Monday, August 24, 2015

I want to what?

It is exciting when you first set a massive goal. Deciding I want to thru-hike the three major trails in the USA brought some giddy excitement for me, like a kid on Christmas morning. I started pouring over websites on gear, creating "wish lists" and reading all sorts of "tips and tricks". I created countless boards on "Pinterest" and started squirreling away things I *needed* for hiking and camping the trails. I could fill a bookcase with books on Hiking and Backpacking that I want to read. Tips, tricks, "What I learned" and ideas that are geared to just women (or men for my husband, Ben).

I know that my goal is huge and right now it might seem impossible. Just a year and a half ago I was not able to dress, shower or cook for myself.

It is good to I dream big! One thing I have taken from all the "tips and tricks" I have been gathering is  you have to "Plan, plan plan". But you have to find your starting step at a time...right? So I'll start feet.

The first piece of gear I worried about was my shoes. I LOVE shoes. I own far more than any one person needs, that is for sure.  When I moved to Ohio in 2009, I only brought 2 pairs with me, leaving the rest of my beloved collection of heels, wedges and boots in a box in California. The joy I felt when my Mother shipped that box to me was so great that I unpacked my little gems and lined them up, took a photo and posted it to Facebook. However, my daily go to shoes consist of "flip flops" or Converse low tops. I exercise in my "chucks", take walks in them, spend all day at school in them and take short day hikes in them. I knew that they weren't going to cut it for what I was setting out to do, so the research began.

There are a lot of factors to consider when looking for proper hiking shoes.
High Ankle, Mid or Low?
Leather or Synthetic?
What about snow? Insulated or Vented?

Now I have a small but wide food with a high arch. Shoes are hard to find, which is why I treasure every pair I have. A lot of work has gone into selecting comfortable shoes that I like. A lot of people will tell you that in selecting a hiking boot/shoe that you need to go for function, not fashion. While that is true, I can't get past the fact that I care what my shoes look like. I have to feel like they are cute (to me not everyone else), that they "go" with outfits I might wear on the trail and they cannot make my feet look huge. That might sound silly to some people, but I'm not exactly tall (5'2") and I don't like feeling like I have clown feet. I usually wear 6.5-7 (US Women).

After an exhaustive search, reading countless reviews I found two pairs of Mid-Ankle boots I liked.

The first pair I got were the Danner Mountain Light Cascade (size 7). The website and customer service suggested sizing down to the 6.5 however my fears of toe pinching kept me in the 7. Everyone has one foot that is larger than the other, and mine is also slightly wider. There were a few a "hot spots" as I broke in the boots last winter, but my feet were warm (we have sub-zero weather in Ohio), dry and I was able to remain stable on the icy walkways.

This Danner  boot is leather, so it will form to your foot. They are adorable (I think) and remind me of the boots I wore as a kid. So when I heard Danner was bringing them back in honor of the movie Wild (which I have not yet seen) I just had to check the reviews of the new and "improved" boot! They do run a bit on the narrow side, even though the website says that they are made on a wide form. So if you have wide feet, I suggest going up that half size, just to be sure. They are not waterproof, but leather boots can be waterproofed at home. (When I do that, I will create a "how to" post.)

The second set of boots I bought were the Keen Targhee II Mid-Ankle hiking boot (size 7). These boots run wide and were a great comfortable fit pretty much from the very first moment I had them on. They didn't slide, create any friction on my heel or pinch my feet in the breaking in process. I had one "hot spot" on the side of the ball of my right foot, but I get that in every single pair of new shoes due to the arthritis being more advanced in that foot.

They recommend sizing a half size up, and I ended up doing so, but I went to my local REI store and tried these on in a 6.5, 7 and 7.5. While the 6.5 fit my feet fine, my toes on my "big" foot were touching the end and in the 7.5 my heels were slipping, which would cause blisters for sure. Ultimately I went with the 7 because they allowed my one foot to have room to swell (let's be honest, long distance hiking means your feet might swell) and my heels didn't slip or pinch.

The Keen boots didn't need any significant "breaking in" time. A few day hikes and I found them comfortable in mud and water, on pavement or gravel. I plan to get a pair of the Keen Targhee II Shoes so that I have a pair of low-top shoes as well.

So there you have it! My little review of my chosen shoes. The best advice I can offer is to do tons of research, try them on and know what you need your gear to do for you on the trail before making your choice.

Happy Hiking!

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