Altra: My Relationship With Trail Runners
Before my thru-hike I wore Altra. Post-hike, I wear Altra. My choice footwear from hikes in the Adirondacks to waterfall treks in Dominica. There was no doubt that I’d choose them again for my thru-hike.
I went through 5 pairs of Altras and didn’t consider how much my feet would change, swell, and grow over my hike. I started with a 7.5 and ended with a size 9. If you’re considering trail runners for your hiking endeavors be sure to be properly sized including the socks you intend to wear.
I started with a size 7.5 Altra Footwear Women's Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell. Altra claims “the NeoShell® upper technology repels rain, snow, dew, and mud. Abrasion-resistant mesh upper features minimal seams to reduce the likelihood of irritation.” This Gore-Tex-like feature is amazing and definitely helps to keep your feet dry in the misty rains.
I wondered if I got a size too small, even on Mt Katahdin. I figured I didn’t want extra sliding room when I would be rock scrambling to the peak. Plus, I have narrow feet and usually size lower in Altras.
About 300 miles into my hike and my feet were already starting to change and the widest part of my foot slightly busting at the seams. The soles still had decent tread and I pushed another 390 miles until Salisbury, Connecticut when they started looking more like a pissed-off Hulk wore them on a thru-hike.
Seen above, I had a back-up pair ready for just this purpose. I had my parents send me a old pair I wore pre-trail, a size 8.5. One of my favorite colorways too, blue and red, unfortunately out of production. A new pair of shoes on trail is literally like new life. Next time, I won’t wait to replace my shoes. It makes all the difference to walk comfortably.
Another 530 miles later, I was ready for a new pair. I really worked this red and blue pair and they made a finale performance on the Maryland Challenge, the entire state of Maryland (40 miles) in one day.
Rolling into Harper’s Ferry I was on the hunt for new shoes and I tried on a blue size 8.5 Altra Lone Peak 3.5 at the local outfitters. Feeling way too small and without my size in stock I Amazon Primed a size 9.5 to Front Royal, Virginia.
When I finally picked up the fresh blue and pink pair, they were still not right! A half size too big and I’m kicking myself for not ordering a size 9. On the plus side, I like to think the highlighter blue and pink colorway was made for me. I just needed neon yellow laces…
The Altra saga continues and about 200 miles later I finally receive a proper and perfect size 9 in Buena Vista, Virginia. I sent the 9.5 home for just-in-case. Finally, I thought, I could probably wear these til Springer Mountain, Georgia.
440 miles later I’m at Mountaineer Shelter in Tennessee with Toots and SOS. That night hit 17 degrees and everything froze including shoes and water bottles. Earlier, we built the fire just a little too hot and we all suffered a few casualties trying to warm up. Sitting too close to the fire and the heat melts the inner padding of my right Altra. Toots caught a hole in his puffy and SOS warped a cookpot. Always a sad sight when anything melts or catches fire at camp - beware!
The next day we met famous trail angel Rob Bird and gladly took him up on his offer to slackpack after the Roan Highlands. We stayed with him in Unicoi, Tennessee and I ordered my last and final pair, the same highlighter color and size 9 Altra Lone Peak 3.5. I finished the last 320 miles of my hike in that pair and I still wear them today.
Lessons learned: get a proper Altra fitting, anticipate sizing up (but not too much), and steer clear of fires. Budget accordingly and check Amazon Prime for decent prices and timely shipping.
Keep your feet happy and hiking,
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