Boots vs. Trail Runners.

Gosh, this question has me back and forth.

Again, I hardly know if I am doing this “thing” for sure yet, and it is still REALLY early on, but I just feel that March will be upon me before I even know it and so I have to really buckle down, especially with picking up that over time at work.

However, this particular subject came to mind because i have seen quite a few PCT hikers on IG that display the pictures of their terribly banged up shoes. I was curious to see that a lot of them only wore trail runners and would have to buy new shoes. I remained only curious until I read somewhere (on a blog), that it is very common for a hiker to use about five different pairs of shoes on the trail.

WOW. My trail runners cost me close to $150, although I have seen some be about $120 to even about $180. If I have to buy five of those, that could easily range from $600 to $900. in just shoes….My gosh! (Don’t forget all the food you have to eat!)

So I went to search for everyone’s advice on the web. Again, I faced brand names I knew nothing about, Altra’s, LA Sportiva, and some others. But ALL of them swore on wearing this trail runners or running shoes on this immense hike across the country, and NOT boots.


Well, I found out that the traditional mindset was BOOTS ONLY for long thru-hikes like this one. But that now the trend is to get super convenient running shoes that are also super light and easy to walk through. Essentially, weight becomes the issue. However, I recently tried on some boots and instantly was a fan, so my heart is torn. Not to mention when I had gone to Havasupai, the trail was awful and not just a dirt path. I remember distinctly how I had wish I had purchased boots for the trip because my ankles were rapidly declining. The ankle support was what I really needed, not so much around it, as I didn’t care to get scrapped up, but from the banging of the added weight on my joints. Thank God for trekking poles as I would have eaten dirt a couple of times in the 10 miles downhill hike.

I might add that I am a bit overweight. According to my BMI, however, I may be borderline obese although I would say I do not look like it. Winning! But can you imagine how all the added weight of my pack PLUS the unhealthy weight of my body could seriously affect me? There is that to consider.

I went to REI recently and began chatting with this employee who works in the shoe area. I was trying on some Merrell runners because I saw the mesh and instantly thought, water shoes. But trying them allowed me to ask her for her opinion on Boots vs. Trail runners. She explained the fad of thru-hikers and the idea behind it that I just explained, and how the mentality is basically “instant gratification.” Which I can see and I instantly did not appreciate. She also explained that the boots, if a good quality, should be able to last through the entire journey, and not only keep your feet dry and unscathed, but you would not have to think about walking carefully or watching the ground–a quality she especially liked. A quality I liked, because that would save me the potential $600-900 in my pocket over the course of the trip.

I appreciated her insight. But I took it with a grain of salt because everyone has their biases towards certain popular topics.

My concern with purchasing boots was the fact that my feet would swell up. One hiker had to purchase new shoes JUST BECAUSE her feet got so much bigger they couldn’t fit in her usual size! Why buy boots that are so dang expensive, and then have to buy a new pair just because of that?

How do I pick??

Well, when I got home I remembered reading somewhere that the first 700 miles or so is the SoCal desert, and I thought, “Why would I want a boot for what I should expect to be hot hot weather?” In any location, I would prefer a breathable, light shoe for those conditions, like all those running shoes I purchased at Sports Chalet before they closed.

Aha! I thought. I had just purchased a pair of Asics earlier this year because I had wanted to start training for the Disney Half Marathon, but I never got very far because I was dancing and was at risk to getting injured. They were also a little big because I had purchased them with the thought of my feet swelling from all the running I was supposed to have done. But lo and behold. I did not like them very much and were the shoe for me to run in. However, I could take them to work and be standing in them all day and I would mind a bit.

There it was, a simple solution.

I truthfully could not speak for myself and how I would feel once I was out in the backcountry hiking these trails. How would I feel about all the crap I was carrying in my pack? Would I become one of the those weight-obsessed hikers and really try to be a minimalist? Would I really despise boots and not really care to purchase multiple rounds of trail runners?

Because of these questions, I just decided. I had a pair of new Asics that were really breathable and light that I could begin the hiking with and save money on purchasing something new. I would then reassess and purchase a pair of boots for when I began the High Sierras, just because I read some bloggers who had wished that for themselves then. But this would work, because then I would know whether I would really care for the extra thrills and whistles of a hiking boot, AND my feet would have already swelled, so I could make an accurate purchase of these new boots, or trail runners if I indeed wished to not make the switch.

Of course this brings other questions. Where would I be able to make that purchase? Will there be stops along the way that will allow for me to do this?

More research required, but a tentative plan, at the very least.