Is it time to get new footwear?

Hiking practice

I’ve had ¬†been meaning to write this article for a while but after witnessing an epic shoe blowout on a hike in the Australian Alps it just reinforced the need. The incident that I just mentioned involved a young couple hiking the 22km Main Range Walk in the Australian Alps. When I came across them the male of the couple was taping up his partners shoe¬†with duct tape as her shoe had basically collapsed and they still had around 11km to walk! Now while Duct tape has magical properties you don’t want to rely on this if you have a choice. This incident focused me on the footwear other people were wearing and what I noticed surprised me in a number of ways. Not only were a number of hikers wearing inappropriate shoes eg thongs and sandals, but a number of people were also wearing shoes that looked like they should have been thrown out months ago.

I’m a fan of wearing trail runners for hiking as I just find them so much more comfortable than boots (but that’s an argument for another day). In my never ending quest to choose the perfect trail shoe I know the exact set of features that I am looking for and top of the list is comfort and fit; durability while important is not a major consideration for me. For most of us, and I’m as guilty as anyone else in this respect, we tend to hang onto our shoes much longer than we should (the images below are a good example). So when exactly is it time to replace your footwear? If you ask this question of a group of hikers you will probably get the same number of answers as there are hikers.

Things to consider to decide when its time to throw out your much loved footwear

  • As a rough guide expect a pair of trail running shoes (used for hiking as opposed to running) to last around 600-1200+km. This is an arbitrary figure and will be different for everyone. I’m. big heavy guy but surprising for most t of my trail runners the tops of my shoes tend to stay in very good conditions
  • Boots? I retired my last pair of boots after 6 years and over 2000km. Now these boots cost a lot of money but ‘you get what you pay for’.
  • What’s the traction like? Are you are loosing grip (in the wet-In the dry) on steep and loose trails? In most cases this is the deciding factor for me to throw away shoes. Shoes that are losing traction can be dangerous and can result in injuries.
  • Are the shoes still comfortable? Many shoes will loose support as they get older with the midsole softening up and your feet will become sore when they didn’t before.
  • Have the tops of the shoes collapsed?
  • Are the shoes starting to delaminate with the sole and shoe top separating?

These are all factors in deciding if it’s time to throw you much loved friends out. The above factors apply to all shoes regardless of whether they are boots or trail runners but as mentioned expect a pair of good quality boots to last much much longer.

My original pair of Altra Lone Peak trail running shoes. These shoes in this photo were just on 12 months old and had done around 1000km in a variety of conditions. The wear towards the outside of the rear of the shoe is pretty typical for me and you can see on the right hand shoe that I have worn through the outer sole and and was onto the second layer of rubber.

With these shoes in this condition I found myself loosing traction on loose trails which can potentially cause injuries. As much as I loved these shoes it was time to say goodbye.

The final word

Our footwear is probably the most important piece of equipment we own as hikers and while it’s temping to make a pair of shoes/boots last just that bit longer ultimately your long term comfort and foot health should be the main priority. If you haven’t had a close look at your hiking footwear lately then its time. ‘If in doubt throw them out’ as life’s to short to be wearing footwear that are past there use by date.

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