Ryan Jordan

Long Distance Hiking Shoes

I’m researching shoes.

Not just any shoes, but shoes for long distance trekking, with a caveat. Not thru-hiking. Not trail hiking. Not ultrarunning.

Shoes for a 600 mile trek through the Arctic. Unsupported. With no resupply opportunities. No bailouts. No trails, roads, paths. River crossings where you swim rapids in freezing water, not wade. Tundra that could range from frozen to mud to snow to sponge. Tussocks. Did I mention the tussocks? They can be two feet tall (the medium sized ones) and lean worse than La Torre de Pisa. And mountains. Shale, scree, steep grass, talus, boulders.

Sounds like a place for boots.

Here’s the problem. Boots are heavy. Worse, they limit foot mobility, eliminating any prospect for moving 40 or more miles a day. Or running. After all, there are mean grizzlies in the Arctic. Ahem.

Adventure racers know shoes. But those shoes have never seen 600 miles of trekking in a single event. Thru-hikers know shoes well enough – for trail hiking. But they resupply their shoes at will, and their shoes seldom see the rough and variable conditions found off-trail at sustained distances. Ultrarunners know shoes alright. Oh – wait – no pack.

The ideal shoe for this kind of long distance hike?

Do you have an opinion? Post it here, or over in the Backpacking Light forums:

Shoes for Long Distance Hiking

My criteria:

  • Trail running stability last
  • Light
  • Absorbs minimal water
  • Drains – and dries – fast
  • Sticky rubber
  • Durable enough to last 600 miles

That last one’s the real kicker, isn’t it?