“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest … and moss will grow on your boots, and you will go nowhere fast.” Proverbs 6:10 (Victors paraphrase)
According to the West Coast Trail preparation guide: “High quality hiking boots with good ankle support and arch support are required”. With treachery a potential in every step this is good advice for hiking the West Coast Trail … and I followed this advice on my first 7 West Coast Trail hikes. WCT hike numbers 8 and 9 are a different story.
The gnarly West Coast Trail is a hiking trail full of mud and bog; boulders and ankle twisting rocks; roots and tree trunk bridges; ladders and more ladders; sand and hard shelf; cables cars to cross streams or ford them on foot. Board walks are slippery at best, a toboggan slide at their worst. It is more mentally challenging than physically demanding and a moment of lost concentration on where your feet are going will find you on your keister (good option) or flat on your face (bad option).
The Minority Go Bare-feet.
It’s true. I attest that my own genetic contributions helped create these feet that walk a good percentage of the WCT in bare-feet. In my nine times hiking the WCT I have only seen 3 persons hiking in bare feet … two of them were my sons, and one of them a 20 something lady. Only one of them have I actually witnessed walking on barnacled rocks. Barnacles are great for grip when the rocks are wet, but they are very sharp and will chew up your skin badly should you try to use your hands, elbows, knees, shins to negotiate them. I don’t recommend bare-feet. It’s not the soles so much as it is the rocks edges, roots, and other obstacles that tear away at the top of your feet that hurt just as much.
The Majority Wear Hiking Boots.
By far the majority of hikers follow the preparation trail guide and wear hiking boots. Boots aren’t really very interesting or colorful and after a few kilometers on the trail mostly begin to resemble the color of the mud that they have walked through. Occasionally you will get some colorful designs on gaiters, but they’re usually pretty bland.
Other Footwear Options.
Other footwear options include sandals, sneakers, crocs, trail runners, and even the odd homemade pair.
My Dilemma … and Solution.
In preparation for my 8th West Coast Trail trip hiking boots were no longer a good option. Since tearing the meniscus in both of my knees 3 years previous my knees no longer tolerate traditional hiking boots. I have switched to zero rise footwear.
I had worn the Altra Superior 1.5 and the Altra Lone Peak 2.5 to hike a couple of sections of the Pacific Crest Trail and had been reasonably pleased with their performance. However, the sections I hiked had been desert sections where the ground is dry and firm … not even close to the West Coast Trail terrain. I was worried about the slippery sections.
I searched for alternatives. I looked everywhere at all the usual outdoor retail stores and on-line stores; I tried out boots, sandals and sneakers; I read more footwear reviews than you can imagine. Still I could not come up with anything satisfactory.
In the end I went back to Altra’s … they had developed a new sole which looked promising for slippery conditions. Complements of Altra Canada, I tried out a pair of their prototype Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell and found they performed very well in all conditions. The only issue was the that the Neoshell is not breathable and the shoe smell became socially unacceptable by the end of the trail (altho’ I think by that time we were all pretty socially unacceptable).
For this years trek I switched to the Altra Lone Peak 2.5 and was very happy with both the performance and smell. I neither landed on either my face or keister while wearing these shoes. On the other hand, sliding into a surge channel while wearing my crocs was pretty embarrassing … well, let’s just leave it at that.
West Coast Trail Tip:
Keep Your Boots Away from the Campfire.
We have witnessed too many times where hikers have decided to dry their boots off at the campfire. Not a good idea! Glue melts.