You may have a pair of hiking shoes that are your go-to for hitting the trails. But when you're a thru-hiker (someone who's covering a long-distance trail from end to end), your shoes basically become a fifth limb. The wrong pair will leave you with the blisters Cheryl Strayed forewarned in Wild, while the best ones of all will carry you through thousands of miles of wilderness.
It's something that Zoë Rogers, who hiked all 2,653 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) this summer, knows first-hand. "I did the thing. I walked every step of the 2,653-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada," wrote Rogers in an Instagram post. "This feels like the biggest accomplishment of my life. 112 days baby! Shoutout to the amazing trail community and everyone who has provided support along the way. Y’all are the best."
Of course, the good-hearted hikers who kept Rogers company weren't her only support system. When Well+Good asked Rogers how she selected her boots for the trek, she said that she had a bit of a journey before finding the right fit.
First, she tested a pair of hiking boots that are well-loved in the thru-hiking community. "Although they were very comfortable to start, they ended up causing some bad Achilles pain about a week into my hike," she says.
Realizing she needed a replacement, she decided to try something different. "Since I invested in ultralight gear and my pack weighed 20 pounds max with food and water, I didn't think hiking boots were necessary. Too heavy and bulky," she says. "So I opted for a pair of trail runners instead."
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Next up, Rogers tried out the Topo Ultraventure Pros ($150)—and found the perfect Cinderella fit. "I ended up loving these and buying two more pairs during the hike," she says. "The added heel-to-toe drop—5 millimeter versus zero [in the first pair I tried]—put less strain on my Achilles and allowed me to walk pain-free." She adds that the shoes feature a wider toe box to accommodate those with larger feet.
Rogers has two big recommendations if you're feeling inspired to take on the PCT, the Appalachian Trail (AT), or another thru-hike in the near (or distant) future. First, do your very best to lighten your load. "The less weight on your back, the easier it is on your body, the more likely you are to successfully complete the thru-hike," she says.
Second, don't leave buying your trail shoes until the very last moment. Give yourself time to research and test. "Overall, shoes are one of the most important gear choices. They can either cause pain with every step or allow you to float down the trail pain-free," says Rogers. "I would highly recommend testing out a few shoes before going out on trail and figuring out what works for you before you start your hike. There's nothing worse than unhappy feet."
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