Good shoes are important even when going out for a short hike, but there's even less room for error in footwear when you're about to embark on a thru hike or other long, overnight backpacking adventure. The wrong shoes can leave you sidelined with blisters and injuries after just a few days on the trail.
To ensure your footwear is a help rather than a hindrance, follow these five tips for thru hikers and overnight backpackers.
1. Choose Shoes Not Boots
There are still some hikers who prefer boots over shoes for shorter distances, but boots are nearly obsolete among long-distance hikers. Hiking shoes are a lot lighter than boots, which helps preserve your stamina on the trail. Shoes also flex with your feet more easily so you are less likely to develop blisters.
Don't worry too much about finding waterproof shoes. Water will still run down your legs into the shoe if it rains, and waterproof shoes don't keep you from sweating. Instead, look for hiking shoes that breathe easily. This way, if you step in a puddle or sweat a lot, your feet won't stay wet for long.
2. Break Your Shoes In
Hiking shoes are a lot easier to break in than boots, but they do still have a break-in period. You don't want to spend your first day on the trail getting blisters as you break in your shoes. So start wearing them around the house for a few hours at a time well in advance of your hike. You could also go on a short conditioning walk to break in your new boots. Choose a short trail so that if the shoes do start to rub, you don't have much further to go.
3. Buy a Size Larger
As you hike - especially when you hike for weeks on end - your feet tend to swell. To keep your shoes from becoming too tight partway through your adventure, purchase shoes that are one size larger than what you would normally wear. For instance, if your foot measures a size 8, buy shoes in a size 9. The shoes should seem just a little too big when you try them on in the store.
4. Don't Buy All of Your Shoes at Once
You can expect to get about 500 miles - sometimes more if you're hiking on even terrain - out of a pair of hiking shoes. So if you are going on a long thru-hike, you will probably need more than one pair of shoes in order to make it through.
Resist the urge to buy all of your shoes at the beginning of the hike. Even if a certain pair of shoes seems to fit well in the store, you may become aware of some deficiencies once you start hiking in it all day, every day. If you buy shoes one pair at a time, you can easily switch to a new brand or style partway through your hike.
5. Try on Boots With Good Socks
Good socks are also essential for a comfortable, successful thru hike. Wool socks tend to be the best choice, even in the summer, because they breathe well and wick moisture away from your feet. Choose socks that come up over the level of your boots so the boots do not rub on your skin. Always try boots on with the socks you intend to wear on your hike so you can properly assess fit and comfort.
Follow the tips above to keep your feet safe and comfortable on a long-distance hiking adventure. Visit Workshoe Outlet to explore our selection of hiking shoes for men and women. With over 112 years of combined experience, we'll put our knowledge to work to find the best hiking shoes for you.