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Reading up on a hiking boot size question, I came across this review from Silver Spring, Maryland for a wide hiking boot.

This boot has a "lifespan" of 400 miles. Is that typical of a hiking boot? Since the AT is over 2,000 miles long, should I expect one or more pairs of boots to wear out and become unusable during the course of a through-hike?

Also, if my feet do change size over the course of the hike-- or if a pair of shoes does wear out-- how do I get a new, better-fitted pair while on the trail?

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Running shoes are generally 300 miles, so 400 sounds reasonable. –  Kevin Mar 13 '12 at 17:37
    
I think the answer to your current question is a simple "yes." Through hikers undoubtedly will need multiple pairs of boots/shoes. Is there more to the question, or more we can add to it? –  Greg.Ley Mar 13 '12 at 17:38
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One thing to note, but it's not a full answer. The cushioning inside a boot usually breaks down before the outside of the boot comes apart. In those cases you can continue to use the broken in shell of a boot, but replace the internal cushioning and get more use out of them. –  Justin C Mar 13 '12 at 20:32
    
@Greg.Ley : Yes, that is what I was asking. It is that simple. It was a shock to me, though maybe it should not have been, and I was looking to hear from folks who had been in that sort of situation to see what really happens in the field. –  Clare Steen Mar 14 '12 at 0:23
    
@Greg.Ley : I did end up adding to it. Since this issue will come up while on the trail, I'd like to ask for a solution to the problem, as well. :) –  Clare Steen Mar 14 '12 at 3:29

1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted
  • Do boots really last (only) 400 miles?

In short, yes. If you are a hard-man/woman, you might stretch one pair of boots to half the AT. Normal people go through quite a few pairs - I used 10-ish pairs of trail runners on the PCT, partially because my feet grew 2 sizes and I didn't realize that was why I was suddenly getting blisters from my previously comfortable shoes. So if you know what's up, I think 6-8 pairs for the AT would be reasonable. Boots last a bit longer (as Kevin said, 400 miles maybe), so you might only need 4-5 pairs.

The trouble with boots in that situation is that you generally need to break them in, and a large number of thru-hikers end up with bigger feet within a few hundred miles of starting. So, you can't really buy ahead until you know whether you are the "feet grow" or "feet don't grow" type of person. Thus, using runners is pretty normal - they wear out faster but don't need breaking in.

  • Logistically, how do you get more boots as you hike?

On the AT, because of it's popularity, you should be able to identify some gear/shoe stores around the 200-400 miles-in corridor where you could go to try on more boots in a variety of sizes. Alternatively, and what I've done many times, is to only buy one pair before you start hiking.

If your feet stay the same size for the first month, you are probably safe, so have someone at home buy enough pairs for the rest of the trail, and mail them to you via General Delivery at post offices along the trail.

If your feet change sizes, and continue to change, order a range of sizes-widths via the internet (or someone at home) and again, have them delivered via a Post Office. Return all pairs that don't fit. Big sites like Zappos.com will do this no problem (including delivering to post offices and free returns). So once you establish your new size, you walk another 300 miles in your new boots, then order the next pair to the next PO you'll reach. Repeat until done :)

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10-ish? Wow. Part of the reason I asked is to help calculate the projected cost of gear for a thru-hike. I had read about folks wearing classic white New Balance runners for thru-hikes, and I thought it might just be a fluke (or an exaggeration!), but this helps explain some of the stories I've heard. Thank you! –  Clare Steen Mar 14 '12 at 0:25
    
I added more to the question to ask about re-outfitting/finding new shoes on the trail that do fit. Did you start off carrying those ten pairs, or did you re-supply along the trail? Did you have any trouble finding new shoes that fit so you could continue the hike? –  Clare Steen Mar 14 '12 at 18:50
    
Thank you! That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for providing so much detail. :) –  Clare Steen Mar 15 '12 at 0:04

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