It was a given my shoes would fail. I’ve been hiking in New Balance running shoes for a decade – men’s size 9D, my feet shaped like bricks with no arches to speak of – and each pair normally lasted me about 350 miles.In Florida, sand means erosive destruction of the heel and toebox. The AT is different. Feet take a pounding on clay and rocks. So 500 miles into our hike, I took a second look at the shoes. At the 325-mile mark – when John’s Hi-Tecs gave up the ghost – there was little tread wear and no heel wear.
Fifty miles later, we were coming down off Big Hump into Tennessee, and I felt the first serious foot pain I’d had along our trek. I figured I slammed down too hard on the rocks, which were a tiny taste of what Pennsylvania would be like. I still didn’t notice any abnormal wear on the shoes. But the Maryland and Pennsylvania rocks delivered the final blow.
After a painful day crossing the Cumberland Valley, which should have not hurt at all, I took another look at the shoes. They’d blown out, pancaked – the whole sole warped out to the right and left, the tread worn smooth. If they’d been tires, I would have slid off the road.
Serendipity! Since we were slackpacking thanks to our friends Jim & Ginny, they knew exactly where to find a New Balance factory outlet, where I was able to get the exact shoes I wore out. Plus an extra pair for later. Worn out or not, I need to keep replacing them each 350 miles or so just to play it safe.