It started right out of Allen Gap, but he’d had hints of it in Hot Springs, buying Superfeet insoles in hopes that they would help. En route to Jerry’s Cabin he tried reversing his socks – wearing liners on the outside. By the Shelton Graves he’d turned his socks heel up inside his shoe. Lord Willin gave him a pair of Phds, the socks off his feet (well, from his pack). Nothing helped.
Coming up to Hogback Ridge, he was taking his shoes off frequently and wincing in pain. When we got to Sam’s Gap, I had to ask. “Can you make it to Erwin? Another 25 miles?”
The answer was no. Out came my phone and a call to an old friend, Miss Janet.
Anyone who’s hiked through Erwin knows Miss Janet. She’s been helping out hikers since she was old enough to drive. Juggling her schedule, she came out to get us at Sam’s Gap and took us to the nearest outfitter the next day. John walked out of there with a brand new pair of Vasque boots. He’d literally worn out his old Hi-Tecs.
When we returned to the trail, he started out fine but by Spivey Gap, he had blisters for the first time in his life. Add those to persistent pain in the balls of the feet plus numb toes, and he was miserable. Again. Especially on that long downhill down into Erwin.
“Leather boots don’t break in quickly,” I said. After 40 miles, even with these new boots, he was in excruciating pain, growing new blisters on the blisters. When you spend all day on your feet, pain like this just isn’t sustainable.
At our next opportunity to visit an outfitter, a week later, John found a pair of lightweight trail runners – Oboz – and decided to give them a try. After another 60 miles in these, he’s finally pain-free and able to match pace with me.