How many pairs of shoes did you go through?
Zach and I blazed through four pairs of shoes, with varying success. Not everyone went through as many pairs of shoes as we did— some people bought higher-quality shoes and only went through three, two, or even one pair. On trail, the overwhelming preference for shoe brand is Brooks Cascadia model. Practically everyone wore them and seemed to like them! But Zach and I were more interested in whatever we could find on sale.
I hiked the first 700 miles with New Balance lightweight trail runners. The fragile fabric ripped within the first day, and I had to deal with sand leaking into its gaping holes for over a month. Still, their internal structure was sturdy, and it was nice to have such light shoes for the hot desert. Zach wore a pair of super-cheap Walmart-generic-brand trail runners. They were completely trashed by the time we reached Kennedy Meadows, but he made them work.
When we took to the High Sierra, I switched to a pair of men’s Asics trail runners (Gel Scram 2, I believe). They were sturdier, warmer, and had much heavier tread, although still lightweight. Let me just say that these shoes rock! They’re pretty cheap for trail runners, but they held up to a ton of abuse, including post-holing through ice, “sledding” on my feet down boulders, and scrambling over sharp granite for miles at a time. To be honest, I can’t remember what pair of shoes Zach wore for this and the next section. They were more expensive trail runners, though I can’t remember the brand. They held up great, though!
I got a new pair of Asics Gel Scram trail runners in northern California, and put them through another round of even tougher abuse: volcanic rock of all kinds as we entered the Cascades. In northern Oregon I tried to replace them with some lightweight hiking boots, and that was a disaster (never ever EVER wear hiking boots when you go hiking. Just don’t!). I wore my Asics for another few hundred miles until I could order some more trail runners online.
While I was waiting for new shoes, Zach switched to “waterproof” shoes by Lowa. The sides ripped out after a week of use, making the waterproof technology useless. They were also heavier than his other shoes. He wasn’t quite miserable enough to buy a new pair, but someone who had more money than we did sure would have!
The last four hundred miles of the trail, I wore a slightly different style of Asics trail runners (Asics Gel Venture 4, men’s), which held up beautifully. I now wear them on a daily basis in normal life.
Have a backpacking (or PCT-related) question? Leave a comment and I’ll answer!