-month trek, though, and I'm considering experimenting with cheap, no-name running shoes from K-Mart or Walmart. In fact, I'll probably buy myself a pair that seems decent (good cushioning, lightweight, highly breathable, comfortable) and start the hike in them, shipping myself my Inov-8s to a resupply point 40 to 100 miles up the trail when I'll begin climbing into the higher mountains of Southern California. At that point I will know if the cheap shoes are any good and can mail them to myself further up the trail. If $20 shoes will do the trick, then I might be able to save myself $150 or more during the hike. 

ADDED LATER: I looked at shoes at both K-Mart and Walmart and was not impressed. I only found possibly one model (at K-Mart) that might be breathable enough for hiking. In general, the shoes have too much padding around the foot, which will lead to excessive sweating.

Sierra Nevada
During this section, many people recommend a tougher boot with a stiffer sole and covered ankles. When postholing, or slogging through snow with a crusty top that you keep breaking through, one's ankles and shins can get bruised and cut up in trail runners. At the moment I expect to keep hiking on in a fresh pair of Inov-8 trail runners, but with gaiters covering my ankles and [partially] protecting them from harm. I'll probably have my wind pants on, too, which will protect my legs [somewhat] from abrasion. I'll be following snow reports, though, and could opt for something more protective at the last minute. Also, I will try to get out early to be walking on harder snow (I have a good traction device - the Kahtoola microspikes). 

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