The best shoes for the Pacific Crest Trail are the ones that are best for your particular feet. Try on a bunch of shoes, test them, return them, rinse and repeat. Here’s a list of popular options to get you started.
Trail Running Shoes
The Altra Lone Peak 4.5 is the latest version of Altra’s popular Lone Peak trail running shoe (Men’s / Women’s). It offers underfoot protection with ample cushion and a stone guard, and weighs a total of 21oz.
If you want a shoe with more support (though less cushion) the La Sportiva Bushido II trail running shoe is worth trying (Men’s / Women’s). These shoes are worth trying if you’re hiking with a heavier pack (over 35lb) and are concerned about grip.
Lightweight Hiking Shoes
When it comes to lightweight hiking shoes, the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator is a common option on the trail (Men’s / Women’s). They are heavier than trail running shoes (31oz) but also offer more support. This is about as heavy as you’ll want to go.
Another lightweight hiking shoe that offers a high degree of stability is the Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero (Men’s / Women’s). They weigh in at 25.8oz great grip and support for those hiking with heavier packs.
When you’re choosing shoes for the Pacific Crest Trail, make sure to choose shoes that are:
You’ll also want to choose shoes that fit well and that don’t give you rubs or blisters. The only way to know if your shoes fit well is by testing your shoes thoroughly before you go. Make sure to purchase from a store with a good return policy (like REI) so you can change your shoes if they don’t work for you.
You’ll want to replace your shoes about every 400 miles. This means two things: your shoes must be durable enough to last 400 miles, and affordable enough for you to purchase 6 to 7 pairs over your entire Pacific Crest Trail hike.
When it comes to sizing, keep in mind that your feet will swell. And not just a little: when you hike for 10 or more hours a day, nearly every day of the week, week after week, your feet actually grow in size. Most hikers experience a growth between 1/2 and 1 & 1/2 shoe sizes.
Some hikers purchase all of the shoes they will use on the trail ahead of time, and then mail the shoes in their resupply boxes. If you do this, make sure to purchase from a store with a good return policy, so you can return the shoes if they don’t wind up working for you. REI lets you return shoes up to a year after purchase, even if you’ve worn them.
Alternatively, you can buy your first pair ahead of time, and then, if they work for you, purchase more on the internet while you’re on the trail and have them shipped to you. This is an especially good plan to account for the growth in shoe size that you might experience.
Plan to carry 3 to 4 pairs of socks in your pack. Changing your socks at least once a day will let your feet dry out and help prevent blisters.
Socks made from merino wool will serve you well on the trail. Though they are more expensive than regular socks, they are much more durable, stay warm even when wet, and are slow to become smelly.
The two main brands for merino wool socks are Smartwool and Darn Tough (Darn Tough offers an unconditional, lifetime guarantee). You can buy them directly from each brand’s website, from REI, or from Sierra Trading Post, which often offers good deals and discounts.
Merino wool socks come in different weights. Light or medium is probably right for hiking in cold weather, while ultra light will be best for hot climates.
You can’t. Give up. Suffer along with everyone else. But don’t worry – you’ll dry when the rain stops.
It might be tempting to wear waterproof shoes, but remember that anything that’s waterproof enough to keep the rain out will also trap sweat in, which will make for miserable, soggy, and blistered feet. It’s best to just get lightweight, breathable shoes that will dry quickly when the rain stops.
The only thing you can really do to keep your feet dry is wear waterproof gaiters. It will keep the tops of your feet dry for awhile, though water will eventually soak in through the sides of your shoes. Gaiters will also prevent pesky pebbles and dirt from sneaking in through the tops of your shoes.
The REI CO-OP Backpacker Low Gaiters from REI are good choice at 6.5oz. If you’re going to give in and not try to fight wet conditions at all, go for Dirty Girl Gaiters. They are incredibly popular on the trail and weigh less than 2oz a pair.
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