Mountain Education Resources
Boots, Creeks and Pre-Hikes
I hiked the PCT and CDT with full leather, heavy boots and never had a complaint. In SoCal and NM, I never felt the heat through the soles or uppers and my feet never really sweated much to notice. The only time I regretted walking on steel shanks was when hiking on asphalt, along roadways for many miles. I was always thankful for the upper support when I would land on the edge of a rock while plunging down the rocky switchbacks, taking my long, lazy strides as usual, and my ankle would roll off the rock. The stiff uppers always helped me recover from falling, which would have been really nasty at that speed, with the weight of my pack, and onto those rocks.
Their heavy lug soles and abrupt heel transitions always gave me the braking and traction confidence I desired when hiking on snow, mud, sand, or loose gravel (even across those large, granite slabs with the little, pea-sized pebbles on top that usually send you flying!).
Their overall weight was never a problem, either, as it actually helped me swing my feet easier and more comfortably. On the uphill’s, I just gear-down, take shorter strides, and power on up. No big deal.
Keep in mind, for all of you who are planning and anticipating a long-trail departure next hiking season, your muscles will get stronger and endurance better as you go along. The first week is always the toughest as you may be dealing with sore muscles, screaming tendons, troubles with your pack and gear, digestive adjustments, and the like. If you can work through all of that, you will come out the other side the most fit that you’ve ever been, a virtual trail-cruisin’ machine, capable of hiking sun-up to sun-down quite naturally and effortlessly, and be able to take in all the beautiful, wilderness scenery all around you (depending on your speed and the number of other hikers in your immediate vicinity).
When crossing streams, I always wore the boots straight through the water, when I couldn’t find a safer route, changed socks on the other side, and walked them dry. Didn’t take long. No blisters, either! But, maybe, I had a good match between the shape of my feet and the last used to make the boots.
Whether you opt for trail-runners, sandals, or boots of some sort (or all of the above throughout your trip), choose what works best for you and not just because it was recommended or worked well for someone else. This means that you have to get to know your self, your gear, your GI track, BEFORE you start planning. If your long-weekend, pre-departure, planning hikes reveal that trail runners flare up plantar fascitis or that certain packs really irritate your back, you’ll have time to make adjustments from home.
Sure, the law of averages says that, if most folks hike in runners, use tarps for shelter, or hike 30-mile days, that these ought to work for you, too, but, first, test other people’s ideas (including ours) out for your self on long pre-hikes before “the big trip” to see if their ways are what you want to adopt.
Good planning, preparation, and training can contribute to happy and safe hiking!