Ever wonder why the first thing you want to do after a day of hiking is drop your pack and take off your boots?………..It’s your feet saying “Hey, buddy, I’ve worked the hardest and need a little break…. some extra air and sunshine down here would be great and if you got some of that fancy foot cream I’ll take some of that, too.” Your legs may be tired from carrying you and your pack up and down hills all day but it’s your feet that are carrying your legs and everything above them and hiking long distances in the wrong pair of footwear can not only destroy your feet but also cause undue stress on your ankles, knees, hips and back. Think of “The Bones” song we all sang when we were children…
The foot bone is connected to the anklebone,
The anklebone is connected to shin bone,
The shinbone is connected to the knee bone,
The knee bone is connected the thigh bone,
The thighbone is connected to the hipbone,
The hipbone is connected to the backbone,
The backbone is connected to the shoulder bone,
The shoulder bone is connected to the neck bone,
The neck bone is connected the head bone.
The point is, everything is connected and situated at the bottom of our bodies, our feet are like the lowest common denominator. Not only are they bearing the most weight but they are also the link between the ground and the rest of our bodies and responsible for initiating a stride that will keep the rest of our body moving smoothly and pain free day after day.
Hiking boots are great, they supply plenty of support and cushioning, their tread designs are usually pretty aggressive to get you up and down those steep hills, they are made out of fancy materials like Gore-Tex and a properly sized boot is generally the best choice but all those fancy features make them HEAVY. Sure some are lighter than others but none are as light as a pair of trail shoes and after hiking for 15-25 miles day after day there is a good chance that those boots are going to start feeling like a block of lead strapped to your feet. So contrary to traditional wisdom I will be hiking the PCT in a pair of trail running shoes. My favorite is a pair of Brooks Cascadia specifically because of their tread design which grips the ground in both a forwards and backwards direction and have saved me from a few rolled ankles and some potentially brutal falls. In early November I will be testing a pair of Keen Marshall trail shoes as an alternative to the Cascadias for use in snow. The Marshalls are similar in that they have a bi-directional tread design although it slightly less aggresive than the Cascadias and weigh a few ounces more. The positive trade off is that they provide more protection to the toes which could be a huge advantage if kicking steps in snow becomes necessary.
Like you might be thinking now, when I first started doing the research the thought of hiking in a pair of souped up tennis shoes seemed ridiculous but the more I read the more I became a fan. Check out these links to learn more and decide for yourself.