When I first transitioned to trail runners I followed my uncle and bought the Soloman XA Pro 3D Ultras. They had those new Kevlar laces that you just cinch up all at once across the whole shoe with needing to know how to tie any knots. The shoe felt great in the store and I was happy with the positive reviews I had read about them so I was ready have a great hike. However, when I went to the field I found they really didn’t fit me that well, but that’s my fault, not the shoes. A few blisters later I started to feel like I wasted my $110 or so I paid for them.
Last summer (2012) James and I were to go on a hike of the Maryland section of the AT but when I got to the trail head I looked through my car to find I didn’t have my trail runners! Luckily, REI was only a few hours away and I already knew what shoes I wanted to buy: the La Sportiva C-lite 2.0’s. The next morning I had to play catch-up with James who had hit the trail the evening before. By the end of the day I had hiked roughly 22 miles and had zero blisters from my brand new shoes (James was slow because he didn’t yet have his trail runners.)
The shoes are very light at 10.7 ounces verses 13.3 ounces for my old shoes. They have minimal exterior stitching to wear and come undone and the laces are protected from snagging on sticks by a piece of fabric that covers the top of the shoe. The tread seems aggressive enough to dig into mud and sticky enough for walking down sloped rocks. I have used them for less than 100 miles so I can’t really say too much on durability but I feel the the sole will be the first thing to wear through.
A few tips I have found for keeping my feet happy and blister free, mostly from various people across the web. Your mileage may vary.
- Buy shoes that leave a little room. Your feet swell a little while hiking long distances.
- Don’t over tighten your shoe. I tie my shoes very loosely to where I don’t even untie them. I can slip my foot in and out with out stressing the back of the shoe.
- DeFeet Aireator socks. I started wearing these cycling socks after reading about Andrew Skurka using Wooleators but couldn’t find any of those in stores. The Aireators are very thin but durable synthetic socks, almost like the liner socks I used to use. They fit very well and when my foot slides inside my loose shoe the sock takes the friction and not my foot.
- Give your feet breaks. When my feet are hot and sweaty in warm weather I stop about every 5 miles and take off my shoes and socks and sit down while I eat snacks and treat water. Even though my pack is very minimal, I carry lightweight flip-flops to put on when I get to where I am camping.
- Always have dry feet at night. Carry a pair of socks just for sleeping.