[pct-l] Altra shoes

Scott Williams baidarker at gmail.com
Fri Aug 29 21:18:13 CDT 2014

Hey Tortoise,

The retired dentist Toga is referring to is Why Not, who I believe is
wearing Altra Lone Peaks again this year on her 2nd hike of the PCT.  Lint
wore them again this year on the AT as did a number of the more savvy
hikers I met.  I saw quite a few pair and heard mostly praise from the

On the CDT several years ago Why Not and I recommended them to several
hikers who were having shoe/foot problems and each of them loved the Lone
Peaks they ordered on trail.  This year on the AT I hiked for several days
in Virginia with Incline, a  hiker who was having some serious trouble with
Solomons that were clearly too small for him.  His feet had grown and split
them out in every direction and the blisters and foot pain was intense.
 When I hooked up with him again in NY and later in Vermont and New
Hampshire, he had switched to the new model Altra Lone Peak.  He liked the
feel of them, but the uppers on the newer model seems to be made of a
softer material than the older pattern that Why Not and Lint had been
hiking in.   Given the rigors of the northern AT, which is much rockier and
rootier than the PCT or the CDT, his first pair lasted only 200 miles
before he had torn the fabric of the uppers.  Altra replaced them of
course, and the second pair went further, although I haven't seen him since
Mt. Washington, so I'm not sure how they held up over the rest of NH and
Maine.  But, when I last hiked with him, he still really liked the shoe and
wasn't having foot problems any longer.

As for the softer sole that Toga mentions, the Lone Peaks have what they
call a rock guard and I find them too firm a sole for me fresh out of the
box.  I wear the Altra Instincts at home and they are the most comfortable
shoe I've ever owned, but the sole on them is much softer than the Lone
Peaks and the fabric of the uppers is not appropriate for hiking a long
trail, in my opinion at least.

What I've found over time is that my feet have simply gotten tougher and
the softer the sole, and the more I can feel the rocks and roots and ruts,
the better my feet feel.  It's almost like getting a foot massage when I
hike.  When I first went to lighter backpacking shoes about 14 years ago, I
remember having sore feet when I hiked the JMT and it was because I was
feeling the trail, rocks, roots and all.  But over time, and the
strengthening of my feet, I now feel my toes grabbing and moving, the balls
of my feet cupping around objects in the trail.  Instead of the simple foot
flop I used to do with really hard soles, my feet now work more like hands
over the terrain, grabbing and cradling themselves over the bumps.  It's
interesting that I had plenty of sore muscles over the AT this year, but my
feet never hurt inspire of the rough trail.

I bought many pairs of Montrail Sabinos years ago when they changed the
pattern, for $30 and $40 a pair when they were selling out and I'm still
hiking in them.  The sole is too firm for me now, so I just wear them out
till the sole is thin.  My first pair this year lasted 1,700 miles and I
would have kept them for the duration but for my own fear of hitting bad
weather in the Whites and not having good traction in the worn out soles.
 So I shipped them home and started with a new pair which I used till the
end.  I have been using that first pair for training since coming home.  I
just love a thin sole.  I believe Ken and Marcia Powers have also described
a similar experience over time, finding that they like thinner soles.

Good luck with whatever shoe you settle on.  It's all so individual where
it comes to shoes.

NIce to be home, but I miss the trail already.


On Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 2:53 PM, Melanie Clarke <melaniekclarke at gmail.com>

> I'm just a section hiker for now until I retire, but I am always looking
> for the perfect shoe for when that time comes.
> I was first attracted to the Altra because they have a "0" heel.  Every
> other hiking shoe on the market is a little bit higher in the heel section.
>  After hiking about 300 miles, the balls of my feet begin to hurt.  I can't
> wear high heels for the same reason so I wondered if the slightly elevated
> heel places more pressure and drives my foot into the balls of my feet.  A
> level shoe would allow a better distribution of pressure over my entire
> foot.  I know a retired dentist who hiked the entire PCT, AT, the CDT and
> trails in Patagonia, New Zealand with the Altras.  I forgot her name, she
> hiked the CDT with Shroomer so he might still have her email.  I met her at
> the GGG here in NorCal.
> In this aspect, I feel the Altra is a superior shoe for me.  However...
> 1.  Hiking over 20 miles a day over rough terrain also needs a very firm
> sole to prevent the thousands of rocks poking your foot with every step
> over the course of a day.  Because the "barefoot fanatics" have taken over
> the market the sole isn't quite firm enough to handle the rocks poking at
> your feet with each step.  I used my Altras to go on Shroomer's 67th
> birthday hike with 6,700 ft. of climbing in about 22 miles (I think) in Mt.
> Diablo State Park.  At the end of the day my entire foot felt the wear and
> tear of a thin sole and I'd be hard pressed to hike 100-120 mile in a week
> with these shoes.  But it was my entire foot and not just the balls of my
> feet so the "0" aspect of this shoe is still a great concept.  However, I
> see on their web site that they have another shoe out that seems to have a
> thicker, firmer sole.  This might be worth the try.
> 2.  I like my hiking shoes to grip and fit the middle of my foot firmly yet
> leave a lot of room in the toe box.  When I wear huge hiking shoes, like
> Keen or Altras, the shoes are so big that they don't hold the middle of my
> foot so when I hike down hill my foot slides forward and my toes just mash
> against the top of my shoe with the entire weight of my body and pack.
>  Yes, one can tie the shoes tighter for down hill and loosen them for
> uphill but who wants to do that?  We're going up hill and down hill all the
> time!  I like the shoe to have a contour and arch to help bank the rest of
> my foot so I can leave the laces a little on the loose side without getting
> "toe mash".  Also, laces tend to redistribute the tension so I want the
> contour to be in the shoe not artificially made with the laces.
> Right now, Asics seems to have the right shape that I like; wide toe box,
> contoured middle that holds on to the rest of the foot.  Most cross country
> runners seem to use Asics and I own a pair that I use for cross country
> running but I'm starting to test it hiking.  I have a "Trail Runner Asics"
> with a firm Superfeet inside to distribute the pressure of all the small
> pebbles and rocks a hiker walks over in the course of a day.  I couldn't
> hike this year because I dropped a desk on my big toe and fractured it in
> several places.  So next year I will test this combination on longer hikes.
> So my ideal shoe would be the level Altra with the Asics shape/arch with
> the firm sole of a Vasque.  I am still looking for the elusive "perfect
> shoe".
> Good Luck!
> On Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 12:07 PM, Tortoise <Tortoise73 at charter.net> wrote:
> > Hi Carolyn,
> >
> > I searched and finally found where I heard of Altra shoes on this list.
> You
> > mentioned them. I do need new shoes -- my hiking shoes are so bald they
> > aree risky on slopes with loose fine gravel. In your experience how does
> > the width of the Altra compare with the New Balance, especially the SL2
> > last?
> >
> > I'm cc this to the list since I think others will have similar questions.
> >
> > --
> > Tortoise
> >
> > Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent
> revolution
> > inevitable
> > President John F Kennedy,  1962
> >
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