Boots, trail runners or hiking shoes….. hum… which ones? Well, I have tried them all on the AZT and after many many blisters and loosing countlesss toenails I have made my choice. Merrill waterproof mid top hiking boots. Listen, trail runners are awesome and for a 5 or so mile trail run a couple times per week they are great. But the AZT eats them for lunch. Sections of this trail are rough. So much so that my feet… and really my toes got crushed with trail running shoes. I know that hiking gods like Will Wood and Joe Brewer have thru hiked in trail runners and the swear by them but this is just my opinion from my experience. Hiking shoes on the other hand might be a good option…. but with gaiters. Gaiters are canvas or cloth wrap a arounds that close in the tops of shoes. Think of a WW2 army soldier. Unless you like rocks and thorns in your shoes you have to close the tops up. Once again this is not a well groomed in-city trail. I do like the Merrill hiking shoes and have done many many miles in them. They will suit for some of the AZT hikes but at the end of the day… the good old hiking boots does the best all around job. Now I am not recommending the all leather old fashion boots. Get some mid high breathable boot with a good toe box and rubber treads. My Merrills work great but Solomon and obos I hear rock too. Just no Nikes on the trail please. As a hiker, your feet are your most valuable asset. Protect them.
Now lets talk about socks. So….. from what I understand socks are like a hiking friend, they can help or hurt you during a long hike. I have successfully hiked many miles without blisters but other times, I would get blisters on my heels and toes like a bad rash. I hike in Darn Tough socks and I simply love them…. never would really hike with anything else. My loving wife though, seeing room for improvement, went to REI and as a gift to me purchased sock liners to help with blisters. I would say…. she scored. The thought of wearing two socks was a little silly to me at first but now I would have to say, sock liners work. I would not hike without them and they do not really add much heat to my feet like I suspected they would. I guess the concept is to rather have the sock liner move about with the shoe and the main sock than your foot skin. Moving skin is the cause of blisters. I use Fox River Dry Coolmax Liners.
One last topic on footwear, Gaiters. I am currently testing the Dirty Girl Gaiters. I hate twigs, thorns and rocks in my shoes. Now mud also…..I am finding mid tops only helps a little more than low top hiking shoes in the dirt down the top issue. Will post more soon.
Update 07-30-2017. They might look a little silly but dirt in my boots…. problem solved. Gaiter Girls work. Buy some.
Update 08-31-2017….. they now have big holes in them… I think I kind of knew this but as I hike I slightly kick my inner left foot against my inner right with virtually ever step. All my shoes and boots show the wear of the hits over time. The Dirty Girl gaiters did not last a 100 miles under this pressure. Oh well…. time to lace up tight and do the sock folder over trick.
Update 10-14-2017. I need Gaiters!!!!! Hiking back in the desert sucks with thorns, grass and twigs falling in my boot and getting stuck like glue to my socks. I am patching the Dirty Girl Gaiters and trying them again… Update later.
Update 11-03-2018. I think I finally found something that works. The SEA to Summit Quagmire Gaiter. It’s a bit tall and silly looking but man it works on so many levels. Brambles, thorns, pebbles, bushes and maybe even snakes. I don’t wear them all the time but on rough terrain I have come to love them.