Footwear

Make sure that you are bringing footwear which is comfortable and appropriate for your chosen activities. Nothing has the ability to spoil your entire adventure like wearing uncomfortable footwear!  Shoes are extremely personal.  Just because a shoe is well regard doesn’t mean that it will be good for you.  There is no substitute from trying on a pair of shoes/boots, and then wearing them for an extended period of time. Even if your footwear doesn’t need to be “broken in”, you should spend time wearing them before you take them on a journey. 

I have found that Zappos is a good source for hard to find shoes and that shoebuy has free shipping including returns. There is a nice video about Customizing shoe fit by relacing.

I have a number of posts related to selecting and using footwear:

My Choice

I have found that “barefoot” style shoes that have minimal soles and zero drop heels work best for me. Around 2005 a friend encourage me shift from landing on my heel to the front of my foot and use minimalist shoes. Once I made the shift I found that my knee pain disappeared and the number of miles I could comfortably walk more than doubled. For several years I used ultra minimalist shoes, but kept stubbing my toes. I now wear slightly heavier shoes:

  • Altra Trail Running Shoes: Great traction, reasonably light weight.
  • Keen Sandals: Good traction, dries quickly, reasonably light, toe cap! If worn with grey socks can be mistaken for shoes.
  • Vivobarefoot Gobi 2 Desert Boots: Decent traction and acceptable looks even if I have to wear a suit while traveling

I wear toe socks made from coolmax if I am expecting to do a serious amount of walking or running. On less strenuous days I wear light weight Darn Tough wool socks. In cooler, wet conditions I use a Rocky Gore-Tex over-socks. In cold conditions I use a coolmax liner combined with insulated vapor barrier socks, and gaiters which cover my lower leg. I am no longer climbing or doing hard core winter trips so I have no need for specialized shoes and boots for these activities.

Good Fit

More than most other clothing types, the “best” foot wear varies a great deal person to person because feet are quite different, and these differences have a direct impact on how well a shoe would work for you. I used to have a terrible time finding shoes which fit me because I have a very narrow heel, a small volume foot which a modest arch, and  need a large toe box because I have both hammertoes and morton’s toes.

Backpacker had a nice article which is still on archive.org about  understanding feet and footwear which is oriented toward boots, but has a lot of valuable information such as the wet foot test. You might try to find a local store that has been trained in the FitSystem by Phil Oren.  Or go all the way and get a gait-analysis.

Weight

The weight of your shoe ends up making a big difference in the amount of energy you expend when walking or running. I recommend people wear shoes that are as light as practical.

for every 1 lb of footwear, it’s like carrying an extra 6.4 lb of weight on your back

[Legg SJ, Mahanty A. Energy cost of backpacking in heavy boots. Ergonomics.1986 Mar;29(3):433-8.]

Inserts

A number of my friends swear by Superfeet inserts, but they are not for everyone. Some people have issues with overlapping toes. There are a number of products to keep toes separated.

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