ONE SHOE TO RULE THEM ALL
I never thought choosing a shoe for this hike would become such an anxiety inducing process. I’ve hiked in running shoes, trail runners, five finger vibrams, boots, barefoot, pretty much anything you can think of. When it comes to choosing what to wear for the Appalachian Trail though, I’m clueless. I feel very strongly about my choice of shoes for this hike. The whole thing could easily develop into a huge catastrophe without the right pair. Blisters, rolled ankles, plantar fasciitis, gangrene, they all become a possibility with a pair of bad shoes. For that reason it is imperative that I try on any and all shoes I can get my hands on until I find that Cinderella fit. I have narrowed the field down to 4 pairs of shoes, here are my evaluations of each.
I had never heard of Altras until a few months ago when a friend of mine who had already done the AT recommended them. “You gotta get Altras they’re ZERO DROP!” I still don’t know what the fuck zero drop means, but that’s irrelivant. It just matters how they feel, and partially how they look. I mean, part of my hike is also looking cool. The shoes are amazingly cushioned, and are pretty comfy to walk around in. They have a wide toe box so my precious cargo does not feel confined, or restrained. This does however result in shoes that closely resemble clown shoes, which could slightly impair my coolness on the trail. The insole is pretty flat, and does not provide much arch support. They also have a built in velcro flap in back so you can strap on a flashy pair of dirty girl gaiters without the hassle of gluing them on yourself. I really liked these shoes for a while and am still not completely over my affair with them. I just don’t know if my feet can handle no orthopedic support. I used to run in five fingers so I thought I would be fine taking these for a little trail run. I haven’t run much in the past year, and I’ve got a bit of a cookie pouch going on, but that did not deter my fat ass from hitting the trail hard. I felt great during the run, and really enjoyed the extra cushion. Later in the day I began to feel a horrible pain in my right foot. With the help of Google and WebMD I was able to diagnose myself with a stress fracture from changing my stride due to the “zero drop”. I later found that all my research only resulted in a misdiagnosis. My pain went away in a week. In conclusion the Lone Peaks horrify me, but I still cant say I’m definitely not going to use them.
These shoes are currently my favorites. Cushioned, light, and cool looking. Pretty much all that matters. The shoe also gets in name from a Samurai battle standard meaning “move as swift as the wind, stay as silent as the forest, attack as fierce as fire, and be as undefeatable as the mountain”. I have no idea how “Wave Kazaan” can translate into all that, but that is exactly how I was planning on taking on my hike, swift, silent, fierce, and undefeatble. I’ve done a couple short hikes in these shoes and love the wide toe box, which I’ve found is pretty tough to find in trail runners. The arch support is much better than the Altras, and they don’t have the mysterious “zero drop” which the Altras hold as their selling point. The tread in these shoes are suspect though. They are good in mud and dirt but don’t grab that well on solid surfaces. I haven’t been able to do any difficult hikes in them yet because of all the snow we still have in New England, so I cant say for sure how they would do on a hike in the Whites.
I wore these shoes around REI for 5 minutes and decided I had to buy them. Lets see, they look pretty cool, they have good traction, and they have good arch support. I haven’t got the chance to wear them on a hike yet but plan on it soon. The only reason I bought these is because they got good reviews, and that means they must be good. I think I’m going to hold onto these shoes throughout my hike just in case I need to call them out of the bullpen. I bought them from REI so Ill just return them at some point anyway and get my money back.
These are the boots I wore all last year hiking. I put about 500 hiking miles on them and felt they got better and better with time. They are very comfortable, and have some aggressive traction. The boots did lose a lot of that traction after about 400 miles. They’re supposed to be waterproof but I have found they are definitely not. I would say they are water resistant. They also are not very breathable. I didn’t get any blisters from them last year but I could see myself possibly getting a few after wearing them a while. I’m going to attempt to combat any blisters in my hike with Injinji socks, but I have yet to use them on a long trip. These boots would probably be my number one choice if they weren’t discontinued. They have a newer version out now that sucks. Toe box is smaller, and they have a higher ankle support. I was able to find a pair on amazon but worry about committing to a shoe that I won’t be able to find in the future.
In the end I have spent over 500 dollars on shoes trying to find perfection. In fact I am probally not going to be able to decide which one I am going to wear until I get to Harpers Ferry. I might even strap a second pair to my bag just in case I change my mind a mile into the hike. I think I am slowly going insane, and these goddamn shoes are the cause of it all. I NEED TO BE IN THE WOODS!!!!
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I have always liked Salomon XA comp. I have also liked INOV8 Flyrocs (discontinued) but I recently bought some Merrell Ventilators. Just awesome and reasonably priced. They might be my new favorite.
If you would have figured out “what the fuck” zero-drop meant you would have saved yourself an injury. It’s critical to TRANSITION SLOWLY to low-drop footwear. It’s all over ALTRA’s website and even THE BOOK THAT CAME IN YOUR SHOE BOX and THE INSIDE LID OF YOUR SHOE BOX. You have to TRANSITION SLOWLY “fat ass… hitting the trail hard” in order to not over exert your soleus and other mechanisms in your lower legs and lower body. Over exertion of your soleus presents after the run/hike in the form of foot and/or arch pain(in your experience the right foot). The “clown shoes” toe-box, that is unfashionable in your eyes, is called a natural toe-box. Accommodating a natural toe splay is the single most beneficial aspect in the most up-to-date footwear/foothealth research, to avoid foot/ankle injuries like plantar facciosis, achilles tendonitis, peroneal tendonits, mortons neuromas, hot spots, blisters, bunions, hammer toes, in-grown toe nails and even trench foot. Your friend really knew his stuff. I would read the ‘why is it important to transition’ page of your ALTRA booklet, perform trigger point massage on your soleus with the TP footballer/block by Trigger Point daily and try again(slowly transitioning this time, I wouldn’t trail run over 3 miles for at least two weeks in them). Happy hiking!!!
Your ALTRA’s are too clean to be transitioned to and tested.